The Struggling Social Anxiety – learning and surviving

Owen writes here about his growing consciousness of his own mental health difficulties, including social anxiety and his present situation and search for a livelihood. The piece was first published on his site.


I’m a strong advocate for speaking about Mental Health. I believe that talking and being open about mental health is a huge step and a massive help in overcoming it. Acknowledging it can be massive.

I’ve briefly spoken here and there about my experience with mental health, but I don’t think I’ve fully explained it all, so let’s do that.

By speaking about my experience, I hope others will gain the courage to talk about their problems. But, I’m not saying your problems can be solved just by speaking, it’s complicated. We live in a world where people share their stresses or past mistakes and are shunned for them. Sadly, it seems people are becoming less understanding. And I’m also not saying I have massively improved by talking about it because I haven’t. But I just want people to know that they aren’t alone.

So, let’s begin.

Mental health was something I never really considered until I was 15 turning 16, it never really crossed my mind. I suppose I was blind to it, because whilst I suffered from it, I never understood what it was, it was just kinda ‘there’.

But, let’s fast forward to when I was 16. At age 16 I was in a toxic relationship, from both sides. I was toxic, and I’ll always admit it. We both suffered from depression and it was something that we couldn’t help each other with, which in turn, affected us both. Once the relationship ended we entered a period of my life I’m not proud of, but look back on to learn. I was the ‘jealous ex’. Without going into details, that’s basically it. I was the extremely jealous type and learnt a lot from the entire experience. It wasn’t a good experience for anyone involved, but I can look back on it and say I learnt a lot about myself (Even if I cringe at my past). I’ve always spoken about this period as being one I would never change as I wouldn’t want to lose what I learnt.

But anyway, during this period, I went into counselling for about a year. It was with the school’s counsellor and it was a good experience, or so I would say.

I was the biggest issue with the experience. The entire time I was there, I lied. 

I lied about what was making me upset and annoyed, and I got no help from it because I lied. I thought that if I spoke the truth I would be judged for it and laughed at. 

I went to another counsellor during the same year and hated it. The person you have helps a lot, it has got to be someone you trust and feel comfortable around. So, I lied again. I continued to lie to get out of going. And once they deemed I was “improving”, they moved me on, and I never went again.

This period was a confusing one, and it certainly wasn’t easy. I was dealing with the breakup, which caused the depression and anxiety but I never admitted to it back then.

But, then we move on to university. At 18 years old, I started university, and it was an attempt at a fresh start. I lived away from home away from my old school friends and it was a good place to improve. I had already moved on from my past relationships and started to look back on them with the intent to learn and improve. 

People don’t like to be told they are wrong, it’s why people don’t change, but also because being wrong is used as a weapon against you. I think that people improve the best when they figure things out themselves. They come to a realisation that their actions have caused harm to either themself or others. But it can also be a great help to just listen. You can help someone by listening, being unbiased and not judging. People don’t want to be judged for something they can’t control, it just makes them feel worse about themselves.

And once I was at university, you’d probably think that my life would get better. But you’d be wrong.

Not because of anyone in particular, but because of myself.

We are at the ‘present day’ part of the story. Even though I was 18 back in 2017/18, the things I struggled with back then are what I currently struggle with, in the present day.

My depression overwhelmed me as feelings of uselessness and ‘not being good enough’ washed over me every day. My mind quickly got stuck that the idea of a ‘life purpose’ is to leave a mark on history. I’ve always had a creative brain and that could be to blame. I would watch shows and laugh my socks off whilst thinking about how I wanted to be like the people that made me laugh. I’d listen to music and think about the unbelievable talent that I wanted to possess. I’d read manga and be immersed in a world I wish I lived in.

These people helped me forget about the world around me and I wanted to be just like them, but of course, that can’t happen.

In my second year of university, I discovered what would become my favourite hobby, writing.

Writing, as you may know, is something I still do. Writing was a way for me to create a world I wanted to live in. It was a way for me to escape the world that I hated.

I think around this time was when I started to have a ‘laid back’ approach to the world as a whole. Without going into too much, I started to keep an objective approach to a lot of things, mainly politics. This approach turned into ‘why does it matter?’ which can be applied to everything.

Why does life matter? Why does any of it matter? Nothing matters.

And I started to think the world was idiotic for trying to give it meaning.

As I said before, this is the ‘present day’ thinking. I still think about all this, but I’m certainly one of those ‘idiots’ who is trying to make something out of it.

And that’s better than nothing.

But, now we talk about a big one in my life, social anxiety.

Social anxiety affects a lot of us, and it has hurt me my whole life.

It was never as bad as it was today, it used to be that I struggled to talk in class to anyone other than my friends, but now it’s gotten worse.

A lot of people joke about booking an appointment and how hard it is to talk to people on the phone, and I hate it. If I have to talk to someone on the phone, I pace around my room, unable to rest my beating heart as it pumps adrenaline around my body just to try and prepare myself for it. I’ll be told that they’ll call me at 4 PM, but will be unable to sit still from the moment I wake up. My entire day has to be altered just because of this one thing that is hours away.

I’m at the age where people my age are getting jobs and starting their real lives, so I often hear: ‘why don’t you get a job’.

The thought has always been in my mind and still is. So why haven’t I gone out to get a job? Well, to defend myself a bit first, I am ‘kinda’ working. I do this blog, live streaming, and writing novels, so I’m not doing nothing with my life.

But, the main reason is social anxiety, or primarily fear of failure and embarrassment.

I say ‘I don’t care’ but that’s a lie, a big fat lie.

I do care, it’s hard not to. I don’t let things bother me but deep down it does. Even just someone calling me a trash player in a video game gets to me way more than I know it should.

I often can’t get it out of my head, the thought of it replaying every second as I feel my body run cold. And this all culminates into why I haven’t gotten a job.

I have tried. I have thought many many times about getting a job, more than anyone will know. And each time the above happens. I think about it, my blood runs cold as the thoughts of me failing appear, and then I break down. I started to hyperventilate and cry and I can’t do it. I can’t get any further.

I went away for a few days last week, (September 7th-9th 2021) and met up with some friends from university. In our usual drunk states, we often get to the ‘deep’ talk. And I thought that I would be able to share, but I was mistaken. Normally, I’m alright with that kinda stuff, I thought I’d easily be able to do it. But I couldn’t, it still pained me so much. But when I think about it, I suppose the reason was that I didn’t want to be judged.

I’m stuck in this endless spiral, unable to achieve anything, and these thoughts turn worse.

I won’t say what is ‘worse’, but you can probably guess.

It’s about taking little steps in a world that forces you to run. Go at your own pace, for your sake, not others. Growing up too fast can be an issue.

But, that’s all for today.

I could probably talk more about this topic and most likely will in the future.

If you have any interesting thoughts on this topic then write a comment. You can let it all out, share a story or just tell a joke. It’s about letting it out. The thing that I believe has helped me most, is writing this blog. I highly recommend it to anyone.

But, for now, thank you for reading.

15 Sept, 2021


Rainbow over London, 20 Sept 2021. S.Ali

Author: Workers' Archive

Covering sensitivity at work and beyond on my website:

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