Social anxiety

“It’s His Choice”

I’m going to tell you about someone I haven’t seen for a few years. I sincerely hope he’s all right and in a better place than he was when I knew him. I’ll call him A.

One of the strange things about attending a large dancing group is that you can know people very well by sight and have no idea what they’re like. Often, you don’t even know what their voices sound like.

FolkDancing2011A stuck out. He was tall and usually danced at the centre in circle dances. I was in awe of him because he knew all the dances so well. One thing I noticed about him was that he danced in a lazy sort of way, not moving his body as much as he could.

Then there was a trip. This isn’t usual, but there were reasons I won’t go into why any of the dancers who wanted could join this free trip to a water park. In the coach on the way back, the instructor discovered I came from England and he introduced me to A who also came from England.

In answer to my questions, A told me which town he come from and what he did for a living. Each of his responses consisted of one word and he didn’t ask me anything. I said, “You know all the dances really well,” to which he replied, “Yes.” And I, being me, soon ran out of questions and decided he didn’t want to talk to me at all.

After that, when I saw him at a dancing session, we exchanged hellos and nothing else. But I took more notice of him. He didn’t talk much to anyone, but I noticed he often gave a lift home to one girl.

One time I saw the girl outside the hall and asked her if she was able to talk to A on the way home.

“He doesn’t talk,” she said. “But I keep talking and telling him about myself. I don’t know if he’s interested or not.” Maybe it was the look on my face that caused her to add, “You don’t have to feel sorry for him. It’s his own choice whether to talk or not.”

I was so shocked by her opinion that I didn’t respond. I should have said, “I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone chooses to be like that permanently.”

Maybe, like me, he chose to keep quiet for a while, to avoid being bullied, and wasn’t able to resume talking after the threat had passed. Maybe he was always shy. But to choose to live like that? I don’t think so. And it upsets me to think that’s what others think of people who don’t open up.

A stopped going to folk dancing. I think about him sometimes and wonder how he is. I hope he’s all right.

Social anxiety

Coming Out


I’m not gay, but I’m coming out. The process has taken about seven years so far and I still don’t feel comfortable saying, “I have social anxiety.”

“What’s that?” is the typical response. No one asks that about being gay. Once the statement is made, it’s understood. Gayness … gaiety… homosexuality has become an accepted state. Similarly, depression is mostly understood. No one has to ask what depression is.

So what is it with SA? Why don’t people know about it? The definition of SA provides the answer. SA is a fear of people and particularly of what those people think of the sufferer. People with SA tend to avoid talking to others and often avoid social contact altogether. So other people don’t know they exist, or they don’t know what they’re thinking, why they’re so quiet.

That’s why SA doesn’t get the recognition it needs – we need – to fight it, destroy it, prevent it from starting even.

Why has it been so hard to come out? Because I’m afraid of the response. Afraid of the thoughts, even if they’re not spoken. Afraid of being thought strange, weird. It goes against my unwritten, unplanned life policy: to pretend to be the same as everyone else. It’s an impossible quest. You can’t miss out on so many basics of growing up and still behave in the accepted way in every situation. And yet, I still try to do it. And I imagine that by keeping quiet I’m not “found out,” although I know that this is untrue.


I’m going away and might not be able to post again this month. I’ll be back. In the meantime,