I came across these forums after searching for some personal development blogs via Google, and I’m glad I did. I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart to know that I’m not alone in this psychological battle.
And after reading various threads and posts about your struggles with social anxiety and depression, I became inspired to share my own knowledge and experience.
My name is Just G (jk), I’m 21 years old, and I’m a junior in college majoring in Communications. I was born in Nashville, TN, but for most of my childhood I was raised in a small town just outside of Chattanooga, TN.
I grew up like any other kid, with my parents doing everything they could to provide a happy and healthy lifestyle. But as I grew older and wiser, I became privy to how ****ed up things were. And as much as I hate to admit this, it started with the person I love the most: my mother.
My mom has anorexia nervosa, and has had it since her adolescent years. Her past remains foggy to me, but I have gathered that her rocky relationship with her family started the initial stages of her eating disorder.
My mom growing up was overweight and when going to school she would get constantly teased, picked on, and chastised by all the kids.
At home, she had to deal with her less than supportive family. My grandfather served with the Marines in WW II, and the effects of the war had transformed him into a cold-hearted human being. As for my grandmother, she became passive to it all, taking preventative measures to not initiate his aggression. My mother’s sisters became aware of this as well and made efforts to compete with my mother for my grandfather’s affection. They too teased her and belittled her as a means of getting higher on the totem pole.
So as you can imagine, this isn’t any way to raise your children.
But believe it or not, my mother blossomed into a very beautiful woman. She entered various beauty pageants as a teen and came close to winning them all. She worked for everything she got, so that she would be less dependent on her parents.
However, various issues would spur up once again, causing her to spiral right back down into her depression and eating disorder.
In short, it was on again and off again for the next several years, but for the last 20 it has only become worse, especially after she married my father and had all of us kids.
My mother’s anorexia resulted in her becoming a complete shut-in. Because my mother was subconscious about her body and about eating in public, she would hide in the house, excessively cooking and cleaning. So as you might guess, this affected our whole family.
We were not able to live a normal life as my mom ruled the household. When my brother, sister, and I were kids, we would be deathly afraid of playing outside out of the fear of tracking a single blade of grass back into the house. If such a thing were to happen, my mother would instantly become irate, yelling at us until she got tired. And when we would retreat to our rooms upstairs, she would continue the verbal onslaught while scrubbing the floor furiously.
My mother was particular about everything, so it was difficult for all of us to live in the confines of her sanitized world. We couldn’t walk on the carpet after we went to bed, because if we did it would show footprints.
We couldn’t use the kitchen, because it was her domain and she didn’t like our fingerprints on her materials. Eventually, after we got tired of asking for permission, we set up a refrigerator and microwave in the garage to use.
We all arranged to have showers strictly on Sundays as to not disturb her cleaning schedule.
We couldn’t have company over, which upset many of our friends.
Also, after a while, our friends at school would tease us
When we would go out to eat together, my mother would bring her purse, which would have a trash bag and a multitude of napkins inside. She would do this so that she could regurgitate her food and quickly dispose of it without other people recognizing it.
My father was a country boy from Waverly, TN who served with the Marines in the Vietnam War. He worked his way from shoveling coal in TVA to becoming a highly recruited supervisor for General Electric. His job would bring in substantial income.
In other words, we were privileged, but we were not able to fully enjoy it. My mother would buy furniture for the house, like chairs and couches, and we would never use them. So for example, instead of sitting at the kitchen table, we would sit on the floor and cover it in paper towels and have dinner that way.
Now, I realize I have not painted my mother in a favorable light, but this is the truth. At times, she was simply intolerable. The way she treated herself and all of us made life difficult. However, as I came to realize; it’s not her, it’s her sickness. Down deep inside, she is one of the most caring, loving individuals that you will ever meet. She always made a point to say “I love you” and was always supportive of whatever made us happy. Every one that has met her has appreciated her candor and kind nature.
To be honest, it was a combination of things that caused my social anxiety and depression growing up. Seeing my mom abuse herself and seeing her and my father clash did not set well with any of us. My father was no angel either, possessing a stubborn, type-A personality and much like my maternal grandfather, he at times could be extremely difficult to deal with. Also, to make matters worse, during the most tumultuous time of my parent’s marriage, my sister begins her rebellious stage in her teenage years. Through all the fussing and fighting between her and my parents, my older brother got lost in translation. Because of being the middle child, I think my brother grew upset over the lack of attention that he was getting. So as a result, he would occasionally take it out on me since I was his “competition.” While my relationship with him has had more ups than downs, for the most part, it remains somewhat strained to this day.
