Since the dawn of this blog, I’ve received some lovely comments, lots of questions about social anxiety in my inbox and been a part of plenty of discussions about mental health. I love that my blog can create an open forum for people to talk about that stuff as it can usually be difficult to talk about it in “real life“. Another side of running my blog, is that I sometimes come across some mean-spirited comments from people and that’s just part and parcel of putting myself out there.
Thing is, it’s not like I would be all that surprised if those comments were from people who didn’t have a mental illness and had quite an ignorant view of what it was like to have one but more often than not, the mean comments are from people who also suffer from social anxiety or depression themselves.
Comments like “There’s no way you really have social anxiety because you work/have a boyfriend etc.” Or “You don’t know what social anxiety really feels like because you’re not as worse off as me” get really tiresome after a while.
Social Anxiety Disorder isn’t exclusive to anyone or anything. It is different for different people. It comes in different levels. It happens at different times in people’s lives. It sometimes happens due to trauma. It sometimes happens for no major apparent reason. It can be there all of your life but worse at times. It can manifest at one point in your life and never come back. It can happen due to bullying. It can happen due to abandonment. It can happen due to another illness. It can happen for whatever fucking reason it happens. It’s not a competition: It’s a mental illness.
So to address the comments:
– “You don’t have social anxiety if you have a job, I could never get a job”
For a number of years I couldn’t get a job at all and even after years and years of therapy, I could only get a job being self employed and working around what I felt comfortable with. I could never have been a waitress for example, I would have constantly felt anxious.
– “You don’t have social anxiety if you have a boyfriend”
Some of my past relationships CAUSED my social anxiety to become worse, due to emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Now I’m in a relationship with someone who is perfectly understanding and thoughtful when it comes to my social anxiety.
– “You can’t have social anxiety if you look normal.”
What is that even supposed to mean? I may look normal to you, but you look normal to me! That doesn’t mean you don’t have social anxiety! I’ve been bullied for my looks, by people in school, by ex boyfriends, by randomers on the street…. I don’t see normal when I look in the mirror. I see hideous. But that doesn’t mean everyone sees me that way and my outward appearance has no reflection on my social anxiety but my social anxiety does have a reflection on how I feel about my appearance.
– “You don’t have social anxiety if you can tell people about it.”
It’s taken a long time to tell people about it and telling people about it was scary as fuck but it helped me see that I actually wasn’t being judged as much as I thought and it also helped other people open up about their social anxiety even though I never would have thought they had it.
– “You don’t know how social anxiety really feels, I can’t leave the house because of mine.”
Neither could I at one point. My social anxiety got better to the point it was manageable through therapy, so I was able to leave the house. Not everyone with a social anxiety disorder is incapable of leaving the house, it can manifest in different ways. There are musicians who perform on stage who have social anxiety.
Point being is that social anxiety doesn’t manifest itself on the outside as much as you think and you’d be surprised how many people you know actually suffer from a mental illness you didn’t know they had.
I’ve also seen a lot of bitchiness and competitiveness on social anxiety forums, where some people seem to enjoy being worse off than others.
That gets us nowhere! We’re supposed to be in this together. How do we expect people who don’t have mental illnesses to take our illness seriously if we don’t take each other seriously? How can we fight stigma when we hold each other to the same stigmas we are trying to fight?
Instead of competing for who has it worst, or dismissing people who may seem in a better position than you – Let’s learn from each other, support each other and realise that suffering isn’t a competition, it’s just different.