Exposure for Social Anxiety – I just feel naked and embarrassed

They say the more you face your fears, the easier they become to deal with.
If this is so, then why am I a quivering, anxious, aggressive mess?

I’ve always feared teenagers. I was trying to deal with it by telling myself I was over-thinking things; that they weren’t always out to harass me in public. Then I went back to school. Well, it’s not exactly school. It’s a PLC course, which is kind of a college course (I just call it college), in a school building, which also accommodates school-going teenagers. In fact they massively outnumber us older folk. Okay I’m like 26, but I don’t feel like I belong in any age group I’ve been part of so far.

Since I started my course, its as if my crippling fear of teenagers has been validated.

  • One day, I was walking home from college, which is 5 minutes away from my house. If I haven’t made it out before the schoolkids get their break, I usually walk with my headphones on full volume, so I can block out possible harassment from teenagers (yup, I’m that paranoid.). This day however, I hadn’t time to search my bag for them so decided I’d distract myself and try to block them out by reading an e-book as I walked. All was going relatively okay, apart from the anxiety attack I was having while a huge group of teens started to almost surround me from behind. I heard someone yell “Will you fucking MOVE?!!” I turned around to see this hyped up (probably) 16 year old storm past me. I didn’t like her attitude and when I get anxious my defense mechanism is anger. I had to fight the urge to not freak out and make an idiot of myself by causing a scene and being the “crazy one”. Instead I just un-creatively responded “Go die.” I shouldn’t have even responded, because she made a big scene and mocked what I said in front of the giant crowd of schoolkids that were walking near us. If you know anyone with social anxiety, you’ll know that we’d rather sleep in a pit of insects than be publicly humiliated like that. Damn, even just being seen by that many people was too much.  I smiled at her calmly to try make her feel stupid but had a violent rage-fest when I got home. (No living creatures were harmed in the making of this blog – the doors, and possibly the neighbours eardrums however, weren’t so lucky).
  • Lately I’m doubly convinced that teenagers are insulting me. People say “they spend too much time worrying about themselves to insult me”, but I think they take their insecurities out on people who appear weak (like me) and harass them for their own entertainment. Lately every time I pass a group of them, I hear one of them shouting and I just know it’s at me. I’m everything they’d ever want in an easy target after all. Even though I say I know they’re shouting abuse at me, I can’t prove it. I can’t prove it because every time I hear a teenager raise their voice, the headphones are put on or I sing to myself, or I start talking (even to a fake person on the other end of the phone). I don’t want proof though. I’m afraid of what it might do to me.
  • They can be violent too. They push and shove in the halls and don’t care who gets hurt. It’s scary. I was recovering from an injury and could have had it made a lot worse if I didn’t get out in time.

Do some teenagers just lack empathy? I know they’re not all bad. I’ve come across some really nice ones since starting college too. That’s why I’ve tried to see the best in them. I always worry that the nice ones are planning to do or say something cruel though. I think it all goes back to when I was in school. I don’t know.

But since starting college my anxiety and anger have gone higher than I’ve ever thought possible, and frankly, I’m scared.

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