Both my older brother and I were model citizens, exceling in school and making our parents proud wherever we went.
My sister, on the other hand, was the crazy hell raiser, wreaking havoc wherever she went, but like my mother, she is a beautiful person at her very core.
All my family is really, but it’s just that everything is messed up.
I would say at one point in time, I actually became closer to her than my brother. But, she wasn’t the male influence I needed in my life.
My father was the caveman who would go out of the cave and beat a couple dinosaurs upside the head with his club to get all us all what we needed. He was a provider in every sense of the word, doing the best he could to make us all happy and satisfied. I think the stress and rigors of managing marriage, work, and children made him emotionally unavailable sometimes.
And then there’s me, who developed Social Anxiety over the years growing up in such an isolated and chaotic environment, with no one to talk to or seek out for help.
One of the things that I think helped me through high school was the fact that I went to the same school since first grade. So during that time, many of my friends became my second family, since I would see them every day for the next 11 years. In high school, I never really had to learn how to socialize with strangers, so my Social Anxiety came into form in other ways.
When I was in the third grade, I realized that I had a fear of speaking out in class. For example when we would do math, the teacher would randomly call on a student to come up to the board and work out a problem. I was trying everything in my power to go unnoticed, but I guess by doing so I stood out even more. I was called on, and I nervously headed to the board. My face began to grow extremely hot, my legs were trembling, and my breathing was uneven. As I tried working out the problem, the teacher kept calling me out in front of the class saying I was doing it all wrong. I became embarrassed, and I lost even more focus. Pretty soon I felt helpless, and I began to cry. For fifteen minutes, I remained frozen with my back facing the classroom. I had felt everyone’s eyes upon me; it was simply too much to overcome. The teacher let everyone out for lunch, while keeping me in class as punishment for not being able to solve the problem.
After that issue, I developed a problem going to school. I would often feign sickness to stay home, and if that didn’t work I would cry and beg my way out. I just remember that feeling of humiliation, and I wanted to avoid it all costs. My grades began to suffer, and the school with my parent’s permission put me into a special education program. I was pissed off, because they thought I was dumb, when in actuality I was just scared to death to do anything in front of a bunch of people. Anyway, I used it all as motivation to work my way up to the Principal’s list. And from third grade on, I became one of the smart people in my class.
A separate incident involved me going to a very large and spacious mall with my mother. I remember passing out after seeing such a large number of people in one area. It was absolutely terrifying, and it was one of the first indicators that I had Social Anxiety.
It’s been this way for most of my life. I’m good in small groups, but I have always had a hard time speaking up in class or in large groups in general. The transition from high school to college has proved to be difficult. I went from a high school that had 300 something people to a university that has 10,000 people that I don’t even know. I am one of the three people in my class who is currently going to college. All of my other friends are pregnant, married, or employed to a blue collar job that they got through their parents. It’s been lonely to say the least, and my Social Anxiety has prevented from taking on many opportunities that would have been beneficial for me.
When I was a child, I was conditioned to never talk to strangers, to speak when spoken to, etc…and I believe to this day that was a contributing factor to my social anxiety.
I made two or three friends in college, but after a semester was over with, I would never contact them again.
At 52 years old, my mother startlingly weighs in at 60 pounds. We have sent her to clinic after clinic, hospital after hospital, and nothing has EVER worked. Some things have offered a glimmer of hope, but we have found that she is too mentally damaged for anything to have an effect. Recently, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She is grossly skinny, has lost all of her teeth, some of her hair, most of her motor functions, most of her bone mass, and some of her memory. Most of the time, she stays knocked out through her medication, and it’s become painful for me to see her drag around like a mindless zombie. Her eyes back when I would look at those old beauty pageant photos had a spark in them, but now, they are just empty. It’s painful knowing that she could at any second at any moment in time die. Not a day goes by without me thinking about that. It’s hard watching someone you love, someone who is so strong just become essentially a vegetable.
I guess these troubling times have been good in a way since it’s brought me a little closer to my father. My brother and sister have their own houses and lives now (both, however, are still dependent on my dad), but at the moment, I still live with my parents. I think our relationship has had much more embrace and communication than ever before.
I realize that my brother is consumed with his work, but it hurts my feelings when I constantly reach out to him and he doesn’t reciprocate my invitations.
My sister married someone who was just as crazy as her, and they conceived a kid.They're now divorced, and she simply has too much baggage.
