A Stage for Anxiety

Bench shimmering in night rain

(Anxiety has dominated more of my waking hours than I care to admit, yet I’ve written relatively few posts about it. While working on the next ebook, Depression Present Tense, I came across this early post that captures a typical incident. The new book is an attempt to capture the inner feelings of depression in a mosaic of many small dramas like this one.)

Anxiety is one of the fringe benefits of depression. The form of it that I find most acute is now called social anxiety, but I used to think of it as social torture. When it’s upon me in full force, every encounter with people is a searing experience. I can hardly make out who they are because of the blinding panic that sets in. Driven to say or do something, words tumble out, expressions cross my face that are usually totally off the mark. Completely embarrassed and burning inside, I leave as fast as I can.

There was a time when I tried to capture moments like that in poems, and this is one from a long time ago.

The two beside me on the bench
speak in one touch of their intimacy,
and I am the cheap voyeur.
I touch up face after face,
I bluff, I burn in unlikely mime,
I dangle near their design
of entwining arms.

Like an antique entertainer
tapping song to his ragged time
while the showgirls upstage him,
I want the sudden comeback,
want the place dead with applause:
I don’t know what I want.

Then quiet like a curtain falls,
and I make off.

Is social anxiety a partner to the depression you experience? Does it happen mostly with strangers, or can it be triggered in any situation?

5 Responses to “A Stage for Anxiety”

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  1. When you are depressed, you lose your self confidence> You feel like you are not good enough and you think everybody else thinks that way about you. You assume that when you go in to company other people will be judging and criticising you as much as you do! The only way to overcome this part of anxiety is to build your self esteem.

    When we feel good about ourselves, we stop feeling concerned about what others think os us.

  2. Anxiety Spot says:

    I think that social anxiety doesn’t matter do you talk to your acquaintance or to some stranger, be confident when you go out, that’s what matters, if you trust to yourself, others trust too. And what matters is also reminding yourself that others are humans too:)

  3. Donna-1 says:

    With strangers and those I know well…hell, I think I could get social anxiety from looking at a photograph of a room full of people. It was once one of the guiding principles of my life: stay away from people and don’t say anything stupid. Perhaps better not to say anything at all. But suddenly and curiously, 95% of my social anxiety just up and disappeared about a year and a half ago. It coinsided with switching to a new antipsychotic…but that may not have had anything to do with it. I haven’t figured out why it happened, but I’m sure glad it did. Social anxiety has plagued me since I was about 12 yrs old. I tried things to overcome it like taking an improvizational theater class, by going to parties that scared me to death (I often ended up looking for a place to hide), by asking boys out instead of waiting for them to ask me out. But I Suffered Greatly through every encounter. One of my biggest hang-ups. Now, I feel they can take me or leave me just as I am. If a relationship doesn’t work out or isn’t comfortable, I move on quickly with no regrets. I am willing to speak my mind even if everyone else disagrees. For some reason, I often just don’t care anymore what people think. Part of it, I would guess, is my age. After I turned 50, I looked at life differently. I decided if I wasn’t my own person at 50, it would never happen. So I begin to go against the grain and found it was refreshing and even enjoyable.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Donna –

      I’m so glad to hear that the social anxiety is now history. I went through something similar about gaining self-confidence as I grew older. There came a point – especially after 50 – where I just said to myself: ‘Hey, I’m 50, and I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do.’ That worked pretty well.

      John

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