Joseph B

Social Anxiety, PTSD, Depression, and Hope

I have severe social anxiety. I have PTSD. I have chronic depression. I also have hope!

Growing up was difficult for me. My father left when I was five, I was quite obviously gay, my stepfather was abusive, I was bullied daily at school, and sexually molested several times by three different men. By the time I became an adult, I no longer saw people, I only saw threats. Everyone used to comment on how observant I was and how impressed they were, when actually, it was just hyper sensitivity to my environment. I was constantly on guard for threats and possible uncomfortable situations. I always sat with my back against a wall. I look around and make sure I’m aware of all the exits and all the corners and hidden areas in a building, just in case. All of this was absolutely exhausting. And then when I went to bed, I would have nightmares. Being chased, hiding, being dragged along the ground or just that feeling of overwhelming sadness or evil during a dream for no reason.

After about 30 years of this, I finally decided that I would see a psychologist. It was a tough decision because I was afraid of anyone new and also because of the stigma associated with seeing a mental health professional. I mean, how could I ever live a normal life if I have a mental illness, as if ignoring it meant it didn’t exist. “What would people say,“ I wondered. “What if someone found out,” I asked myself.

“What if.” My entire life revolved around “what if.” What if I can’t do this? What if someone laughs at me? What if someone sees me? What if, what if, what if? Two tiny words, by themselves are not particularly potent, but when put together, have the power to bring pause, to cause fear, and to change the very life and essence of a person. To make a child who hoped to one day make a difference in the world; leave the world just a little bit brighter than when he came into it, stop and cringe at just the tiny little task of opening the front door and going to school. As an adult, fearful of calling the credit card company to tell them that the payment would be a little late. It was just easier to incur the late fee than to call them. What if the person on the phone judges me as a delinquent? What if the person on the phone doesn’t like me and decides to just cancel my card? What if, what if, what if?

I did finally go to the psychologist. I always felt just a little bit better when I left, however, she just wasn’t the right person for me. She questioned me when I said I was gay. And when, after a few weeks, told her that I had thought about it and that I am gay, simply said, “Ok.” So I stopped going. It was expensive anyway, I didn’t have a lot of money and what if I needed it for some sort of emergency, as if I had ever saved anything for emergencies. What if she was actually a homophobe and my going to her was a bad idea. What if, what if, what if!

After a few more years, I went to another psychologist. This time I went because I had an addiction. An addiction to food. The first time we met, I sat across from her and told her a little bit about me. She said that the Native Americans long ago thought of homosexuals as special people who were able to project both male and female and that they celebrated this. Finally, I had found someone whom I could tell my stories without fear, or at least not as much fear. Little did I know that 10 years later and what I can only imagine the limitless patience a person can muster, I have hope. I’ve changed my vocabulary by the smallest amount. One letter, completely insignificant by itself. I replaced the “f” with an “s”. Such a small change. Such an enormous consequence. What if has become What is. What if no longer rules my life, what is helps me to stay present. What is happening is change. What is my life going forward is hope. “What is” is the only thing that matters. What if makes us fearful. What is gives us hope.

What is your story going to be? Mine is Hope!

9 responses to “Joseph B”

  1. Courtney says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! I am diagnosed bipolar, PTSD, severe anxiety, and agoraphobia. I noticed your background picture is Niagara Falls. I live in that city and just wondered if you were nearby, because making friends is a goal of mine and it’s hard to find people who I don’t worry about judging me by my mental health issues, which I don’t hide very well. Anyway, you might not live nearby or you might not be interested in making a friend, I just thought I’d put it out there. Thanks again for sharing your story!

    • Joseph B says:

      Hi Courtney,

      Thanks for reaching out to me. I don’t live near Niagara Falls, this was a picture I took when I was there a couple years ago with my fiancé.

      I’m always happy to accept friends. You can look me up on Facebook at There is a little voice in my head saying that I rejected a request from a Courtney recently. I’m not sure if I did, but I’ve received several friend requests from scammers. If I did reject your request, I am so very sorry, please look me up and friend request me.

      Hope is our greatest weapon. You deserve to be happy. We all deserve to be happy.


  2. Beth says:

    What a great story.Filled with success! Joseph you should be commended for not giving up, trudging on and making the best of yourself. You are not alone!!

  3. Tammy says:

    I see so much of myself in your story. Sending you love and strength and hoping you’ll send some back my way.

  4. twospirit22 says:

    Dear Joseph,

    Thank you for your story. I am a kindred spirit. I am glad you sought out help.

    My username reflects the Twospirit that some Native American tribes ascribed to us. It is very difficult to stay positive about this though because it is not the norm.


  5. Joseph B says:

    Thank you all for the kind words, it is greatly appreciated. And Twospirit, normal is just a setting on the dryer. None of us are normal, we are human.

    There is always hope, you just have to look for it. Hope is very potent, even the tiniest amount can make a big difference.

    You deserve to be happy!

  6. Apey Apey April says:

    I am so proud to be your friend and blessed to know you personally. Awesome story! Miss your face!

  7. Devin D says:

    You are an incredible man Joseph. So personally inspired by your story that brought me to tears. I can only hope to have the strength and amazingly positive attitude you do one day 🙂


  8. Debby says:

    Joeph , I’m currently seeking help once again for my lack of social skills my fears of everything and how to get though another night. It’s the first time I used the internet, I read your story and tears are running down my face. Thank you for your inspirational courage. What if, what if says alot.
    Your words may help me when I next talk to my psychiatrist.

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