Over the last week, two different comments have been stuck in my head.
The first comment was spoken by my psychologist at our appointment last week. I can’t even remember what I/we were talking about at the time, but I think I was being quite self-deprecating in what I said. Towards the end of the session, he suddenly said: “You deserve to be here just as much as anyone else, Gemma”. Except that I feel I don’t. I feel completely inferior to everyone else in almost every way. I don’t feel that I’m as deserving of friendship, love, kindness, praise, happiness, etc. as other people are. I generally don’t feel as worthy or as valuable as I feel others to be. I think this again comes down to extensive bullying. If you’re treated like a worthless piece of crap for seven hours, five days a week, by a large number of people – and especially if you go home to your father telling you much of the same – you quickly internalise that attitude and find it almost impossible to let go of. If I don’t have friends or a relationship and I’m always an outcast, it must be because I’m a bad person, right? It must be because there’s something wrong with me – I’m unlikeable, unloveable, boring, etc. That’s how I feel. I’ve gotten a bit better at seeing positive things about myself in the last few months, but there is still a very long way to go. Liking myself and seeing myself as being just as good as everyone else is something I have to work on a lot.
The second comment was made by a guy at the SA meet last week. While we were having a conversation, he said: “You would never guess that you have social anxiety”. This both irritates me and fills me with joy. It angers me because (although I know he didn’t mean it like this) it seems that he’s minimising the intense pain and loneliness I’ve experienced my entire life because of this terrible curse of a condition. He’s minimising the pain and loneliness that I experience on a daily basis, and the difficulties I face. On the other hand, it did make me very happy in a way. Social anxiety disorder has to a large extent ruined my life (or at least many aspects of it) so far. I’m constantly worrying about how I come across to people – Can they tell how anxious I am? Is my behaviour odd? I often feel that I’m not capable of doing anything social without it ending in failure. His comment showed me that my anxiety is not as obvious to others as I think it is. Perhaps it also means that I’ve become skilled at battling against the anxiety and not letting it come across to others. I’m always amazed at how little of my anxiety others apparently see. I’m always convinced that if I have a panic attack or I’m really anxious in a conversation, everyone present can tell exactly how anxious and distressed I am (this is known in psychology as ‘The illusion of transparency’). In fact, people – for the most part – rarely seem to see any of this. It even took my psychologist a few minutes to realise that I was having a panic attack right in front of him in one of our previous sessions. If even professionals have difficulty reading my mental state at times, perhaps my fear really isn’t so obvious to others as I always presume it is.