You’ve probably seen those posts a million times. The ones that describe things that “only people with Social Anxiety will understand” or “15 signs you have Social Anxiety” even though they have literally only described introversion and how cute it is to be socially awkward.
Face it, Social Anxiety is so hot right now.
A disorder I once found myself pretending I didn’t have, is now the cool ‘in’ thing. It’s like growing up with glasses all over again. And do you know what? I call bullshit. Bullshit on the click-bait BuzzFeed posts, bullshit on the “Oh yeah, I must have Social Anxiety too because I got nervous before that interview that one time”, bullshit on the anxiety t-shirts in high street chain stores and super duper big bullshit on the glamorisation of ANY mental illness.
There is nothing sexy, cool or glamorous about having a Social Anxiety Disorder.
Up until my Social Anxiety diagnosis 16 years ago, I believed something was truly wrong with me. I thought there was no light at the end of my tunnel because for some reason I couldn’t seem to function like everybody else. I was lonely and desperate and ashamed. I’d been self harming since I was 11 because I didn’t know how else to express my anger, and during a visit to the hospital after an overdose I was referred to therapy where I would finally get my answers.
There was nothing sexy or cool about the way I shut myself in the house for 6 months and had to have my therapist come to me because I couldn’t even take a step outside. It wasn’t cool or sexy when I had panic attack after panic attack before or during social situations leaving me a puking, crying mess. It wasn’t cool or sexy when I had a breakdown and had to quit my job or when I sat in the car outside my ex boyfriends house for 4 hours because I couldn’t join the party they had thrown me so I could meet their family. That was really fucking embarrassing. It certainly wasn’t cool when I almost let myself die because of my anxiety. Not cool at all.
That’s the dirty truth about having a mental illness, it makes you do and feel very unpretty things. It’s not tidy and cute the way most social media and online articles will have you believe. Just like OCD is not just being “really clean”.
Remember when being a geek was something to be ashamed of? I do. I was tormented at school for it but now it’s ‘cool’ to be a geek. Well, Sort of. I mean it’s cool to wear oversized glasses, be a gamer girl and watch marvel films but if you start talking about coding and how you really like documentaries about ancient civilisations? You pretty much lose your audience and get a few bored stares.
That’s why I feel Social Anxiety is the new geek. It’s quirky if you say socially awkward things sometimes and if you don’t like parties as much as you like watching The Walking Dead at home with a KFC, but it’s totally bizarre if you vomit before going to work, or that you sometimes leave your shopping in the middle of the supermarket because someone walked too close to you and it made you feel like you were going to die, or that you’ve sometimes left your smelly bin bags in your house for 3 weeks straight because the idea of taking them outside and people seeing you is just too much to handle.
Does that sound like a fashion statement to you? No, I’m sure it doesn’t. I’m sure the things you have been through, the things that your anxiety has made you feel and do doesn’t feel fashionable or glamorous at all.
Glamorising mental illness has to stop.
I’m definitely an advocate of talking about how we feel with each other, raising awareness, even making light of the silly things we do because of our Social Anxiety if it helps. But let’s be truthful about mental illness, and remember what it is really like to live with something that already has enough stigma attached to it.
Let’s be honest and help educate people on what Social Anxiety really is, and what it is not. Stop glamorising Social Anxiety!
Join our Anxiety Facebook Group for discussion.