An experience of Social Anxiety Disorder

James tells his story of social anxiety

Written by James O'Carroll


At school, I never really fit in with everyone else. It seemed that most of the boys liked football, and all the girls liked fashion. I know it’s a big stereotype but that was my mindset and I felt I couldn’t conform with others. At a young age it never bothered me, but my teachers and parents were both curious and giving out respectively that I chose to be alone at lunch. My real source of fun was game consoles. I never really spoke much to others either out of shyness or because I just never noticed the right opportunity.

Secondary school comes along, I have made some close friends, but this is the moment for every teenager where the hormones kick in. I “fell in love” with someone in school but it was just them crazy hormones going mad. I never spoke to her once, but I was so determined and feeling optimistic about giving a card to her on Valentine’s. It obviously wasn’t a typical Hollywood ending. She was the first person who was around my age that I just really struggled to speak to, even just to say hi. That’s when I noticed big red flags going off about myself. Having blind optimism turn into dread and embarrassment.

I made one good friend at school and the whole time he advised that I shouldn’t have done the card if I didn’t even speak to her. My friend and I sometimes hung out in town but the style of his friends was more “alternative” to other people I knew. I felt very out of place. He tried to reassure me that I’m welcome and just need to stop overthinking. I never did mix in with his mates. To me, it seemed that they were stereotypical teenagers who just cared about drinking and finding as many people to shift as possible. I felt bashful and uncomfortable about it. Some have made some rude comments calling me “socially awkward” and “autistic”, because my body language of looking down and crossing my arms brought me attention, when all I wanted was space. I feel complex where I want peace and loneliness but also conformity to a group.

Due to my achievements in my PLC course, I could go straight to 2nd year in University. I saw first day of real college as the new James. I made a few acquaintances there, but we weren’t close enough to hang out. I gave up on socializing and almost broke down walking home just after a month of it.

I still felt a void while in college and thought this was how my future will be. I felt I needed a job like retail so I could have money to go on holidays with the lads. I missed out on a holiday last year and was pressured and almost felt bullied by some of my friends who suggested I ask my parents for a loan. I felt my friends judged me severely as they said I need to be more confident, but that made me feel less confident as they noticed my weaknesses. I was too slow to honestly tell them why I didn’t get the loan and felt they were pulling on my weak points.

I was afraid to find jobs. I was afraid my CV would be bad. One day I went to Dundrum to hand out CVs, but was declined by them all. One business did ring me up, but as soon as I told them I was in college, they instantly declined. My family and friends then said I was too honest. This sent mixed messages to me as I felt confident by telling the truth, but was punished for trying to what is right.  I have grown unsure of myself.

I have been at my lowest point in my first year in University. I had no college friends.  All my true friends have always bragged and talked how they enjoyed college. I lied to them by stating I have made good friends in the hopes of “fake it until you do it” attitude. But lying to myself made me feel pathetic and insecure.

My priorities in college was to pass everything and find a good job and relationship. For the past three years, I have used dating sites and apps, but found no luck. I have matched with many people but only spoken closely to three of them. But sometimes I’m afraid to say hello even when using text. My friends have questioned me about that too, and I felt too self-aware on what others started thinking me.

One friend of mine went to Chicago for college. I missed him the most during college as he is my friend. We messaged about how it was, and he was having an amazing time and reaching all the social high points and opportunities in the States. A big dread hit me like a ton of bricks – I noticed something about my life. Everything I’ve done in life had become repetitive. The cycle just broke me up. It made me feel depressed and empty inside. I laid in my bed one day and experienced a panic attack as I thought about all the past blunders and repetitiveness I made throughout my life. All emotion just built up and couldn’t find a way to vent. I had unhealthy coping mechanisms from pornography and drinking. I spoke to my doctor about how I felt. I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. He consoled me and I was back on track for a while.

Jobs and relationships were still on my mind and I was too scared to pursue them. I told my friends about this and one said that it’s very weird for a normal person to do. It reinforced that I’m not like any most people. With Social Anxiety Disorder, it’s a big stab in the heart to know the fact that if you’re more outgoing and social by nature, you’re more likely to get a job, even if you had made the effort to leave the house and hand in the resume.

I’m still going out at summer and getting closer to my friends. I attended a friend’s birthday and I was very excited for it. I had very positive attitude. We went to the club to celebrate, but then something unknown just hit me. Our large party group split and I wanted to just settle down on a couch and talk instead. It was the whole environment of loud music that just hit me into a vulnerable state. All I felt was I wanted to go home instantly, but I was in a strange shocked state that I just didn’t want move. My close friends noticed there was something up. They encouraged me to join them for a dance but, I just froze up and stared into space. I felt like the odd one out in the whole building that night. The only thoughts I had was that I’m feeble, and never going to go anywhere in life, and too indecisive.  The only comfort I got was from rubbing my arm. The only thing I felt like I needed was a hug to be honest. I felt like I needed to be loved.

Where am I today?

I have been going through many ups and downs in my life, but I still try to push through. I have good supporting friends and I love them. I’m currently waiting for my repeat exam results to come out, I’m frightened about the 3rd year internships, but I have some plans up my sleeves. I’m planning on some new more social hobbies and meetings in the new arcade, Token (if I find the free time).

I encourage anybody to use MeetUp app or talk to your family/friends or doctor if you have been feeling similar to how I’ve been effected in my writing.

Sometimes the social anxiety is still aching and hurting me, and I’m coping through some healthy and some unhealthy ways, but I am noticing it’s getting better. During my writings, my friends have also expressed their feelings through either bad moments or traits of depression. We may not know how to fully cure ourselves, or if it’s even possible, but we have each other and our company is what keeps us going.

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