Updated: May 2, 2019
This article dives into Social Anxiety Disorder's effect on one woman's relationships and the stigma surrounding mental illness in her country of Tobago; her honest and courageous testimony is here to help others who may be struggling with anxiety disorders or their mental health in general. If you relate to this writer and her personal experiences with Social Anxiety Disorder, comment your kind words in the comments section at the bottom of the page, or check out her 'About the Author' biography and get connected! -Kay, Rose-Minded
How Social Anxiety Disorder has Affected My Relationships
Hi readers and followers of Rose-Minded, my name is Avion and I suffer from Bipolar and Social Anxiety Disorders, Schizoid Personality Disorder, anxiety, and depression. I want to share my experience and struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder and how it has affected my relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, suitors, social media and the general public.
My entire life I have suffered from Social Anxiety Disorder; my only friends were my own cousins, my neighbors' kids, and certain people in my community (although I only see them off and on). I was never close to any of my siblings and am still distant with all of them, and despite three of them residing in my community we barely talk to each other. I'm even distant with other members of my family, co-workers, etc.
I might talk to someone now and then, off and on, or whenever I meet them in person, but I always make sure to keep my conversations short and quick. It's still hard for me to communicate openly with people and carry on long conversations. I always decline and make up an excuse about another pressing engagement just to get out of it.
Despite the struggle I've had with personal relationships, I am not a bad person. I am just not interested in dealing with any/everyone or being the "life of the party". It would be upsetting to find myself in a situation where I had to lead the talks or discussions. Panic attacks aren't even a concern because I decline social invitations or difficult conversations before a panic attack could ever occur.
I am working feverishly on overcoming my Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorders. This also includes working on my interactions and relationships with family, friends, and other individuals who struggle with mental illness.
Many of us who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder still find ourselves interacting with others, such as our employers, co-workers, and the general public. Most of us shy away from networking and meeting people in person through meetups, seminars, or workshops; even meetings in our community such as a youth group, village council, or town's meeting seem difficult to attend unless we are forced, persuaded or tricked into going.
Personally, I find that working with others has its rewards, as well as its challenges. There is always that one person trying to fight you down, but in my case, that person was me. No, not in the way that one thinks; I was always present on the job, but never truly at the job. It was like I was not totally into my work which was problematic for me. I was rarely invited to meetings, seminars, workshops, or other events in my community in the country of Tobago; if I was ever invited, I would be the one taking notes, but never getting up, asking questions, or speaking out because I am somewhat uncomfortable having everyone's eyes on me.
Now that I work from home and for myself, I do not get to go to any social gatherings, which works perfectly well for me. Even though I don't mind being in a social environment, I hate attention because it feels like pressure.
One positive quality in myself is I can make friends quite easily, the problem is keeping them and I have met some negative people in the process. From primary straight through high school I managed to befriend a lot of people who at the time I considered my real friends. In my life, forming friendships has not been without its trials and tribulations - I have had a ripe banana squashed up on my back, my pen and pencil stolen, called all sort of hurtful names such as "Century Monkey" or "Sun Dancer" or "Crazy", even "Virgin Beast" and a "Mental Case".
I would get mad but I never fought them back; I just walked away. However I still continued to talk to them as most of them resided in the same community/village as me and our parents were friendly with one another. Back then, it was "children should be seen and not heard," so if we had a problem with another child it was looked on as "child's play". If anyone had told us that sort of behavior was considered bullying, they would have gotten a big laugh while being dismissed as crazy.
As I grew, it was easier for me to make good friends I could go out and hang out with. I would go out with them once in a while, but again I kept more to myself and confined myself to my bedroom. Even though I enjoy being alone with myself, I always felt this strong urge to please my friends. I was not rich, but I would often be conned by those whom I had once considered my friends. They would come to me with some sad financial story and I would want to help them; stupidly I would.
Now, I realized that not everyone who comes to me is my friend and some people are only out to take advantage of me, which sometimes I feel too weak and depressed to even lift a finger to argue and say "no is no". There are friends of mine who I may not be close to and don't always talk to each and every day, but when things get rough and my back is against a wall, they always seem to come through and be there for me. Despite this, I am still fearful of telling them that I have a mental illness, because it's still a taboo subject in my country.
My Social Anxiety is also a taboo subject within my family, who just like everyone else labelled it as just being "anti-social". This was because I did not take an active part (or any part at all) in family gatherings or events. I lock myself away in my bedroom and hope no one calls me or comes into my room during these family gatherings. Even when I step out of my room to get something to eat from the kitchen and have to pass them, I always hold my breath and hope and pray that no one asks me anything. If they do, I just smile and be on my way.
Now that mental health is gradually becoming a huge part of my job, it's upsetting my family still does not have a clue I struggle with mental illness. They think I'm getting interested in mental health because I lost two friends (committed suicide), but whenever I bring up the topic of mental illness and the healthcare system, the conversation is quickly changed.
Getting my family interested in talking openly about Social Anxiety Disorders or mental illness has been, and still is one of my greatest struggles. I am hoping soon they will be okay discussing openly, rather than talking down to me or ignoring me completely when the topic comes up.
I'm single, and plan to stay that way indefinitely. That is what I have wanted since I was eight (8) years old. I never wanted any children or to fall in love and get married. I wanted to live carefree and not be responsible for someone else. Please don't call me selfish, I just loved being by myself.
I have had three relationships which lasted a year or longer, but failed bitterly. I have also had two flings, which also failed because I was struggling to keep my illnesses under wraps. "Acting normal" was doing me more harm than good. I feared that if they knew I had a problem, they would reject me, look down on me, hate me forever, even mock me and bad-talk behind my back with their family and friends. It was tough, but in the end it was worth the break-up and I don't think I want to start dating anytime soon.
I can be great at meeting and interacting with people, because the most I have to do is smile whenever I greet them with a 'hello', 'good morning', 'good evening' or 'goodnight'. Most people would say that my shyness, smile, and body language make me appear more approachable, even though I tend to shy away and stick to myself. I lack overall self-esteem and still get scared interacting with the general public, well those outside my community. I fear they would make fun of me, laugh at me in my face, say something back, mock me, ridicule me, or even worse- throw things at me. I often avoid going out to public places; I would rather stay at home in my room, and if I do go out it is to the beach and back, or to the supermarket.
Networking with others online works well for me; I have no problem whatsoever with this because I am behind a screen without person-to-person contact; other than when I get involved in video chat and live web-series with others, but this is rarely done. I am now starting out as a Mental Health and Lifestyle Blogger and Writer. I have not started any vlogs yet, but I plan to this year and interview individuals who are struggling with mental illness.
Join me again for more on social anxiety and relationships in the coming months ahead.
About the Author
Avion Anderson is the freelance mental health and lifestyle blogger/writer of Avionne's Legacy. She has been blogging since 2015, and been struggling with mental illness for years. She wasn't aware of her illnesses until she was diagnosed in 2017 with Bipolar Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, anxiety, and depression. She eventually quit her job to focus full-time on her recovery and sharing her story with others in hopes of raising awareness and putting an end to the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Visit her website: https://avionneslegacy.wordpress.com