What Being an Introvert & Dealing with Social Anxiety is Like
I am so, SO introverted and socially anxious. Whenever I meet someone in person I always want to apologize - I feel like the most awkward human alive. Unless I know someone or I'm talking about something I'm really passionate about, I never know what to say. Honestly, I want to run and hide and write my thoughts out rather than talking to someone. I might seem fine to others, but inside my mind is running a mile a minute.
After even the briefest interaction I question everything. "Did I say something dumb? Did I seem stupid? Why did I say ___ instead of ___. What if they're laughing at me or tell their friends about how ridiculous I was?" As I'm sure you can imagine, it's fucking exhausting. I will cancel plans or avoid going out so that I won't have to talk to people when I'm struggling. I struggle to interact in groups or be in crowds for long times without having a panic attack. This is social anxiety.
If I'm doing okay and my general anxiety is under control, then usually I can be sociable and be in public for a few days with no issues. But if I'm run down or anxious about something else, talking with a stranger is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Hell, even talking with someone who is a friend can trigger that spiral if I'm having a hard time. Add to that the fact that being around people drains my energy (this is what being an introvert actually means) and I'm setting myself up for anxiety.
Despite all my other tricks I've learned to manage anxiety, this is one I just don't know what to do with. Part of me wants to try getting past it by practicing interacting with people more. This is a form of behavioural therapy called "exposure therapy". The theory is that repeated exposure to that which which you fear will diminish the fear. When I do try this practice though, I often end up a burnt out mess, which is where I believe the introversion comes into play. The other part (the one I want to listen to) says to just own my awkwardness, accept that it makes me uncomfortable, and try to only do it when I'm doing ok. Hermitting for the win - with me, the hermit always wins. And I'm realizing that is perfectly okay.