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Living With Social Anxiety feat. Dear Evan Hansen

Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?
— Broadway's 'Dear Evan Hansen'

Last year, I discovered the score of the Broadway Musical Dear Evan Hansen and the character Evan Hansen easily became the most relatable character I've come across in my life, so I've decided to use lyrics from a portion of the musical's songs to aid in writing this article. I meant to write this last year, but (un)ironically, I fell into a spiral which ultimately led me to the lowest form of social anxiety I've had to deal with.

It's difficult to read what I had written less than a year ago, but I've decided to link the past and the present to showcase that you can conquer the most difficult of battles. A lot has happened within one year, the most significant event being my solo trip during the end of the summer, which then led me into another journey of more karmic lessons. I think I wasn't mean to publish this last June, because I had to learn and live more to fully understand and recover. Usually my articles are written when I feel like they should be. It took longer than I thought, but I'm ready now because of everything the Universe has thrown at me, and I couldn't be in a better state of mind.

What Is Dear Evan Hansen?

To give a short brief, the Broadway Musical Dear Evan Hansen is about a senior high school student who suffers from social anxiety disorder (SAD), creates a lie after one of his classmates commits suicide, only to have it backfire, which leads him to realizing his purpose. When Connor Murphy (who was also dealing with depression) commits suicide, Evan sees it as an opportunity to get closer to his family because he likes Connor's sister, Zoe. The Murphy's embrace him, Zoe starts falling for him, but he also becomes alienated by his single mother who doesn't quite understand him (Why can't you just talk to people? It's so easy!) and his best friend. After a while, the people around him start to uncover his lies, which brings him to a breaking point that teaches him that by being true to himself and to those around him, he can receive the love he really wants and needs.

My Experience With Social Anxiety (written a year ago)

If I could quote the whole song of Waving Through A Window from this emotional musical, I would; but you could also just give it a listen. Here's one of my favourite lines that caught my attention: 

I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
I’m waving through a window, oh
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me? 

Almost every one of my social interactions happen like this in my mind. At first, my heart is beating at an above average rate, and afterwards, I relax and think "Well, that wasn't bad." Then, I usually beat myself up for being anxious in the first place. Why am I like this?

I want attention, but when I get it, I don't want it anymore. I want to meet people, but it can sometimes be hard for me to look up as I walk past a stranger. It can be hard walking around public places because I'm afraid I'll run into someone I somewhat know and have to engage in small talk. I'm vulnerable to how I'm perceived by others. I'm my number one hater. Part of me wants to run away and the other wants to be under a spotlight. I feel like all eyes are on me, so I resort to looking out a window, looking at my phone, listening to music, reading a book.. anything to avoid actually assessing my environment. When I finally look up, I realize that everyone is minding their own business. Oh. 

Overcoming Social Anxiety

I remember not being able to leave my house. I remember feeling so alone with my anxiety, and I didn't know how to tell those around me what I was going through, because part of me didn't understand as well. In reality, most of the people around me couldn't see what I was going through, either than my family who noticed how I was at home more than usual. Externally, I didn't think that I had a reason to be anxious, because I had so much good going on around me -- I was working, I was getting interviews, and I had already booked a trip to a destination I've been wanting to visit for a while. 

Looking back, I think that may have been why so many lessons appeared when I left home. I couldn't escape what I was dealing with just because I was away from a familiar environment. What I was going through was being carried with me, and I had to make the choice to dig deep within me for the matter I kept pushing aside, or stay stuck and let the work build up. When I finally fully committed myself to surrendering and accepting that I had a lot of internal work to do, it didn't get easier before it got even more difficult. 

Months of tears, months of panic attacks and breakdowns, months of being mad at the Universe and asking what I did to even deserve all of these internal wounds... was someone out there wanting me to suffer? Nevertheless, there was always a light of hope. Sometimes, I get tired of myself saying that, because it means that I'm bound to go through more issues like these, but what would life be without them? 

At the end of this chapter, dealing with my social anxiety at its worse, I honestly can't write a sappy 'n' happy ending, more so one that comes from my heart and mind that have both been pushed around so much in so little time until they both arrived at the finish line all bruised up. That's how I see my mental illness. I still feel it within me and I still do sometimes experience its heavier effects, but I know that I'm capable of overcoming it. In a way, it makes my small victories feel like big ones, because I'm always left proud of myself. With day-to-day interactions and (this year) putting myself out there, I couldn't be happier. 

My social anxiety didn't appear out of nowhere. It was the finale of a series containing feelings of being boxed in and not being able to act without caring about how other people viewed me. For the longest time, I never believed in myself enough to do a lot of things I can do now because people saw me as quiet, which made me feel weak. That quality and more turned into my superpower, but that has more to do with another story that's not ready to be written just yet.

Remember to take it easy. Breathe. Don't be scared to face what's inside of you. Don't look at what everyone else is doing. Block out everyone, but yourself and your loved ones, to understand what you really need. You can get yourself out of it, just be patient. You aren't alone. 

In the light of Dear Evan Hansen, I know that every day, I'm trying my best while being myself, and that is enough. 

Special shoutout to my friends for being the best support system ever & for Dear Evan Hansen, for exisiting. <3