“Just call up a friend and go do something.” “Go out, have fun for a change.” “Speak up.” If only it were that easy. I have dealt with social anxiety and depression for almost eight years. At first, I thought I was just shy. It wasn’t until I got older how much I realized just how uncomfortable I was around other people. Social anxiety is hard to explain. I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I should be able to go to the store and not feel like every eye is on me, judging me, criticizing me. I should be able to make a phone call without redialing the number several times, for fear that I entered it wrong, and then shaking until the person answers, then fumbling over my words because I’m so overwhelmed. I should be able to drive in my car and not feel like everyone is watching me. I should be able to walk my dog through my neighborhood without feeling like all my neighbors at that exact moment in time are watching me and judging me. I know I should not feel this uncomfortable around people I know. But I cannot help but feel this way. I dread being called on by professors, and, in the unfortunate case when I do get called on, my heart pounds and my hands shake and I get so frazzled I can barely speak. I cannot convince myself that it is ok for me to be out in public and go to class and go to the store and drive!

I firmly believe that unless you have this mental illness, you won’t fully understand what it is like. What it’s like to not feel comfortable in your own skin. Or just plain feel good enough, for anything. My depression is an unfortunate side effect of my anxiety. Some days are worse than others. There are days when I just don’t even want to be touched. would rather sit alone in my room and read or crochet than have human interaction. I feel guilty about a lot of things that come from my anxiety and depression. Not wanting to hug my own mother kills me inside. I tell her I’m sorry and she says it’s ok, that she understands but I tell her, “No! It’s not ok. I should want to hug you.” To which she replies, “You will.” I have been seeing a counselor and I do think it is helping, along with medication I recently started. I don’t know if I will ever be a carefree person that thrives on life and being social. I don’t know that I want to be that way. I just want to feel comfortable enough in my own skin and worry free enough to do simple social things. Even though there are times when I feel like the only person in the world with this illness, I know I’m not alone. Whether it is my family, my counselor, or other socially anxious and depressed people, I don’t have to do this alone.

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