I was always a shy kid. I was the kid in class that never put their hand up to answer a question and started to sweat when the teacher asked us to answer a question. I dreaded going to school and spent all my breaks in the library by myself. Mufti days were the worst - I would set my alarm to go off at 3AM and faked coughing, sore throats and fevers just so I could get out of school the next day. The most traumatic experience was a speech I had to give in Year 12, my hands shook so much that I kept dropping my palm cards as I couldn't hold onto them and I could feel my mouth trembling with every word I said.
As I started university, it became even worse. I used alcohol to numb myself before any presentations and even overdosed on anti-depressants the night before a presentation just to get a hospital certificate and be excluded from presenting. Common things such as going grocery shopping, making a phone call or using public transport terrified me. Making and maintaining friends was especially a challenge. I would always turn down opportunities to go to parties or to go see a movie with the few friends and eventually they just stopped asking. As a result, I often felt very isolated and alone.
I was actually visiting my GP and picked up a brochure in the waiting room on Anxiety. When I read the page on Social Anxiety I was so shocked - I related to everything on the page. I took the brochure with me and told my GP and he agreed that I had Social Anxiety Disorder.
I began CBT to treat my Social Anxiety as well as Depression and Bulimia. To this day I’m still not sure which one came first. But I think that my childhood memories of being extremely shy and getting progressively worse as I got older lead to me developing an eating disorder and eventually becoming depressed.
I want to let everyone know that once you start seeking help, even though it’s incredibly overwhelming and scary, it becomes so much easier. As a result of being formally diagnosed with SAD, my university is extremely accommodating and works with me on developing study plans to suit. This takes a huge pressure off me, as I don’t have to spend every night from Week 1 onwards dreading a presentation I have to give in Week 13.
Maintaining friends and staying social is still a struggle for me. I often have to force myself to go out and at times this is hard but I know I have to do it as it’s the only way I’m going to get better. I know a lot of people don’t take SAD seriously and just typecast us as the strangely shy and quiet kids – but we’re actually pretty awesome once you get to know us ;)