This is something I wrote to try and help people understand social anxiety. This is how I would describe what it is like for me. It is pretty lengthy but it's the best way I know to describe it. Hope maybe it can help someone else.
Wolf on a Ledge
(My Battle with Social Anxiety)
Humor me for a second, will ya? Remember when you were a child and you could be anything you wanted. The sky was the limit on your imagination. Let’s go back to your childhood days of make believe. This may not be fun and games but, let’s play pretend.
Imagine that you’re in a pit of darkness. Darkness so thick that it feels as though breathing in will cause the black to creep into your soul and cease your breathing. It’s so devastatingly dark you can feel the weight of it bearing down on you. You go to take a step forward but can find no footing and none when you step backwards either. And, from some unexplainable knowledge, you know that the ground beneath you is only large enough for you to stand, allowing no room for movement forward, backward or side to side.
And that’s when the panic sets in.
Your heart begins to pound, picking up its frantic pace, threatening to burst from the confines of your chest. You tell yourself to calm down. Things will be fine. You’ll find a way out. It has to better than you think. But the panic continues, you gasp for air swallowing deep breathes; greedily filling your lungs with air as if no one else in the world needs to breathe but you in this moment. You do the best to will away the fear from your mind, the terror away from your soul but the breathing doesn’t help because now you can’t catch your breath and you’re hyperventilating.
From above a light emerges. So bright at first that you feel the sun itself is going to crash on top of you. You can feel the heat burning you to your core. Hear the sizzle of the light and possibly, you think, your flesh. But the light dims down and you relax. It feels as though you have hope. Light means there’s a way out. There’s an opening. There’s more out there than the hole you’re trapped in. So you’ll be safe. All you have to do is look at your surroundings. Get a sense of where everything is.
But, that just makes things worse.
You see now that you were right about one thing. The patch of earth you’re standing on gives no room to walk, move, run or hide. You turn your gaze below you, to what you think is the emptiness waiting to devour you, only to see that large spikes surround your prison. One wrong move and you shall be impaled upon those nasty, jagged, wooden stakes below. And they seem to want nothing more than for you to make a wrong move. They long for your blood.
And then, the monsters appear.
Above you, looking into your abyss, you expect to see hulking misshapen monstrosity looming over you. But they’re not. They look just like you, but they’re better than you, prettier than you, smarter than you, thinner than you. They’re teeth are straight; they’re hair perfect, they’re skin flawless as gold. And they’re eyes. Oh those eyes, gazing in at you, watching you from behind orbs of blues, browns, greens and every mixture in between. They stare and their eyes say more than their words ever could. Piercing you with the distaste in their glances, killing you with the snickering hint in their faces. The disgust they can’t hide when they look your way.
You tell yourself you’re crazy. You’re seeing things. It’s all in your head. They mean you no harm. They only wish to know how you got into a hole so low and you want to tell them that you wish you knew. But you can’t speak. Because every time you try to open your mouth, it feels as those nothing more than stupidity pours out. So you keep it shut, swallowing down your word vomit, and hoping they won’t stick around and stay. Hoping for nothing more than their eyes to turn away. But they don’t. They linger around the edges, looking down, always down, but never leaving. Never offering a hand up, a rope, a ladder to safety.
Snap, quick as a whip, the weapons are drawn. From unknown hiding places. All the people above you pull out crossbows and hatchets. Rifles, guns, and axes. And even though they don’t tell you there’s ammo inside; you just know. You know those weapons are loaded and ready to fire. And you realize there’s nowhere to go. So you scream. It’s the only thing you can do. To make the people run, to make them leave you. And, of course, this fails too and they don’t hesitate to shot.
UGLY. WORTHLESS. NOTHING. UNIMPORTNANT. FAILURE. FAT. HIDEOUS. MISTAKE. NO GOOD. UNATTRACTIVE. REJECT. LOSER. WERIDO. DUMBASS. MEANINGLESS.
One after another you take the blows. Arrows torn into flesh, bullet ridden, and bleeding, you fall to your knees. Even breathing is a chore. You can’t even manage to ask them why? before they turn and are gone. Like they’ve done nothing wrong. Like you don’t feel. Leaving you to live with all the insecurities buried in your soul. But you don’t want to live like this. You try so desperately to remove the shrapnel from your body but, your hands pass right through. As though you are merely a ghost, you cannot free yourself from the pain of the fire, cannot undo the damage left behind. So you shrink down inside you as a means of escape.
So this is your home now. One from which you cannot run away. Trapped inside a pit with no ray of day. Wishing people to pass you by. Begging them not to look inside. Because your fear of them is too great to handle. The simplest of glances, the most meaningless gestures, even just their presences causes you pain. It reminds you that you’ll never measure up; you’ll never be good enough.
Now, I want you to imagine that this is all a state of mind. While you feel all this on the inside; on the outside you feign fine. You get up in the morning, dreading walking out the door. Afraid of what lies beyond the safety of your home. You try to live a “normal” life but you’re always in a fearful state. Waiting to make the wrong move and tumble over onto the stakes. Anticipating when next you’ll be shot. Always on the edge of your seat because, at least in real life, you can flee from what you perceive as danger.
The saddest part is you don’t want to run. You hate that your flight instinct is stuck on. Because even though you expect to be hurt at any moment, you long for someone to accept you. You long for friends, for that helping hand. For someone to show you that maybe, just maybe, you can get out. That you’re worth something, mean something to someone about. But no one stays long enough. Because you push them away, from misunderstanding, awkward silence, or because you’re afraid. And deep down inside, you’re terrified, that no one will ever understand. That they’ll never know what’s it like. . .
. . . To be a wolf on the ledge.