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The Challenge of Social Anxiety

Some of you have probably met this type of person or are that type of person. You see them in the corner at parties, nightclubs, restaurants, and other large social gatherings.They will sometimes venture off to use the restroom or grab another cup of punch, but then will return right back to the corner. When a small group of attendants approaches them, the person will politely smile and exchange a long in depth conversation with them. I am that type of person, it is not because I'm rude or antisocial, it just that large social groups give me anxiety.

There are two triggers of my anxiety. The first is my own worries about my speech impediment. Even though it has improved over the years, there are times when it is obvious. I have lost track of how many times I've been engaged in a conversation, then my mind and mouth go completely blank. I try to come up with something to say, but then it comes out all jumbled and confusing; then whoever I'm talking with looks at me like I have ten heads. My speech impediment seems to skyrocket when I am in large group settings, and I think that the second trigger has something to do with it.

I have learned to handle different types of noise throughout the years, but one noise that still poses a challenge is multiple people talking at once, especially in a large group setting. For instance, I'll be listening to person A, but I can hear a completely different conversation between person B, C and D that are within ear shot, so then my mind tries to process what they say at the same time as person A. To top it off, the rest of the people are talking incoherently and there may be other noise such as loud music or dishes clinking etc.

Therefore between trying to process conversations and the other noise, my mind goes into complete pandemonium. I cannot think straight and cannot speak right as a result. This causes me to panic because I cannot respond properly to person A, therefore I'll feel anxiety rush through me the same way that adrenaline does. I try to cope with this challenge by pulling person A aside into a quieter location so my mind can rest, but I still keep them within the public eye in case they want to venture off. Or if it is way too much for me, I politely excuse myself and go to a completely silent location. I am not the type of person who would demand for quiet in a public setting, I understand that people can still talk to each other, as much as they want and how loud as they want. Even though it is a challenge, I have to respect that type of noise.

I can relate this to an experience that I had two years ago. Despite that it took place in a quieter setting, people did not talk one at a time. I was doing some groundwork with the horse that I rode, and there were three instructors trying to give me directions all at once. This set off my panic button, because I could not process everything they said. As I mentioned in one of my posts, horses mirror the emotion that a human projects on them, and in case the horse became distressed because I was. He spooked and would have injured my arm if I had not let go, and allowed one of the instructors to catch him. I know that I should have not allowed my anxiety to get the best of me, especially in front of an intuitive fifteen hundred pound animal. However sometimes things like this just happen.

The blessing that comes from my social anxiety, is that it has helped me accept my limits. Even though I have found ways to cope with large group settings, I know that is better for me to socialize with one friend or a small group. I do not feel as anxious and I can function better.

I encourage all of you to know that it is okay to accept your limits. It does not make you weak or any less of a person. Of course it is important to try new things or cope with challenges, but be mindful of when it is too much. Thank you for your time and hope that you find blessings wherever you go!

Warm regards,

Meghan.