lamecrappyjunk asked you: Hi I’m a nineteen year old used to be fat art kid, I’ve been diagnosed with social anxiety and have had one girlfriend 2 years ago. I have problems talking to people, especially one on one. I run out of things to talk about and freeze like a deer in the headlights. These situations terrify me. I met this girl who likes me, she’s really quiet, nice and pretty. I want to take her out but the idea of sitting there in silence horrifies me. If you have any advice to offer, I’d be thankful. Alex
Oh shit, Alex. You went and inspired me to write a whole fuckload of words about things that’ve actually been on my mind for a while.
First things first: A diagnosis is a means of succinctly identifying, describing, and otherwise organizing symptoms or behaviors, traditionally as a means of prescribing treatment or drugs. It’s fairly simple when dealing with physical maladies, like, “I have diagnosed this man with [gross butt infection] and therefore, I will prescribe treatment that has previously proven effective in other cases of [gross butt infection].” Meanwhile, with psychology/psychiatry it’s not as simple as gross butt infections. You’re dealing with emotions, personality, and social circumstances, and it’s another animal altogether.
Psychology’s definitely come a long way. I mean, back in the olden days, women were diagnosed with “Hysteria” for getting too horny. People thought it was caused by the uterus floating to different parts of her body. Later on, women were put in asylums and sprayed with hoses, among other awful things. It was pretty fucked up. Def Leppard made a great album about it. Nowadays, “hysteria” is treated as a sexual disorder, and there’s probably a much higher threshold for what’s considered an abnormal sexual apetite in comparison to Victorian times. They would have thrown the ladies from Sex and The City into sacks and drowned them in a pond for being insane, slatternly trollops. (Yes, even Charlotte.)
But I digress. Um… a lot. My issue with psychological diagnoses is that they frequently exist out of context, and context is everything.
I’ve been diagnosed a bunch of different things by a bunch of different therapists who all saw things differently. I was prescribed a bunch of drugs as a kid, which had a ton of side effects that, in the long run, probably caused me more trouble than I was having in the first place.
In 2009 I was diagnosed with “chronic depression and generalized anxiety disorder with hypomanic episodes.” In other words, I was living on my own for the first time in San Francisco and attending art school.
Now, beyond context, it’s also worth noting that it’s very unlikely that anyone is wired the same way. If everyone’s fingerprints, the irrelevant pattern of the skin at the tips of our fingers, is different enough to tell us apart, then it’s safe to say that everyone’s brain chemistry is radically different. When you keep that in mind, our method of diagnosing psychological disorders, specifically the more nuanced emotional variety, is pretty hamfisted.
I’m by no means vilifying modern psychiatry, but I think that “diagnosing” a nineteen year old with “social anxiety” is giving him one more thing to be anxious about socially, which is missing the fucking point entirely.
The point is, you are not just a diagnosis. You are a human being, and you exist on a planet full of other human beings. You are not on Planet Of The Giant Assfucking Scorpions Who Will Definitely Assfuck You To Death. You’re on earth, with other human beings. Some of them may turn out to be dumb, mean, jerkoff assholes, but a lot of them will also be pleasant individuals who will want to be your friend (assuming you’re not a dumb, mean jerkoff asshole yourself.)
Social anxiety disorder is a real thing, I’m not contesting that. The accuracy of such a blunt absolute diagnosis, however, is another story. You shouldn’t let it define you. Don’t feel like there’s something permanently wrong with you just because someone made up a scary sounding name for how you behave or feel currently; who you are is not defined strictly by your dopamine levels, how your synapses fire, or whatever else that squishy thing between your ears does. You are just as much who you are because you’ve existed for two decades in an infinitely complex universe.
If the biggest thing that’s wrong with you is that you don’t know what to talk about when hanging out with some of the seven billion other human beings you share a planet with (I know, it’s daunting, right?), I’d say you’re doing pretty well for yourself. You could be butt-naked, karate-kicking old ladies in a train station and doing gymnastics on the turnstiles.
Also, you’re nineteen. It’s okay to be mixed up, you’re a teenager, you’re at the tail end of your metamorphosis into adulthood. Scientifically speaking, your brain will continue trying to kill you until your early twenties, and then your career will take over.
In the case of the nice, quiet, shy girl… it sounds like you guys are on the same page. She’s an artsy little shoegazer like yourself, not some screaming sorority girl doing kegstands in a bikini, so you probably have something in common.
Take her out for an ice cream cone. Ask her what her favorite things are, tell her what your favorite things are. Find out what she wants to be when she grows up and see if you can make her laugh. Ask her what her favorite animal is, or where she’d like to visit. If everything goes well, give her a kiss.
If things don’t work out with this particular girl, there are literally hundreds of other women on this planet ( trust me, I Googled it) who might let you buy them ice cream cones and possibly kiss them.