What I want more than anything is companionship. I want to be involved in a romantic relationship with a woman. Not just any woman, but a woman who understands and appreciates me for the person that I am.
About two years ago, I was taking a Spanish class in a summer semester. The first day of class I scan the room, and I notice there is not anyone in the room that I’m interested in getting to know. As class begins, there she walks in slow motion, like a dream effect in a movie. My gaze is instantly upon her, and my eyes won’t go anywhere else. Physically, she had all the attributes that I look for in a woman. She had dark skin, dark eyes, dark hair – basically, she was my Latina queen. After a few weeks of having my finger stuck up my *** and not doing anything to get her attention, we were assigned to groups to do specific translations in the text. Well, we just so happened to get paired up. And boy, I tell you, I have never been that scared in my entire life. My heart rate skyrocketed, my face grew hot, and I became frigidity. When we got situated, I gave her my best smile and I extended my hand, and she returned a sexy smile in return with a lady-like handshake. I nervously asked her questions about herself, and she gave me short answers. I detected that she a little bit shy too, but I became even more nervous when I couldn’t carry the conversation. When she asked me what I liked to do, I freaked out and provided a very stiff answer that mirrored her response. I then, like an idiot, proceeded to brag about my job as a radio disc jockey and how no one could beat me in a game of horse. Oh how ****ing stupid I was. Ugh, lol. However, I will give myself credit; I kept my eyes locked on her the entire time, something I couldn’t even think about doing years prior. And it’s probably because of that and my apparent nerves that made her a bit uncomfortable as well. Believe it or not, I learned a lot from that experience. What to say, what not to say, etc.
For the next couple of weeks, I would talk with her for a minute or two, usually complimenting on her fragrance or something.
And then, class was out. And then, I realized that I blew it with her. If I knew what I know now, I would have treated her like a human being and not like some lost art exhibit. I was simply marveling over her because of her looks, but that was all that I had to work with. I genuinely was interested in getting to know her better, but that day made me realize that I needed to make some changes: not only in my mind and actions, but my body as well.
At the time, I was 240 pounds. At 5’6, I was way overweight, and I realized that also to attract women I would need to get in better shape and dress in better clothes.
In the last two years of high school and in the first year of college I was eating outrageous amount of fat from fast food on a daily basis. I didn’t do it out of depression or anything, I did it because 1.) It tasted good and 2.) I thought I was impervious to ever getting fat due to my metabolism. Plus, I realized I had to make a change because I would get tired too easily, I got sick on a daily basis, I had incredibly bad acne throughout my body, and I would be constantly hot, no matter if it was below zero outside with all the fat I was carrying.
I felt like crap and looked like crap, and I realized that if I wanted to look and feel better and start living a life of constant self-improvement I needed to take this first step.
But, in the back of my mind, I was wanting to impress that same girl with my transformation if I ever had the chance to see her again.
Throughout the whole summer, I ran my *** off, did calisthenics until I dropped, and ate the most benign foods imaginable. At the end of that very same year, I dropped 100 pounds.
To this day I’m unsure as to how I did it, but I did.
Anyway, at the beginning of the spring semester the following year, I bumped into her again. This time it was in a Gen Ed Science class. One day I went to class earlier than usual, and because the previous class was still in the room, I sat and waited outside. And as I pull out my newspaper to read, then there she comes walking across from me again to the ladies room. Is this a sign from God? God, why today out all the days did you have to take my voice away?! That previous weekend I had come down with some type of crud, and I could still barely talk. My heart began to race again, and the same thoughts and feelings began to race through my mind again. Well, the previous class had emptied out, and I proceeded to take my seat in my usual spot. I still didn’t realize that we were in the same class, but then she came in the class room with that same very cute smile plastered on her face, but this time her glance was towards me. I immediately looked down out of a state of shock, but she proceeded to take a seat directly in front of me and said, “Hey, I was waving at you and you didn’t look back.” I’m still completely dumbfounded at this point, and I say with my creaky voice, “Yeah, well, I was like is that [insert name here], so that’s why I didn’t respond right away.” Anyway, I proceeded to ask her how she’s doing and ask her questions related to the information she gave me all the way back in the summer. SEE, I AM A GOOD LISTENER. I figured that would score me some points, but after the conversation was over, I over evaluated what was said, and I became nervous again knowing now she was in one my classes. So the next class period, she doesn’t even look for me when she comes in, and she takes a seat all the way in the back rows of the classroom. I’m feeling kind of defeated here, and that’s the way it would be for the next few class