For as long as I can remember, I’ve had social anxiety. People can be cured, but I’m one of those who are still trying to find one. I had the tendency of staring at people and things when I was young. But now, as a young adult, I know doing these things can start a fight with certain people. Now, I try to avoid places with too many people.
Some places that make me anxious
As a black girl, you had to go to these places. They were mostly located in the inner cities, usually in small plaza lots. Most beauticians were moms and had their kids running around. Most were single and owned the salon. Others owned the shop together. I would say in the beginning getting the creamy crack (aka relaxer,) I hated how it felt on my scalp. I was supposed to like the end result: My nappy strands on my head being straightened like a white girl’s. This lasted three weeks at the most. But that’s not the point.
Going into beauty shops often meant waiting with others. To this day, I still get flustered walking into a public place and having to deal with people staring. I’m just like, “Ok, I’m walking in. And?” I always did a little “yay!” in my head when I’d go in for an appointment and there’d be nobody waiting. No weird staring and I can get my hair done right away. But then I’d have to deal with the next big problem: the beautician.
If you have ever been in any beauty shop of any kind, you’d make a quick realization: beauticians like to talk. A lot. I had a beautician during high school never stopped talking. In a sense this wouldn’t be that big of a deal if she’d been talking to anyone else. I’d hate talking to her ‘cause a) I’M SOCIALLY ANXIOUS, b) there was nothing going on in my life anyway, so what was I gonna say?
Since I went natural, I stopped going to the beauty shops. Now the most I get anxious concerning my hair is whether my twist out’s gonna look good.
I’m lucky to have a transit center in my area. My city’s transit system is Metro. They made some changes to the routes back in August, and I’m not too happy about it. I always get anxious going somewhere new. My levels go up just going to Google Maps. I once cried when I spent a whole day on Metro after getting lost as hell doing a dry run to my new school. I don’t get too worried now. If somewhere takes more than two bus rides and/or takes more than two hours, I don’t go.
I get anxious about missing the bus. I get anxious about people sitting next to me. But really, more than anything, I get anxious that I’ll be riding the bus forever.
I was admitted to a hospital when I was twelve for an appendectomy. Ironically, that would be the last time I’d remember feeling somewhat comfortable in a hospital. My mama has had several health issues so she’d been admitted more times I’d like to count. I’d hate going every time. First off, hospitals are huge, made up of beige hallways and automated wall hand sanitizers. In those long hallways, people will walk in your direction in those long hallways and you’ll try not to have to long at them when you finally meet. This is a common socially anxious person’s nightmare and in hospitals it’s more likely to happen.
You just try to do your best to keep sane. When someone you love is going under an intense surgery, you’ll have to be there. Listening to the anesthesiologist tell you and your mother the details of the surgery. You sit in the waiting room with other families. The receptionist would call your family’s name to tell you what was going on in surgery, if she was breathing correctly, etc.
It’s best to just sleep. Just grab a chair as an extender. It’ll make time go faster. But it doesn’t make you feel that much better, just groggy and sad. By the end, I cried. I saw my mother after her surgery and she couldn’t speak. Part of what triggered this was accidently leaving my phone in the lobby. The lobby was packed and every just had to pay attention to me when I started asking. My grandpa’s wife, who’s a minister handed me her card. It made me only feel slightly better.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a school setting. The thought of a room with desks and a dry erase board (maybe a chalkboard) gets me antsy. I’ve always hated school. There is always a need to have to talk. If there’s a room full of people and no one’s talking for a few seconds, there’s got to be a problem. Teachers don’t just encourage talking, they enforce it. Often participation is considered a huge part of your final grade. Going in front of class to recite an essay is half of the essay grade. To say the least, school isn’t too fond of shy students.
I remembered telling my communications teacher in high school about my anxiety for a presentation and her response was the equivalent of going “eh” while shrugging.
Communication is important obviously, but it makes you feel like shit when there are times when you just don’t feel like speaking. And of course most teachers don’t care if these times happen to coincide with major projects.
Public speaking is something I have yet to get over. It’s supposed to a valuable skill. I just know at some point I probably will have a life-or-death situation of getting in front of a group of people.
In the future if I’ll have to speak in front of a crowd, I can only hope it isn’t for too long. I know I shouldn’t have to expect people to stone me or exaggeratingly point and laugh. I hope that I can survive by the end of it.
My family seems to shop almost every single day. We like Foodarama, HEB, the no-name small local markets. My brother and our grandma typically do all the shopping. I hate the crowds, the running children and the lines. Oh Gawd, the lines. Anxiety also comes from deciding. You not 100% sure if you want to try this new cereal or take a chance on getting a frozen pizza, hoping your brother doesn’t eat it as soon as you get home.
Lots of anxious people swear by the self-checkout. Personally, I only do it at the library, which happens to be the only place where I can be free. I don’t use checkouts at grocery stores because with being anxious, I get the feeling I’m doing something wrong. Ever since WWE wrestler Emma (aka Tenielle Dashwood; this incident exposed her birth name) got arrested for “stealing” an iPhone case during self-checkout and was temporarily fired for it, I never felt the need to use these innovative excuses to avoid cashiers.
One thing that lessens my shopping anxiety, is knowing what I want to get. Nothing more, nothing less. When I don’t have a list, I want to get some other random thing and have to question myself. Do I have the money? Am I actually gonna use it? What if it doesn’t work? It never ends.
I try to take advantage of the empty aisles. They can be the most relaxing thing ever.
And I have survived. I’ve been through a lot of shitty encounters with some shitty people in shitty places. Being harassed by a drunk guy at a bus station in the dead cold of winter is one of them. These places will always exist. As I get older there will be more places that’ll make me nervous. I only hope that one day I can react to them better.