My experiences with Social Anxiety


Gossip, rumors and labels are the things that all teenagers have to deal with. Most of the gossip and rumors about people are not even true, and the people spreading them usually don’t know what they are talking about. The labels I get are extremely hurtful as well, such as loner and reject. If you think what you have been going through during your teenage years is bad, try putting yourself in the shoes of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, Depression and Social Anxiety. In school, people have always given me the nasty labels such as “loner” and “outsider”. People seem to think that I don’t want social interaction with people and that I want to be alone, when that is not true at all. I really do want social interaction with people, but people don’t want social interaction with me because of the labels and gossip people have that spread about me.

My social anxiety started when I was in seventh grade at the Freeport area Junior High School. Everyone in the school grew up from the adorable little kids they were in elementary school to snobbish, immature junior high students. This was the year “social cliques” started to develop and gossip, and it seemed like gossip and rumors spread even more than any cold or flu bug. As soon as a person got detention or suspension, it spread around the entire school. The reason for why this gossip spread around so much is because of how small the junior high really is, it can only fit about 200 students total. Those were also the years that people started to notice that I was different than everybody else, I had odd interests in things like fire drills and school buses, and I did not have the confidence or the skills to reach out to people and talk to them. Because of this, I was one of the most frequent targets of bullying and gossip. When I would try to reach out to people, they would either sit there and ignore me or speak to me rudely and tell me not to sit with them. It seemed like anytime I would try to open up to somebody, they would avoid me and make fun of me for no reason. Most of the social cliques in junior high were only into making crude adult humor jokes and making fun of people that did not act just like them. One particular incident was in eighth grade at our end of the year field trip. If you remember the student name Eric who I mentioned in my other blogs, this was the incident that really triggered my social anxiety when interacting with my peers in school. We went on a cruise on one of the Gateway Clipper fleets in Pittsburgh, and it was a dinner and dance that was held in the evening. Since I didn’t really have a group of friends to sit with, I sat alone. I remember I got up to get my food for the dinner, then I sat down to eat. Right after I sat down I heard Eric say a real nasty comment about me. I heard it loud and clear over the loud music that was playing, and that comment really upset me for the rest of the night. I am not going to mention what he said on here, but it was a very ignorant thing for somebody to say to a person that he was a classmate with. I got so upset by the comment that I couldn’t really focus on eating my food, then I just got up and sat on a chair outside and cried about it. I figured that telling on him would cause him to talk rudely about me even more or he could even start saying rude things directly to me,

My social anxiety worsened when I finished eighth grade and became a freshman in high school. Because I was no longer the highest grade in the school and didn’t really know anybody there, I became so tense and nervous. It was very intimidating for me because everybody was older than  me, and they were all in their own social clique of friends. Most of the upperclassmen were your typical freshman haters, and they all had absolutely no interest in associating with people like me because they were in their own “little group” of friends. I knew that Freeport is a rather small high school, but it seemed a lot bigger to me because it was a new environment with new people. In junior high I had a difficulty understanding who was my friend and who was not. I was “set up” and tricked by people many times. When I started high school it was very difficult for me to move on from those experiences and make a fresh new start. I had this generalization that everybody was bad and that everybody has something against me, which I still do now. I am working on getting rid of it, but it is very difficult for me because of all of my past experiences with people. Many people tend to think that social anxiety and depression is something that you can just “snap out” of, when it is not. People who suffer with it now will suffer with it for the rest of their lives. Yes, there are medications they can take, but they can sometimes worsen their symptoms.

I have gotten help for my symptoms, but social interaction with people is still a very difficult thing for me. I am not one for talking on the phone with people, even when they are close friends. In the rare times that I have called my friends, I feel that they will have something against me and try to avoid me. When I give them invitations over the phone, I tend to fear that they will not want to be around me and make excuses for why they want nothing to do with me. I especially have difficulty dealing with that, being avoided by people really hurts someone that has been through it countless times. I also worry that it might be the wrong time to call and they will get angry at me and avoid me in the future. Yes, I realize the phone etiquette rules, such as don’t call after nine o’clock, and two call attempts during the day is enough.

I also used to fear being around peers in public places other than school. I have seen my enemies in public places like the mall and the local grocery store before, and I try to avoid talking to them as much as I can. I don’t really have a problem around adults, but its peers that I really get uncomfortable around. When I see other teenagers whispering to their friends, even when they are people I don’t even know, I tend to fear that they are whispering about me, even though that most likely is not true. I still have the tendency to worry about things like this even though a few people in my high school have started rumors about me. When I talk to someone that I consider close friends, I tend to worry and think that they change and all of a sudden have something against me. I realize that change in a person is something that occurs overtime, and it doesn’t happen in just a few days or weeks.

I disagree with a lot of the therapists that work with people with depression and anxiety who think that pushing them to the limit and shoving therapy down their throat will cause them to magically “come out of their shell”. I have mentioned such a person before, and his name was Mike. I don’t think that he is bad at what he does for a living, but I disagree that overwhelming them and trying to change who they are will cause them to learn social skills and get through their depression and Anxiety. I think that his therapy would work for some people, but not for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome and Social Anxiety.

