Social Anxiety

Patrizia Poli
3 min readAug 3, 2021

What was it like to work in a shop — not only: in the same populous, poor and gossipy neighborhood where I lived — with a social phobia? It is like for an arachnophobic to descend into a pit teeming with spiders.
Here is what I can tell you about social phobia, what I was suffering in those days. Since then, I have learned to live with it and now it is less hard, I have even made some presentations of my books with increasing success. (But this is another story and we will talk about it later).

So…

Either I die here, now and forever or I still have to live and move on.
The only possibility is to come out. Who brings to light their homosexuality, who anorexia, who bulimia, who drugs. I am a social phobic.
Those who do not know this disease, those who do not experience it on their skin, do not know how much they suffer. There is no talk of it around, only I know how much I suffer.
What for others are normal gestures of daily life, unconscious, mechanical gestures, for me are superhuman obstacles: signing under the eyes of others while my hand is shaking, working if someone observes me, calling, talking to two people together, telling a stupid joke, greeting a friend on the street, chatting with someone who comes to visit me at my workplace, passing through a crowd of people on the sidewalk, turns into an unspeakable torment.
I enter into a spiral of anxiety, a neurovegetative earthquake sets off, I sweat cold, I tremble, my face fills with blotches, my jaws dry up, my vision dazzles, I get a headache, I can no longer articulate my words, think clearly, remember what I meant. I see everything black and I lose the thread of the conversation. It seems to me that I have nothing interesting to tell and that my life is an empty box. The only thing I can still think about is that I don’t want others to notice. I don’t want it with all of myself. I am willing to disappear, to sink, to die instantly, to lose those people forever. Patience if they are dear to me, patience if I love them, if I need them to live.
And, the more I think about it, the more it shows. I blush violently, I move awkwardly, jerky. The awkwardness and embarrassment ooze from all pores, I stumble, I drop the objects around me, I appear clouded and dark in the face. I get unpleasant, I look angry while I’m just scared and unhappy. I am at my worst.
My discomfort is so palpable, so evident, that it communicates itself to others, makes them anxious, makes them run away. I lose all my friends this way. And, the more I care about them, the more I feel…

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Patrizia Poli

Patrizia Poli was born in Livorno in 1961. Writer of fiction and blogger, she published seven novels.