There’s nothing like a panic attack to make the rest of your day feel terrible. I have social anxiety and the reality is; one single person can lead to me having a panic attack. I’m not just an introvert who likes to dwell in my own company; I have a mental illness that makes me terrified of people. Humans are a social species, we need other people to keep us sane and happy…my brain has decided despite that it’s going to make being social impossible for me.
It’s so hard to explain social anxiety to other people, it’s not just being anti-social; it’s being distressed at just the idea of interacting with other people. Today my panic attack was caused by something others deal with easily; a repairman turning up to update my smoke alarms. Others would have dealt with it like it was nothing but my brain can’t cope with someone turning up unannounced to my house. I then have to let that person into my safe space which completely takes away my feeling of safety. I live in council housing and my housing association have my issues on file so I’m given prior notice if anyone needs to come to my house. That simple act of letting me know and prepare is the difference between me being simply uncomfortable and full on panicking and having a break down. But today I had no prior notice and that simple act changed the whole experience.
I only answer the door if I’m expecting a delivery and that’s the only reason I answered the door today. Instead of a simple delivery it’s a man who needs to come into my house and do some work. This unexpected moment completely freezes my brain. I want to explain and say I can’t let him in, I want to ring my Mum who is ten minutes away and can come and deal with the situation. But I can do none of these things because my brain has short circuited and I’m incapable of anything but a one word answer. So I open the door and let this stranger in despite my whole body fighting me. I’m panicking but this man won’t see it because when I’ve learned to hide it very well. He can’t see that I’m gritting my teeth so hard it hurts, or that I’m digging my nails into my skin and scratching because pain is the only thing that stops me physically collapsing into a heap and crying like a baby.
The physical and obvious panic attack comes when he leaves. Because all that adrenaline that’s been rushing through my body has nowhere to go. My safe place feels unsafe because someone else has been in it and most of all, I feel like a complete and utter idiot because all I want to do is be a normal person and interact socially without a break down. All of this self-hate and adrenaline makes me hyperventilate, makes me sweat and shake. I’m crying and struggling to get my breath, while everything around me spins. I’m not in control of my own body and all I can do is sit and wait for my brain and body to run out of energy.
That’s my reality. I won’t forget it and get on with my day. I’ll spend the rest of my day feeling broken, embarrassed, ashamed and completely weak. I hate feeling weak, I like to think I’m a strong person, I’ve overcome so many obstacles and struggles. But the reality is I have social anxiety, I’m terrified of people and I am weak.
Sometimes I wish I had a big sign on my head that said “social anxiety” because then at least people could see my mental illness, they could try and be more understanding. You never know what battles are going on in someone internally, so be kind and be patient.