August 26, 2014
by Bryne Yancey

Unlike my depression, which comes and goes, my social anxiety is a near-constant part of my life. Because of it, I have a difficult time making eye contact or carrying conversations with other people, even people I know well. My brain is busy flooding with fear and worry, and reminding me that just about anything I say to someone or do with someone will be stupid, and that I should just be quiet and keep to myself as much as possible when in the company of others. And as much as I tell myself that I don’t give a fuck what other people think, that can’t be true based on how much I dissect and overanalyze my interactions with everyone. Many people take it as me being rude or cold toward them, and I don’t blame them for thinking that. I just wish I could do something about it.

Because of my writing, I “know” many people but to say I have a lot of friends would be a gross understatement. It’s never more awkward or anxiety-inducing than when I’m at a show. I’ll recognize someone from ~*~the internet~*~ and think, “I should go introduce myself!” but rarely, if ever do. My brain just won’t allow my feet to take those steps or my mouth to utter any pleasantries. My brain tells me that that person will not like me and does not want to talk to me, and I can’t turn it off.

So I wander around alone between bands, alternating my eyeballs between my phone, my beer and the floor. Another band starts, and I watch, nodding my head approvingly. I usually watch the drummer, because the movements are much more fun to watch than a guitarist or bassist who’s just standing there. Sometimes, I let my focus waver and I imagine I’m just listlessly standing there, eyes crossed, fixated on a snare drum that’s being repeatedly pounded. Other times, I’ll stare at the floor and bob my head back and forth, never quite in time with the song being performed. Repeat until the show’s over. Then I promptly head home, saying nothing to anyone on my way out and telling myself that maybe next time will be the time. It’s miserable and I wish I didn’t do it.

Oddly, while I would like to think my initial shyness and unsureness about myself is why I got into punk, this kind of anxiety has really only bubbled up in the time I’ve lived in Philadelphia. This is a very stressful city to live in for a lot of reasons, but the one time that shit shouldn’t matter is when I’m at a punk show, presumably with several other like-minded strangers. But instead it’s even worse! I’m utterly, hopelessly self-conscious about everything I’m doing or not doing in that setting. Entire conversations play out inside my head, with the end result almost always being something I’d rather avoid entirely. So I do. Why? Has the Internet completely neutered my ability to connect with others on a personal level?

Surely I’m not alone in this; after all, punk tends to attract people who don’t fit the predetermined mold of what a “normal person” is or how they act. Have you experienced this sort of social anxiety, and if so, how do you combat it? While I could certainly use some help, my hope is that others will share their own stories (and allow me to publish them here) so that we can try and give an outlet to those hurting, and help everyone who deals with this. Inbox me or email me. Thank you.