College is that new start to life that many people wish for. It’s a time to grow, learn, meet new people, and of course, have fun. As a sophomore in college, I can proudly say that I have done all that and I still have so much more to go. I’ve learned to be more open and step out of my comfort zone at times, which is so difficult, but I’m starting to get it. It takes time. But something I am not yet comfortable doing is going to a party. I attend one of the largest party schools in the U.S. I absolutely love my school but I am just not a party girl, and that’s OK. My friends know that and for the most part, they have been OK with that. But sometimes, they are not.
I feel misunderstood. I feel pressured. I feel hurt and confused and frustrated. I am someone struggling with social anxiety. Many people get nervous in social situations, that’s normal, but social anxiety is beyond that. It is the overthinking, the “what ifs,” the panic attacks and the shaking and the crying and the terrible monster that takes over your body when you are in a new place around new people. It is terrifying.
Some people think it’s an excuse. I’ll tell you bluntly, it’s not. Social anxiety is a disorder — it consumes me and it is not something I can control. Trust me, I wish I could. As I am writing this, my friends are upset with me and quite frankly, angry, that I declined their constant persuading and honestly, harassing, for me to go to my first college party. They claim I am making excuses. They claim I am close-minded. They keep saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll be together. I don’t like parties either.”
But they don’t understand. It’s not the liking part, it’s the unable part. Physically, my body shuts down. My mind goes into panic mode and I feel like every eye is on me. I don’t dance. I don’t feel like I have that “ideal” body. I don’t drink. I don’t do the so-called party things. It may seem irrational but that’s simply how I am and how my mind works. I won’t apologize for it. I won’t feel bad for struggling with a mental illness. It’s not up to me and the people who think it is just don’t understand me. They don’t understand anxiety.