Now, that's a pretty defeatist title to start out on, so I know what at least some of you are probably thinking. I would guess for a few people the first thought that entered their head was 'get over yourself,' but for others, I suppose, the initial reaction will probably have been, 'well, you just need to hold on and find somebody who accepts you as you are,' or, perhaps, 'if you are with someone, if they love you enough they will learn to understand.' In these latter cases, I completely understand this perspective. In 99.9% of cases I would say just the same thing to somebody who felt this way, both to reassure them and because I do genuinely believe it as well. But, hear me out here, and let me do my best to explain why that's not an option for me.
This is going, I'm afraid, to be very tricky, and I may simply fall short of the mark in my explanations, so if by the end of this take you still strongly disagree with me or feel I am making much ado about nothing, that may well be my fault for communicating this badly. Even though I am sharing this anonymously, the real truth is so mortifying I can't quite bring myself to type it even without signing my name at the bottom. So I'm going to remain ambiguous, to some extent, in describing this. But here it goes, my best attempt at relaying this in a way I feel comfortable with.
My family has a long history of anxiety and depression on my mother's side. Even my older siblings who would describe themselves as total introverts have gone on to suffer from social anxiety for which they take medication. On the one hand, it's a pretty big stroke of bad luck, but we can't complain, as just about everyone in my family has gone on regardless, alongside receiving the right medication and support, to lead totally functional lives in all respects. An outsider or even somebody who saw us on a regular basis, colleagues, classmates etc, would probably never guess any of us had these complaints. Still, up until I was about sixteen I thought I had managed to escape this genetic lottery and was relieved for it. I have always been something of a social outsider and I didn't want yet another thing to set me apart from everybody else- in addition, obviously, to simply not wanting a condition to deal with the pitfalls of.
It was that school year, then, when I turned sixteen that things came suddenly and jarryingly off the rails, and at this point in the story where I'm going to have to get potentially frustratingly ambiguous. I developed a physical complaint of which I won't go into detail. This complaint affected me at all times, and its nature made it impossible for me to leave the house or be present in a social setting. I don't know whether the root of it was a physical ailment or not- I would presume it was for how suddenly it came on- but as time passed, I realised I had developed a pretty much crippling anxiety based almost solely around it. I now could not leave the safety of my own home without it instantly being activated. It became a complete self-fulfilling prophecy- my anxiety about it happening made it happen, leaving me even more anxious than before as I was aware it would continue to happen, again and again.
Thus, I could not attend school, see anybody outside of my own home or leave the house for any other purpose, even for minutes. Naturally I sought medical advice and was tried with several medications for the physical symptoms which all had no effect, thus confirming, indeed, that the problem was entirely in my brain. For around four months, I was unable to attend school. I sought all manner of treatment including hypnotherapy, which had helped some of my other family members, and tried a new form of medication. I was terrified I was going to miss my upcoming exams, end up with no qualifications and become a dependent for the rest of my life. I thought long and hard about taking my own life, and in the end, the only real reason I didn't was because I was very afraid of death.
But, eventually, the treatment began to work, or the medication did, or some combination of the two. I was able to go into school long enough to complete the exam-condition work I'd missed, and then, eventually, to return to class. I'd kept up with work at home and I managed to sit my exams and get grades I was fairly proud of. Nearly two years on, I'm still in school and sitting on some good grades for my final exams, planning on going to university, and have been to a large extent able to resume my old life.
So, am I cured? Well, no.
Much improved, yes. That's what I want to stress most of all. I am incredibly grateful for the progress I have made. I have found a medication that works- it has some bad side effects, but they are relatively minor and entirely manageable. I was according to my hypnotherapist responsive to the exercises I used and this has also helped me. At aged sixteen I genuinely considered committing suicide because I could not foresee any stage where I would be able to live as a functional human being. Now I'm eighteen and still in school, I have a functional social life, friends and a part-time job, and, maybe the biggest achievement of all, nobody outside of my immediate family knows any more about my ailment than the information I have given to you. Which is fortunate, because, quite simply, I could not live a functional life with people being aware of that about me. I honestly may still kill myself if word ever got out.
It's the fact that I'm so relieved to have those things that enables me to accept the next part, which is that, to manage my anxiety and the condition that goes with it, I have to give up a few other things. Most of them are fairly trivial. I can't eat or drink much shortly before going out to a social setting. Once I get there, I may do so- I find being in transit is the most strenuous time for me. There's a couple of things I keep with me wherever I go, which I have to replace every once in a while, and I can't let them go out of immediate reach- nor, naturally, can I let anyone know I have them, as it would inherently expose my condition. I can't dring alcohol much more than moderately the way a lot of my friends do. These, like I said, are tiny prices to pay in exchange for having a job and an education and a social life. There are also certain social settings I have to think very carefully about entering, and some which I just have to avoid altogether, as it would be impossible for me to cope in them, or at least not without revealing all to everybody who was there.
But the final part is the one that I'm struggling to come to terms with, and that's why I decided to write this MyTake. Amazingly, it only really occurred to me a little while ago. I suppose I'd imagined some way of navigating around the problem, that I'd cross that bridge when I came to it, but the truth came to me not long ago, and it's a painful one to admit. I can never have a romantic or sexual relationship, for the same reason as I can't enter certain social situations: not only do the symptoms and problems caused by it make being in that situation more difficult, but it would be impossible- not hard, impossible- to do it without revealing my condition. And I simply cannot do that. It's a secret I have kept from my closest friends, from people who have known me for years, because I simply cannot face how much it would lower me in their estimations. Whether it's fair or not. Simply, what I have is mortifying in nature. You would probably laugh if you heard it. You might feel guilty about it later, but it is, objectively, rather funny. There is no glamour about it whatsoever, nothing to romanticise. I can't reveal to even the people to whom I am closest, so it's outrageous to think of ever doing so to somebody I may have only known for months, weeks, hell perhaps days. It would become totally apparent, whether I wanted it to or not, all but immediately, and this, unfortunately, is non-negotiable. So, much as I may like to entertain the thought, I will never have a wife or girlfriend, I will never have a hookup or one-night stand, or indeed any relationship any less platonic or more intimate than the ones I have with my friends. This isn't anybody's fault. It's just a quirk of the problem I have.
So that's that. It does lead me, a little, to question why I wrote this. Perhaps I just needed, somewhere, to somebody, to get this off of my chest. I am extremely grateful for being able to lead a largely normal life and many people out there have many problems, even anxiety-related ones, infinitely worse than mine. Thank you for reading myTake.