Welcome to the home of the freak
Who am I? None of your business. Seriously.
I’ve got a pretty distinctive voice as a writer, and I’m not going to deliberately change my writing voice for this, so odds are, anyone who really wants to try will eventually figure out who I am. But I’d ask that until I’m ready to reveal it, please don’t. I hope that at some point, I’ll feel ready to come out and give you my real name. But right now, I’ll hide behind this friendly little pseudonym, thanks.
The more important question for the moment is why am I here?
I’m a shy person. But that doesn’t really get to the heart of my big problem. See, there’s shyness, and then there’s something else, something which starts in the same place, but which is so much stronger, so much more dominant over my behavior and my life that it’s no longer just shyness. It’s something else.
Psychologists call it social anxiety. I hate that term. It’s both too clinical, and too mild. Anxiety is such a gentle word. “I’m anxious” sounds like something out of a historical novel. But what it really means is an incapacitating fear of social situations.
A few years ago, some company ran a few ads for an anti-depressant that had proven to be useful for people with this problem. And it rapidly became a joke. It was mocked by everyone from Jay Leno to Jonathan Coulton. After all, “social anxiety” isn’t a real problem. It’s one of those stupid things the drug company made up to sell pills. They just want to sell happy pills to shy people.
I’ve spent the last 20 years living in a cage that I can’t get out of. I’ve had three different jobs since I got out of college. In that time, how many real, face to face friends did I make? I can count them on one hand, with fingers to spare.
I’ve gone years at work without actually sitting down with anyone in the cafeteria – just grabbing food and rushing back to my office. I walk past tables with people I know. And intellectually, I know that I’d be welcome to sit down with them. But I can’t. It’s difficult to put into words, and it’s painful to put into words, because the act of doing it brings on the same panic that I feel in the situation. But the idea of sitting down with people, even people that I’ve know for years – it makes me panic. It makes me seriously, physically, ill.
This sickness, this craziness, has deprived me of a lot of happiness. It’s cost me promotions and bonuses at work. More importantly, it’s cost me friendships. Even among the very small group of friends I have, I still have to fight through the sickness to be able to interact with them. And as a result, I end up looking like a freak. It’s made it impossible for me to really enjoy anything as much as I should – because no matter what I do, there’s a barrier of fear between me and the world outside of me.
I know I’m not the only person like this. But the nature of the problem is, I don’t know anyone else who is. Or rather, I don’t know whether I know anyone else who is. Because if I did, they’d be as withdrawn, as afraid, as antisocial as I am, and I’d never know it.
So. Why am I here?
Because I need a place to vent this. I’ve recently started therapy to try to find a way out of this cage. But it’s hard. It’s stressfull. It’s frightening. And it’s painful. So I need to be able to let this stuff out somewhere. And I can’t do it with the few friends I have left, because I don’t want to drive them away.
But there’s another reason. Because I know that there are other people like me. And it would have made it so much easier for me to finally get up and do something, if I could see that someone else had done it. I know that anyone who’s going through what I am can’t come forward and talk about it. Even if they knew who I was, and how to get in touch with me, it’s the nature of the sickness that we can’t reach out. But I can put this here, as a record. And this record will show that they’re not alone. And if this therapy works, it will show that there’s hope for us. That the pain of going through a process of healing is worth it. That there is a key to open this god-damned cage.
I hope to god that it’s possible. It doesn’t feel like it is. My doctor is asking me to do things that scare the living crap out of me, and I get sick just thinking about them. I’m writing notes on the times I feel the pain of this the worst, in order to give us a sense of how to work through it. But doing that, at least for the moment, just seems to make things worse. It highlights how much of a freak I am. And I’m absolutely terrified that I’m going through this pain for nothing – that at the end, I’ll have done this, put myself and my family through this, wasted huge amounts of money and energy, and that at the end, I’ll still be the same freak that I am today. But I have to believe that there’s a chance. And if there is, maybe I’ll escape. And if I can, maybe I can show someone else that they can, too.