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.