Social anxiety and my second school year Learning to live with social anxiety through the most difficult undergraduate year

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By: Hafsa Sakhi

I confess: second year was lonely. I saw the university campus as intimidating and developed social anxiety.

I would spend my time outside of class huddled in a corner with my laptop, feeling incredibly isolated. I viewed campus life as something I could never be a part of, overanalyzing social interaction to the point where I separated myself from the friends I promised to keep in touch with.

When I entered first year, I was optimistic. I walked into my first class, Advanced French, and forged new friendships.

I was carefree and energetic, bonding with one person in particular. However in second year, our friendship came to an end.

He wanted something more than friendship but I didn’t feel the same.

I lost someone who I felt understood me, someone who I could be myself around. I met new people but the friendships never extended outside of class.

I began to feel disconnected from campus life, obsessing over my lack of involvement. I wanted to eliminate the lonely thoughts, but I didn’t know where to start.

When I landed a new retail job, one that I’d dreamed of having since high school, I was too scared to get to know my co-workers. I was afraid they wouldn’t like me.

My negative thought process fed my insecurities and I was unable to show my true self because I felt I wasn’t impressive enough.

I lost someone who I felt understood me, someone who I could be myself around. I met new people but the friendships never extended outside of class.

I didn’t realize I had social anxiety until I came across a site online about its symptoms. I understood that I needed to allow myself time.

I began to fill my days with new experiences, going to a cool café, taking long walks and paying attention to the simplicity of nature.

I remember one night specifically. I was walking home from night class, the air was warm, the full moon glowed, and I took out my headphones to stop and look at it.

In that moment, I felt genuinely happy. I didn’t worry about people or myself, but stopped to look at the world in a different light.

On my saddest days, I wrote. Sometimes it was poetry, other times it was a small paragraph or a personal story. Writing allowed me to express what I was too afraid to say out loud.

I was able break out of my negative thought process by reaching out to an old friend from high school.

I decided to be impulsive and texted her how I felt.

I apologized for acting distant, telling her I wasn’t happy.

I thanked her for being a loyal friend and promised that this time, I’d be there. Before I hit send, I thought to quickly erase it. I was afraid that she would find the message stupid.

Deep inside, I knew I needed to send it. I worried over what she would say, praying she wouldn’t judge me.

She asked me what was wrong and that she’d be there for me. She told me she loved me, both of us laughing at my sappy message.

When we met up, our conversation was just as sweet, laid-back and loving as on the first day I met her.

We laughed hard at each other’s jokes, our sarcasm hand in hand, giving each other endless compliments.

It was after that day I realized I had people who still wanted to be my friend and loved all the awkward things about me: something my anxiety told me was impossible.

A year later, I look back at second year as an experience I needed to go through.

Although I still have days where I feel inadequate and insecure, anxiety also allowed me to discover what made me happy.

I was able to enhance my writing skills, a hobby which relieved the sadness and showed me new career possibilities.

I learned to appreciate the overlooked and that it was okay to open up to others. I no longer wallow in the loneliness but instead view it as a necessary independence.

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