I was amazed, delighted and scared to receive all those comments to my last post. I suppose it’s like getting publicity for publishing a book. You know it’s good, but it’s still scary. At least two of the comments deserve a whole post as a response. This is one of those.
Sheila wrote: “I have 2 grown-up sons who are both on the face of it equally ’shy’ but only one considers himself to have this condition, and spends a lot of time networking online with others who suffer from it, and the other one doesn’t appear to be at all bothered by it but just lives his life, makes the friends he chooses to make etc. … In some ways I do not think it’s helpful for my older son to have defined himself in this way, but on the other hand I suppose it is useful to be able to pin it down to something instead of a kind of generalised anxiety.”
When I first discovered that there was a name for this thing I’d been struggling with for most of my life, my husband was against it. He said that defining yourself in that way is just an excuse to give up. As if I’d said, “What can I do? I have this thing and I’m never going to be able to get rid of it. So I’ll hang around online and offline (but mostly online) with similar weirdoes who have all decided to give up the struggle.” Hubby said that all I had to do was to decide to join in conversations more and to start new conversations and gradually the problem would disappear. Well, he would, because this worked for him, diminishing his symptoms of shyness.
But, we’re not all the same. In fact, we’re all different. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. I’ve tried that way and it hasn’t helped.
So, seven years on, I’ve continued to define myself as having SA. That doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on “normal” society or that I try any less when I’m in it. But it means that I don’t beat myself up over failures. And it means that sometimes I explain to people why it’s hard for them to talk to me, if I think they’ll understand. Usually I do this online, occasionally face-to-face. It has become a little easier to do it, but not much.
I agree with Sheila that networking online with other sufferers is both useful and harmful. On the plus side, it’s a way of discovering treatments and strategies, of finding a sympathetic ear, of discovering others who are worse off. But the negative posts on SA forums can become depressing, and eventually the recurring themes become boring.
I wouldn’t advise everyone to follow my route. Those who can get away with hiding anxiety are probably better off never defining themselves as having it. And that also goes for the question of whether to announce it, which I will also blog about – maybe in my next post.
In the meantime,