Social Anxiety: Finding out the hard way

Today my beast manifested in a new way, social anxiety. It seemed like extreme shyness at first, but I knew it went deeper than that. My flight/fight response was triggered when confronted with the possibility that I may have to go up in front of 300+ people to claim a raffle prize.

Rewind to earlier in the day.

I went to my IRL work Christmas party. We were given raffle tickets as part of it. Not thinking much of it, I divided them up amongst the baskets I wanted and went to sit down, ate lunch, and spoke with my colleagues.

Then the MC started to pull the raffle winners.

It hit me like an anvil. I. Me. Yo. Ich. the very person who is horrified to have attention on me, would have to walk from the very back of the room to the front, get on stage, speak, then walk all the way back to my seat. There were 300 some people there. The alarms on impending doom were going off.

I asked the two people next to me if they would go up in case I won, but they said no. I am panicking at this point. Clinging to the hope that I would be unlucky and not win.

They move on to the next basket, which I have no stake in. Ok I escaped that one I thought.

I sat there while the basket is claimed, thinking how adsurd this is. This girl is moving with such ease, she seems fine. Any non-anxious person wouldn’t even give this a second thought.

And here I am, ready to die.

The next basket is up.

camping
Me hiding

Trying to figure out the most graceful way to get out of getting called.

I put 3 tickets in there. Shit. Well there are 300+ people here. Surely I won’t get it.

Intuitively I knew though. I turned my tickets over so no one could see my numbers. The MC reads the ticket.

That is definitely one of mine.

Fuck.

If I don’t do anything this will go away, right?

meditation
If I don’t move, they won’t see me.

*sits there frozen*

He reads the number again.

Please move on. Please move on. Please move on.

I have a death grip on my tickets as my friends next to me realize the number might be one of my tickets because I wasn’t looking at them. I am trying to keep them quiet so they don’t draw attention to my situation. Because how much more embarassing would that be?!

Eventually (read: a lifetime) the MC moves on and reads a new number.

Realizing how bad my social anxiety is

The people at my table made fun of me and I sat there starkly aware of this new facet of my anxiety. Sad I didn’t get my prize. Sad I let some irrational belief control me. I wasn’t even sure directly what I was scared of. Was it the 300 some people watching me as I walk and talk?

My table-mates made fun of me and probably will forever. However, it made me realize how misunderstood anxiety, especially social anxiety, is. How they saw it as being lazy or snobby when in fact, I was stoked I won, just utterly horrified. I was scared and flustered I couldn’t explain it. Nor did I want to explain my anxiety to a table of 9 people who were effectively strangers and one of whom is my boss.

It is really hard in the moment to think through your healthy coping mechanisms when you are consumed with fear. Because time literally stops and survival mode kicks in and you’re flooded with adrenaline. In that moment, I just wanted to be home with my dog hiding.

Obviously this response is not ideal nor sustainable for a successful life. So whats a girl to do?

My goal is to change my response around this trigger. SO I will throw myself in the deep-end. I will put myself in positions that challenge this social anxiety belief I have developed.

Think public speaking and large group settings with unfamliar people. Just expose myself to pre-planned environments and build up the experience of handling them so when I get to another impromptu raffle w/ 300 people and I win, I may not be comfortable, but I will still go up and claim my goddamn prize.

No more being scared. No hiding. This is some bullshit.

I do coaching around anxiety if you would like help in changing your response to triggers. More information can be found here.

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