Anonymous said: Hey Internet Dad. I'm really afraid talking to people. I can't seem to go up and ask people things no matter how much I need to. And it's impeding on my life, I'm lonely and can't do the things I want or need to and I don't know how to fix it, mainly because my school's counselling services require me to go up and talk to someone to make an appointment, and every time I try I just end up freaking out and leaving or hanging up. I hate being like this but I don't know what to do. Can you help?
Okay, kiddo, this is one time where it’s Really Tempting for your old Internet Dad to go “Oh, I know that! It’s (this thing)!” this thing being a nearly crippling social anxiety disorder that I still am dealing with. But I am NOT a doctor or therapist and I have absolutely no right to tell you that’s what it is. And my usual bit of advice “talk to a doctor or therapist” is useless to you if you can’t get an appointment to begin with anyway.
So this is something of a unique challenge for me, let’s say.
Okay. So. First of all, I know this might not help much, but it’s important to remember (I remind myself frequently) - basically no one out there is against you. Most of the time they aren’t going to yell at you, be upset with you, or generally try to hurt you. Especially not at a counselling office. With that in mind, well, if speaking is part of the problem, have you considered, well, writing down what you need to say on paper in advance? And then you can either read off of it, or hell, just hand it to the person at the counter and avoid eye contact. I don’t normally advocate avoiding eye contact by the way but maybe this time it could help? The idea is getting you IN THAT OFFICE, a few social faux pas be damned.
Some folks have trouble expressing themselves verbally. It’s just the way they are. So if writing is simpler, than go with it. I don’t know if it was a simple thing for you to ask ME tonight, but you managed! So just keep this up, and don’t allow yourself to quit. Try not to dwell on your nerves or fear, and act without giving yourself the chance to hesitate.
and aside from getting counseling, if you’re lonely, consider making friends online - but not just leaving it at that. If you meet people who you know live in your area and you can build a certain amount of trust with them, well, see if they maybe want to meet and hang out in person. Be up front about it being tough for you to talk to folks, though, so they aren’t caught with it off guard and ignorant, but give them a chance. It might just start with one person you feel comfortable around and build from there. With a little luck, you know?
This was kind of rambling, I guess. Sorry about that. This is just such a big question and I definitely don’t know all the answers - I wish I did, it would make my own life simpler. But I hope it helps. Best of luck, kiddo. You can do it. I believe in you.