I don't normally sign up/partake in online comments, but I find this site very interesting and hopefully I can help a few of you who suffer from SA with my story.
I am 27-years-old and have dealt with severe social anxiety my whole life it seems. I believe my SA is hereditary as I remember being scared in daycare (age 3) and alone for the whole day. The older I got, the worse it became. A lot of people thought I was *stupid* in public school because I never answered questions when the teacher put me on the spot. The school decided to put me in the "special group", which only had 4 kids and 2 of them were my friends - so I thought it was awesome. But it held me back so much and I started believing that I was really dumb, and I was too scared to ask the teacher to put me back in the regular class. This went on from grade.4 until high school. I regret not speaking up, but then again, I was way to young to even understand SA and just thought I was really shy.
So high school rolled around, and out of my class of 30 students that I grew up with since Kindergarten, I was the only one who went to a different high school, so I didn't know anyone! This is when my SA really peaked. The teachers once again put me in the special classes, which I did not want, but my parents forced me. I did not tell anyone about what I was dealing with...not even to my parents or bestfriend(s). I of course had a few friends that I felt comfortable with, but I still didn't share any of my personal issues with them. I also didn't date or talk to anyone outside of my group of friends or family while in my early-mid teens. When I was 15, I started skipping a lot of school due to hating the special ed classes and having SA - which lead to expulsion. I remember coming home from school the day of my expulsion with my mom yelling hardcore at me, so I ran to my room and cried for the whole night. I still didn't have the guts to tell her about my SA because I was embarrassed and ashamed and thought she wouldn't believe me, anyway. She kicked me out of the house the next day and told me to get a job. Luckily I had an older sister who allowed me to move in with her. She also set me up with a fast-food job (which only lasted a week due to my SA). I contemplated suicide at the age of 16 due to everything and missing prom. I thought being dead would be better than struggling through life with SA and having my parents ashamed of me for having it. But I decided to keep going...
At the age of 17, I got a summer job. I also got my high school diploma via online studies. At age 18, I went to college for a year. At the age of 20, I worked full-time and also dated a few guys. At the age of 23, I went to study abroad (by myself) for 3 years. And now I have a Bachelor's degree from a top overseas University. I met a lot of amazing people/have many friends, and have travelled to amazing destinations. I am now in the process of buying a house and settling down. Life can change for the better, but only if you WANT it to.
Now, I am going to share some things that have helped me deal with SA, and give you some tips along the way.
1. I did not turn to medication - I wanted to, though. I looked up every single drug that supposedly helped suppress SA. But I am anti-drug. I don't even take nsaids.
2. Forced myself to talk to strangers EVERYDAY! - I had a few things to complete in one day, which I stressed out about for a good week prior to the day. I needed to go to the bank, post office, doctors office and a CPR class for school. My first spot was the bank... so I was mega nervous to go in. I forced myself to go to the teller instead of the machine to pay my bills. Next stop was the post office. Instead of sliding my mail through the slot, I went into the building and handed it to a person. On my way to the doctors office, I was feeling more calm, but still a little shaky. By the time I went to my CPR class, I was totally fine. I was by myself and needed a buddy to pratice with, so I started talking to a guy who was by himself and asked if he wanted to buddy up. He said yes, and we got along so well! The CPR instructor was a young, handsome guy from Australia (accents turn me on...lol), and I was like, no way am I going to pratice CPR in front of this hot Aussie. But you know what? I was the first one who talked to him! I asked where he was from, and we started talking...we were even flirting a little bit, and I wasn't even nervous. I was shocked at myself when I went home. And for the first time, I felt good and told myself that people are people. We all come from the same place - so why am I so scared?! This is silly, I thought! So a few days went by and I had to go do something, and my SA came over me...again. And the whole cycle started again. But once I talked to 2-3 strangers, I no longer felt shy. I started going out every day and talked to at least 2 strangers by myself. The longer you go without walking in public/making eye contact/talking to strangers, the harder it will be to overcome SA. So I urge everyone who suffers from SA to get out there! Leave the house on your own and talk to people. Yes, it will be scary the first few days, trust me. My mouth was dry, my palms were sweaty, and my legs were a little shaky when I first started, but I promise you it isn't that scary once you get out there. Walk around a store by yourself and ask a worker where something is (even if you know where is it). Sign up to a gym and go 1-2 times a week. Sign up to a fitness class. If you like fast food, go inside of the building instead of the drive thru. Smile and say, "hello!" to people walking past you on the street. And don't feel embarrassed if they give you a weird look/don't respond back. A lot of people are rude and it has nothing to do with you! But a lot of people are nice, and you will feel good once that person smiles back. Be persistent!
3. Diet - I changed my diet drastically in my early 20's. I take Omega-3 supplements. I eat foods high in tryptophan (fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, peanut butter, soy products). I drink 1-2 cups of chamomile tea a day. I drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. I try to stay away from caffeine! Caffeine will make anxiety worse! Also avoid alcohol. I used to drink soda (Coke was always my choice) 2-3 times a week, but I cut all soft drinks out of my diet. You don't need those empty calories anyway! I also only drink non-caffeinated tea. And the most important thing to add to your diet are whole grain foods with a lot of fresh fruits and veggies!
4. Exercise - I never used to work out in my teens, but I started in my early 20's when I changed my diet. I try to get in 30 minutes of cardio a day, and 2 classes of yoga per week. I also enjoy hiking on the weekends/taking my dog for a walk once a day for 15-20 mintues. Working out will not only keep you healthy, but it will tire you out to help you sleep well at night. My anxiety was always worse at night while I was in bed. My mind wouldnt shut off until 3-4am some nights. Drove me nuts!
5. Build up self-esteem - Stop comparing yourself to others. You are never going to be that person. You are not supposed to be like anyone else. If we were all the same, life would be pretty boring. Be grateful. Before you go to bed each night, say 1 thing you are grateful for. Body image - if you are unhappy with the way you look, change. I gained 40lbs after high school, because food was the only thing that made me feel good...until I looked the mirror one day and was disgusted with my body. Once the 40lbs+ came off, I felt really good about myself and went shopping with my bestfriend for new clothes - it was a fun experience for me. And if you love your shape just the way it is, then don't change it - no matter what others say.
6. Keep busy! Do not sit around for a long period of time by yourself - you're mind will start running wild. Surround yourself with good people, find/do hobbies, exercise, have fun! Enjoy life.
Do these steps, or find certain things that will help deal with your own SA, and you will be fine. Remember that you are not alone. Many people are dealing with the same thing you are. And start early. Do not wait until life has passed you by. Speak up if something is bothering you. Have no regrets. Change yourself, and change your life. Do I still have SA, of course I do. Is it as severe? No. We just have to accept the way we are and love ourself. If you guys can have questions, please ask. I am very open and willing to discuss my past with SA. And I apologize for any grammar/spelling errors.