8 Silly Words


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“I think I found out what’s wrong with you.”

Even today, those words still pierce me to my core.

“I think I found out what’s wrong with you.”

They were uttered so casually by my then-boyfriend but have since become a haunting theme in the carousel that is my mind, catching me and repeating themselves in my lowest moments.

The day had started off just like any other in my university life; we were sitting in his bedroom-me in his oversized, ratted but oddly comfortable recliner while he was sprawled out on his bed, textbook in hand-we were both attempting to do work while trying our best not to distract each other.

It was going well until he broke the silence with those words, those silly eight words, that are now forever engrained in my brain.

He put a face to the demon that had haunted me for so long.

I’d be alone with my debilitating thoughts-but I’d be safe.

Growing up I had always felt anxious, particularly when heading into social situations. I would get this gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach. My mind would race. All of these negative, irrational fears like “no one wants me here,” “this person doesn’t want to talk to me” would play over and over. I would spend every waking moment thinking of what excuse I could use that day to be able to stay home, be alone and shut off in my bedroom. Being a recluse made me feel safe. I’d be alone with my debilitating thoughts-but I’d be safe.

As I got older, the fear became worse, I felt incapacitated by it. I got to be so scared of people. Terrified. I started making tea at home because going to Tim Hortons felt like a chore. If I ran the risk of being late for class, I skipped because the thought of walking into a classroom late and feeling hundreds of eyes staring at me caused me to hyperventilate. Parties were the death of me, even when I said yes to one; everyone knew I would be a no-show. So people stopped asking. Friends stopped talking. I became a shell of myself.

When I met my boyfriend I thought ‘here is my saviour’, he was my knight in shining armour, swooping in to save me. I had gotten to the point where I had stopped going to school. I stopped eating. Getting out of bed made me cry, so I barely did it.

They say we attract what we feel we deserved but at the time I didn’t think I deserved him. He made me feel loved. He made me feel safe. He made me feel like he was all that I needed.

And therein laid the problem.

In the end, but in the worst way, he became my knight.

It’s hard, even five years removed from the relationship, to put into words what happened in our three years together. In the beginning, he was what I needed, he saved me from going down that dark and murky rabbit hole. In the end, but in the worst way, he became my knight. I became dependent on him, I didn’t really want to make a move without him. Either he was with me, or I wouldn’t go.

I didn’t want to hang out with his friends. I cried every time he asked me to meet his family. I wouldn’t go anywhere without him. I couldn’t go anywhere without him. He became angry-I had become his burden the way I had already become one to myself.

And then on a random weekday spent studying, there were those words; “I think I found out what’s wrong with you.”

And he had.

He was reading a textbook for a behavioural science class and there it was, in plain text a description of  “Social phobia and/or anxiety.”

For a little, with my newfound title, the clouds dissipated. I felt I had found an explanation-it gave me a sense of relief. What I was going through wasn’t nothing, I was suffering for a reason. It was a mental illness.

Things did get better for a while but a name can only take you so far–the adrenaline ran dry and old habits renewed themselves.

I didn’t seek help right then but I don’t regret it, because to me, the moment he uttered those words was still a step forward.

I ultimately did have to lose it all again to really find my true self (I’ll talk about that in another piece) but for me the lesson was, even if you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

For the longest time I had chalked it up to being shy or having a bad day because that’s what everyone was saying to me. So when I read that textbook and ultimately was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression by a doctor, it finally made me feel understood.

The next step is for everyone to understand as well.


Emotional symptoms of social anxiety disorder / social phobia

  • Excessive self-consciousness and anxiety in everyday social situations
  • Intense worry for days, weeks, or even months before an upcoming social situation
  • Extreme fear of being watched or judged by others, especially people you don’t know
  • Fear that you’ll act in ways that that will embarrass or humiliate yourself
  • Fear that others will notice that you’re nervous

Physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder / social phobia

  • Red face, or blushing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Upset stomach, nausea (i.e. butterflies)
  • Trembling or shaking (including shaky voice)
  • Racing heart or tightness in chest
  • Sweating or hot flashes
  • Feeling dizzy or faint

Behavioral symptoms of social anxiety disorder / social phobia

  • Avoiding social situations to a degree that limits your activities or disrupts your life
  • Staying quiet or hiding in the background in order to escape notice and embarrassment
  • A need to always bring a buddy along with you wherever you go
  • Drinking before social situations in order to soothe your nerves

(Courtesy of http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-social-anxiety-disorder)

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