Social anxiety for dummies | Janne Honkonen - Janne Honkonen - Official pages of the Janne Honkonen, visual artist

Social anxiety for dummies

Hello, my name is Janne. I am suffering from social anxiety.

You might dismiss my anxiety with following sentences: “You are just shy” or “You just get little nervous” or “You don’t get out enough“.

Wrong.

Well true. I am extremely shy. But being shy comes from the social anxiety part. You don’t get out enough is partially right, because, my anxiety levels are a little bit lower when I have a chance to get out more but still, it does not close off my anxiety problem.

I have had this since I have been young. I do not like being around the people. People are too noisy. People are too nosy. People just assume I want to share my personal life with them.

Nope.

I like my life as it is. Disclosed. Personal. Off-limits.

I just got this one problem: People do not see it from me. They do not see either that I am extremely shy or feel that walls come down on me if there are people around me because I am excellent in one thing: Keeping the mask on. I can talk, even blabber, a lot, smile, and act quite normal-ish with the people, even when my insides are crumbling down and collapsing into themselves.

And that is why people do not understand me at all. There are only a few people, actually, only one people in the world who actually understands what having social anxiety actually means. My wife. And only because she’s having one too. As I am, she is also excellent hiding it and masking her true feelings from the outsiders.

So, what does generally having social anxiety feels like?

Imagine yourself being in a large warehouse, badly lit, dark warehouse, one of those with the large tall heavy shelves all around you while you stand in the very narrow hallway between them. The shelves continue endlessly and you do not see anything but them. And they are filled with large, heavy items.

Then, suddenly, the shelves start to fall over, and over, and over, pushing each other to fall endlessly falling towards you constantly. You try to run away, but everywhere you turn shelves start to fall towards you. You have no place to run and the shelves keep falling over you. You don’t get crushed because you keep running away but there is no escape and shelves keep falling over you.

This is what having social anxiety attack feels like. And it usually starts when someone, usually one who is not your close friend, comes to talk to you. It does not need to be a total stranger. It could be your neighbor, it could be your co-worker, relative or even someone from your family if the situation is not the best one for you.

But you do not see it from me. I keep it inside me. Even though I just literally want to run or shout.

Substitute functions and reactions

There are several different kinds of things how people suffering social anxiety react. Some get just locked up. Other escape. I usually put on the grumpy and angry face which reads “Go away, I hate you and will hurt you” although it actually says “Please leave me alone I am having social anxiety attack please understand“.

The social anxiety does not only come with the actual social situations. Sometimes, events occurred in the past are good enough to launch the anxiety attack to the people like me. Let’s take, for example, thing happened a year ago.

There was an event coming up in the local village, near our house. Because I dislike having a lot of people around me and saw a lot of misconducts how it was prepared. So I wrote an open blog article about it criticizing how it was done. Now, as I am a “little bit” sharp on the edges when comes to criticism, some people got very offended by my professional estimation about how it was done and were all “why did you not participate doing this event if you had so much opinion”

Well shoot, perhaps because being around the people drives me into the deep social anxiety state and I get to lock up inside me in the situations like that.

Anyhow, now, the year later, this thing still haunts me like a ghost from the shitmas past.

I really, now perhaps little bit open than I was last years, would like to participate in the event, even contribute to it with something I can do, I have extremely difficult to take the thing forward. I feel walls coming down and crushing me and feel like the everyone in the world hates me.

Part of this is because I have a case called bad anxiety attack and partially because I feel I do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings but feel like I have done so, so I am the lock up.

I am having all schörindger’s cat episode in the side of me all the time: Half of the time I want to help and participate this upcoming event, half of the time I just want to build up roadblocks to shut it off.

This, of course, being only part of the feelings, do not fully correlate with the social anxiety state, but still reflect parts of it: functioning socially and communicating with people.

Picket fences or a Berlin wall

Living in the small-ish community village on the countryside is a partially a living nightmare to me. At least in what comes to the social anxiety thing. While I was living the city blocks I could dismiss neighbors and hate the place and the people around all the same, but here in the countryside, I am constantly switching my heart between building small nice white picket fences around my yard or building 5-meter concrete walls with barbed wires on the top.

I would like to get along with the people here, but I am scared to shit having to interact with them.

And it is not helping that I have a prosopagnosia, face-blindness, an impairment that I am not able to recognize people, or either prosopamnesia, an impairment that I am unable to remember their faces. I am still not sure which one of those I have, but the fact is all the same: I do not recognize my neighbors, usually not even their names.

This is one big problem which makes my social anxiety even worse when thinking of acting with neighbors. How do I act with them if I do not even know their faces or names? I know I would easily learn their names if I would work with the on the weekly basis, but it has a very little help to me as I do not remember or recognize their faces.

Thank you genes. Only you did not give me a social anxiety and huge shyness, but you also gave this nice thing called prosopagnosia. Thank you. Thaaank you.

Perhaps I just will build that Berlin wall to keep the people out so I do not have anxiety about not recognizing their faces. What is actually quite sad because I would like to learn to know them and be with them.

Damnit.

Anyone have the genetic repair kit for sale yet?

© Janne Honkonen - www.jannehonkonen.com