For silent sufferers, being afraid of public speaking is a hard thing to admit


The title of this blog post is the title of my latest editorial in the newspaper I write for on a weekly basis, which you can read in full here. I decided to go outside of my comfort zone (ha) and write something nonpolitical and personal to my experience as someone with, often times, crippling social anxiety. I think that Camus quote sums it up nicely. Now an excerpt from my piece:

Here’s the funny thing about humans. One of our pitfalls is that we’re better preachers than we are acting agents. This is no truer than in my own experience. 

I’ve used this space frequently to discuss the real problem of the stigmatization involved in mental health in terms of getting help or even speaking about it. Not only as it relates to a mental disease. If I had a headache, it would be normal to tell someone I had a headache. If my whole world comes crashing around me because I have to do a presentation in eight weeks, that doesn’t seem so normal to verbalize. 

My article focused mostly on public speaking in relation to my social anxiety, as that’s more oriented to my schooling experience and that’s the audience I’m trying to write to. I could mention other experiences, like when I go to a crowded movie theater. I always get a Coke when I go to the movies because it’s just right, man. You gotta have it sitting next to you. And I always seek the middle seat at the far back at the top to avoid sitting near anyone and it’s a better vantage point for the movie.

If it’s a crowded theater, though, and I walk in with my Coke, I know I’m not drinking it. Seriously. I’ll pay $4.50 (or more) for a Coke and it will sit next to me untouched for the next two hours. Because I can’t drink it. My throat is too tight because I have strangers on either side of me, strangers in front and sometimes, if I’m not lucky to get the top back seat, the worst, strangers behind me. I fear if I try to take a drink, it won’t go down and then what? Do I spit it out? Do I do an awkward cough and choke? (I have done the latter and I get that momentary panic in my stomach because I know my throat won’t let it down.) And I’m constantly unsure of where to put my hands or my feet or my arms and I control my breathing so it’s not too loud for those sitting next to me.

That whole paragraph sounds fucking insane to someone that can go to a movie theater, crowded or not, and relax into the cushioned seats and enjoy a fucking movie. That’s not my experience and it never has been. Maybe I’ll write more on this later, but that’ll suffice for now.

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