periods as I tried to think of a way of approaching her myself. And you guessed it, I waited all the way to the last day of class, NO, the day when the final exam was administered to psych myself to ask her out. The reason I didn’t approach her for all that time is because she would often come in late for class, and when she would come in most of the seats would be occupied. She would sit in the back rows with everyone else, while most of the front rows remain vacant. At the time, I thought it would be weird if I just got up in the middle of class, got all my stuff, and walked to her seat and plopped my *** down next to her. But I was too worried about what others would think of me. I was worried that everyone’s eyes would scan to me, and I was worried that I would disrupt the class in some way. What made it even worse is that on the last day as we are getting up out of our seats to get our Scantron sheets, she gets in front of me in the line. Now, is my big moment to lure her in, but so many contradictory thoughts racing in my mind are stalling my efforts. I mean, how can I seal the deal with such a small window of time? Is this even appropriate? How do I even go about doing this? I should have playfully swatted her on the arm, busted her balls for being a slacker, and asked her what she is doing after class. But no, I regrettably didn’t. However, when I came into her view, she playfully swatted me in the arm and asked me what I had been up to. The nerd side of me came out and I said, “nothing much.” AH, YOU DUMB ***! ****. And so that was that, I went back to my seat defeated. That very same day I talked myself into friend requesting her on Facebook. Now folks, I hate Facebook. I think it’s going to destroy the very fabric of society, but that day, I needed it to not lose something that could potentially be good. After a while, she accepts my friend request out of sympathy I guess, and I begin to stress over what I should say on her wall or something. I see her profile pic, find something immediately funny about it, and I write a message playfully making fun of her. She responds back to something to the effect of, “haha, yeah right.” A couple of days later, I go for the kill and send a message to her saying how hard she is to sit down and get a hold of, how I enjoyed her company when she would nobly grace me with her presence, and I basically expressed that I would enjoy talking to her over the phone. Well, she never responded, and I can understand why. If I was a girl, I wouldn’t exactly be comfortable just handing out my phone number to a guy who I barely knew. So while I understood, I was disappointed as well.
So guess what? I had a third opportunity, and it would come in the summer of that year. One day as I was walking to one of my classes, I noticed through the door adjacent to my classroom that it was her once again! Did I stop myself, so that we could meet face to face again? No, no I did not. And like the song says, “she keeps passing me by,” and it’s my fault.
It’s never healthy to dwell on one girl, and I realize there are plenty of fishes in the sea, but for a while, this girl just had me. She was sweet, kind, mellow, and seeing how she was highly regarded amongst her friends made me really attracted to her. And the fact, that she didn’t reveal everything made me want to know her even more. I wanted to break her out her shell and make her comfortable with me. I wanted her to see me as the good person that I am.
When I saw my “dream girl” in front of me, I didn’t know what to do or how to respond. And yeah, in hindsight it may seem that I put the ***** on a pedestal, but my obsession was not so much about her, but rather, it was more about my own inadequacies as a man. It’s not so much her as it was about the opportunity that was lost. The fact that I worried so much about the outcome hindered me from truly enjoying a young lady’s company.
She probably doesn’t know this, but she taught me a lot. I want to thank her for rejecting me
, because it made me realize that I need to detach myself from outcomes and live life in the now.
College has really been special in the sense that it has forced me out of my comfort shell. With my degree, I have to communicate with people; it’s in the friggin’ title. If I don’t, I fail, so it has helped me out in various ways of slowly but surely overcoming my social anxiety.
While most things have been far from perfect, I still have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful for the life I’ve been afforded and for the opportunities I have to make it better, the family that I do have, the education I’m receiving, the roof under my head, the clothes on my back, and the countless amounts of other good things I fail to recognize on a daily basis.
And finally, what I have learned through all this is that when you assign blame to someone else, you expect them to solve your problem. Remember, you’re responsible for creating your own destiny, and you can make what you’re given into something better for yourself.
Despite being raised in such circumstances, I have the power to reinvent myself and become who I want to be, and who I deserved to be.
Every day is a new day, and you can be anybody you want to be. It’s going to take time and practice, but as so many people suggest, it really is more about the journey than the destination. So keep that in mind.
I can’t express to you how much I have changed for the better over the last couple of years, and I still have a lot left to learn, but hopefully, you can lend me your guidance, and hopefully in turn, I can lend you mine.
Thank you for reading my incoherent/stream of consciousness mess of an essay.