I know they say you should not dwell on the past especially if you have nothing but bad memories. However there are just so many small but painful events that are still there, that have shaped my life and affected my confidence at every level. I remember starting at work as a young man. Despite being in the top 10% of my school I left college after only 2 days after an SA panic attack during Maths. Sitting alone in yet another class and feeling like a freak was too much. So after long term unemployment I got a job in a warehouse. Low paid, menial, mind numbingly boring, working with blokes who talked about tits and football all day, you get the idea. I remember the canteen at lunch being so full that there was little room to sit down and being forced to sit next to strangers which would make me uncomfortable as I might blush so I would go out and sit alone on the local park. If it rained I would stand in the bus stop to keep dry and wait.
Once when sitting quietly alone reading a newspaper in the canteen one guy from the office singled me out as I was reading the Times(not mine, one department left all daily papers in the canteen for anyone to read) just to check his shares prices which caused me to have a blushing fit. People laughed at my blushing. Simple things which at the time made me want to commit suicide even though other people were probably laughing at me as if I was an entertainment source. Even normal people are cruel when they encounter someone different, weird, and strange. Another time a couple of girls sat opposite me at my table. They were only small tables for 4 people in our canteen so there was no escape. Worse still one of them was a very attractive student who I really liked. I remember desperately trying to just keep my eyes down at my newspaper and not make any eye contact or noise in case I blushed. It felt like I was being attacked by supernatural forces at times. I went into the locker room afterwards enraged and shaking my fist at God in a Basil Fawlty style as I imagined some evil force doing this kind of thing just to mock me. The idea that I should have forced myself to just make small talk is said by people who never had severe social anxiety and have no idea how it debilitates you. Unfortunately this is most of the people who write self help books or offer help online.
There weren’t many girls in the warehouse thankfully as my SA was far worse around attractive females. Probably because they never spoke first but expected males to make all the running all the time and then slagged them off for being quiet. However, there were lots of females in the offices next door and once a year we had some students working over the summer until they went back to university. This was agony as there were several pretty girls in the warehouse and I spent all my time desperately trying to avoid them in case of blushing and general embarrassment. There was a lift to the upper floor and I used to make sure that no one was waiting in case I got trapped in side with them so had to linger around for ages or use the stairs. Once when I got trapped inside with 3 girls there was not a word said but then one of them made a sarcastic comment when she got out “Well that was quiet!” I still can’t understand their mentality. Do they expect every male to make witty banter as if it’s the law that men must always talk first?
One of the worst spells I had was when someone tried to make out I fancied a student girl called Linda. I didn’t actually as there were several other girls I liked far more. However you can imagine the piss taking in a blokey warehouse as I was the quiet weird one. Even worse we listened to Radio 1 all day, every day and a song called Looking out for Linda came out at this time which was played many times per day to much ridicule. My blushing went into overdrive and I spent a lot of time hiding in the toilets. I really came close to a break down I think now.
There are so many incidents at school and 20 years at work that I could go on for ever. I wish I could forget them but they never go away and still regularly come back to haunt me. Exposure to events alone does not cure social anxiety, success does. If you have a back catalogue of continuous failure in such circumstances then you have no self-belief and your confidence remains low. This of course is why lots of exposure therapy is a complete waste of time and does not work at all.