Dear Social Anxiety,
Where do I even begin? Over the last few years, you have become a constant companion. I can always count on you to show up, even when no one else does. Though I must say, you always show up at the most inconvenient times.
I can’t quite recall the first time we met, but I think it was when I was in grade eleven—which already happened to be one of the most draining years of my life. You started to show up whenever I wanted to go out, giving me pep talks that really got my heart racing: Don’t go; they’ll all just ignore you, you whispered. Eventually, as we became better acquainted, you convinced me to stop going out altogether.
If I did go out, you were always around whenever I attempted to make small talk with others. You’d turn the spotlight’s glare on me until I wished that I was nothing more than a shadow on the wall. You’ve always been good at amplifying my imperfections.
We’ve always had a strange dynamic.You were consistently by my side, but I continually tried to ignore your presence. Looking back, your impact on me is obvious: in your presence, my posture became one of defeat. It wasn’t until university that I was forced to actually come face-to-face with you.
Social Anxiety, when I first started university, I was excited to step into this new chapter. I didn’t realize that you’d come with me, gripping my heart like a child who refuses to let go. At first, you lay low, looking for the perfect opportunity to strike. Luckily, you wouldn’t have to wait long. In the meantime, you would occasionally poke and prod at me: This person doesn’t like you, or They are trying to avoid you. You were just getting started with little seeds of doubt. After all, you had a whole garden waiting to flourish that would ensnare and strangle me.
You didn’t completely ruin my fun, but you did a great job reminding me why I couldn’t have any in the first place. The thought of whether or not to go out was a battle in itself. You would push me until it felt like the room would cave in from a lack of space to breathe, only to step back at the last second before you’d come crashing down on me, accusingly stating, No one ever notices you anyways.
Social Anxiety, when you’re around, I only ever see the worst case scenario. How often have I heard you snub, “You are an inconvenience that others have to put up with”?
We’ve been together for so long, so I think it’s time I be real with you: I’m exhausted by your presence. I’ve tried to numb myself to your verbal attacks, but my heart palpitations continue to increase. Sometimes you like to spontaneously set off a fuse of nerves for no logical reason, other than your own enjoyment at watching me suffocate from the pain. You’ve made me doubt myself and my own worth through your persistent criticisms. Worst of all, you’ve made me question whether or not God’s love was enough for me.
You led me to believe, especially in the times when I felt most alone, that God was not enough. You lack what others have, you’d whisper coldly. Good relationships are important—God created us to be in community—but I know they will never completely satisfy. I know without a doubt that the only one who can fill my void of emptiness is my Creator, God himself.
Social Anxiety, I have considered praying for God to remove you entirely, but maybe you are supposed to be the thorn in my side that continues to point me towards him, even as you dig into my flesh and eat away at my soul. Although you and I are probably going to be stuck with each other for a long time, our relationship is going to change. While my mind would be much less chaotic if you weren’t around, without you, I would lack empathy toward those who are also struggling with your presence. When you confront me, I remind myself that God sees me, even when no else does. Though you repeatedly try to tear me down when you see me at my most vulnerable—when I’m insecure and alone—the truth is that even in my insecurities, I can turn to what God says about me: I will never leave nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Social Anxiety, I really don’t know what there is left to say between us. Yes, I know that I’m a broken, imperfect, messy trainwreck of a human being; but God continues to offer me grace day after day, and he sent his son Jesus to die for someone as “unloveable” as I am. I can find relief in knowing that he will deliver me from your clutches whenever you go too far. I can rejoice in the fact that in spite of your words, I can set my mind on this one truth: God sees, knows, and loves me, despite how others may perceive me.
“Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”-1 Peter 5:7