One thing I wish is that people were not so judgmental about me when they first met me, I don’t try to avoid new people when I meet them, I just tense up and get nervous. Because of this people tend to think that I am stuck up and don’t really want to be around them. I have also been around ignorant people who make rude jokes about people with these kind of mental disorders, and that is totally uncalled for. I think the world needs a zero tolerance policy towards that, but unfortunately that is not going to happen. Individuals with these disorders are teased all the time, and it sadly is not going to stop. But when you are around me I will not stand for it. To me, making fun of somebody for something they can’t control is totally inappropriate in any situation. You can bet that I will tell you that I don’t like what you are doing, and that it is uncalled for and needs to stop. I get very angry when I see comedy shows on TV make fun of people like this, even if it is “just a joke”. It is sad that there are ignorant people in this world that do things like this, but unfortunately it happens everywhere. I hope you got some idea of the things I experienced with my Anxiety, and I hope that you will take this into consideration when you see someone who may exhibit some of these behaviors. The next time you think about judging somebody, think about some of the things that this person may be going through. Be helpful to them instead of making fun of them and judging them.

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Aspergers Syndrome and Change


Have you ever had to do something that you really didn’t want to do? Have you tried to do everything you could to avoid doing it? In most cases, one thing that is impossible to avoid is change. Everybody has to deal with it in some point of their lives and you also may have tried everything you could to avoid it. This is a very common trait for children and adolescents with Aspergers Syndrome, even a small change in their daily routine can cause depression or even a total meltdown. For example, lets say you and a friend planned to get together for the weekend, when at the last minute your mother says no.  Most neurotypical teens would hurry up and get the job done, while one with Asperger’s Syndrome would have a total meltdown. Of course, it depends on their personality, but something as simple as that could cause a person on the spectrum to have a total meltdown.

I just gave you a general example of what can cause meltdowns, but social skills groups need to teach aspie children to cope with change appropriately, if they deal with the situation inappropriately, they could end up getting in severe trouble in school, or even ruin their chances of getting a job. The most recent change that I had to go through was moving from Freeport Area Senior High school to the Lenape Vo Tech school in Ford City PA. Right off the bat, the first thing that really worried me was the feeling of not knowing what to expect. All sophomores from Freeport have the opportunity to come to Lenape their junior and senior year, but I don’t particularly want to talk to most of those people because I already know them. I wanted Lenape to be a fresh start for me, I wanted to forget about my negative experiences at Freeport and meet new people. The thing that stresses me out about Lenape now is that it is still “cliquish”, just like your typical high school. Most of the people from Lenape seem to only want to associate the people they already know from their home schools, they really don’t seem interested in meeting new people. It’s hard to meet new people when they are not interested in meeting new people. One common trait in kids with Aspergers Syndrome is that they take longer to adapt to major changes than a nuerotypical teen. Social skills are natural for neurotypicals, and they are able to go and make friends right away. One thing I wish secondary schools would do is assign special needs students and aide or a responsible upperclassman to help them find their classes and get their bearings. This would especially help middle school special need students who are just trying to get use to having more than just one teacher, and helping them get their way around the school. Back to the Lenape story, I had no difficulty finding my classrooms, but it was just meeting the new people that I had a problem with, and their being uninterested in getting to know me. Another change that has been really hard to deal with is the long bus ride. My bus has to pick me up at 6:10 in the morning, and the homeroom tardy bell doesn’t ring until 7:48. I usually don’t get back home until around 4:00 in the afternoon, so my bus ride is over an hour long both ways! There really isn’t anything they can do about that, because it is the only bus that picks us up around our area. I know that complaining about the situation will not help, so the better thing to do is to just deal with it. I really hope that things turn around, and I hope that the people will be more open than they have been. There are a few changes about Lenape that are inevitable, such as the long bus ride, so my best advice for you is to just deal with it. Complaining doesn’t make any type of change better, it will only make it worse. Yes I do grumble about getting up at 5:15 in the morning sometimes, but I am at least going to a place better than Freeport.

Another change that probably has upset me more than anything in the past is friendships ending. This is especially sad when you have been friends with this person for a very long time. Like I mentioned in my blog about dating, they may get a boyfriend or a girlfriend and act like they are their number one priority in life, they just simply don’t want to talk to you anymore. When they start rejecting phone calls, ignoring emails and text messages, and avoiding social time with you is when it becomes time to end the friendship. A situation similar to this happened when I started junior high, I had a friend that I hung out with all the time, named Jason. During elementary school, we would always go to each-others houses, go out and do things together, and talk during lunch time at school. We went to places like the zoo, walks down the trail, and when it was still open, we would go to the Freeport Community  Pool together. This all changed when junior high came around, he started hanging out with different people, and completely forgot about me. He would start rejecting phone calls, and avoid social time with me, he would make excuses like “sorry, I’m to busy”, or “I just don’t feel like being social today”. I didn’t know how to deal with it at the time, so I just sat there and would cry about it. This wasn’t the only thing that upset me, but the fact that I didn’t fit in with anyone in the first place contributed to my depression and loneliness. I talked to my parents about the whole situation, and they told me to just move on. As I mentioned in my blog about dating, I would maybe attempt to “break the ice” and talk to the person about your feelings, if they talk to you rudely, then I would move on and find someone else to be friends with, it may be hard to find a new friend, especially if you are on the spectrum, but there are other people out there. My friend Aaron from Computing Workshop just started college this year, and he is attending college not to far from where I live, so I hopefully will be able to see him on occasions that he is free. I understand that he is not able to talk to me every single day of the week, because he will be extremely busy, but I know that he is still my friend. If anything happened to our friendship, I would feel even worse than I did when I ended my friendship with Jason. But, I am pretty sure that won’t happen.

As I said in the beginning, change is one of the inevitable things in life.  If I could go back in time, I wish I could  go back and deal with it differently. Using what I know now, I could have changed the way I dealt with it. I hope you found this informative, and I hope that you will use this to help a child on the spectrum in the future.