Click below to listen to the audio recording of Liz's personal change story:
Hello, my name is Liz and I have social anxiety.
I can't really say I acquired social anxiety at a specific age because I have always believed I was born with it. It was something that was in my DNA. Coming from a family with several members having the same problem, I did not want to follow the same pattern. Social anxiety appeared in my life at an early age. It all started when I started school: my mom was afraid that I was not going to be able to go to a normal school because I was not able to interact with people. Luckily, I was able to enter a Catholic school. I learned to not only love God, but love others as well as myself. Everything was getting better for me. I was able to get out of my shell, make friends, participate in events and more importantly, be happy.
Or at least I thought I was. But everything changed a month after I started 10 grade when my parents broke the news that we were migrating to the United States [from Peru] to look for a better life. I would never forget that day: June 23 of 2003. That is when my life changed. I remember I hated my parents for their decision. It wasn't until a year later that I finally understood that social anxiety was always there and the moving just helped to show me I have never overcome social anxiety but instead I just learned to live with it. I was used to the routine.
I started high school a few months after arrival as a sophomore. There, the history repeated once more, but now it was worst than before. I was not only afraid to not fit in, but was also afraid that I would never succeed as my parents wanted me. Surprisingly to me and my teachers I was able to get the language pretty quick and I was able to graduate from high school after 3 years of arrival. Even though I did pretty well, I felt really lonely. I missed my country, friends and family. I was back in my shell afraid of failure and judgment. I wasn't happy and I couldn't understand why. For everybody I was the smart kid, but at the same time I was the quiet girl.
I entered college the same year I graduated high school. I didn't want to go to that school that my parents had chosen for me, but that was all we could afford at that time. Things got worst than ever for me. It was not only that I couldn't make friends anymore. My grades dropped drastically. I wasn't able to ask questions, or talk to a professor during office hours. My test grades were really low. Social anxiety was worse than ever. I had developed test anxiety. I had lost all the little confidence I had in myself and I didn't know how to get better. I struggled with that for several years.
I knew there was something wrong with me. So many times I would mark a day in my calendar and I used to say "tomorrow things are going to change for me." But that tomorrow never came for me. I was feeling hopeless until someone really close to me talked to me about social anxiety and how to overcome it. After reading about it and seeing the changes in my sister, I decided to seek for help. I contacted the place where she attended, but I discovered that I couldn't attend the same therapy in the same place because we were relatives. So I tried individual therapy instead. I attended individual therapy for about 5 months. That is when I ran out of money and I could not continue going anymore. After individual therapy I saw very few changes in my life. I wasn't where I wanted to be yet.
Then my sister's therapist recommended me Larry [Social Anxiety Help, DC]. I went for one of his free orientations and I was convinced that that was what I needed, but because of my class schedule I couldn't join [the social anxiety therapy group]. I knew this time I wasn't going to give up so I went back for the next session. This one actually worked with my school schedule. The first day [of group] I was afraid to go. I didn't know what to expect, but I think the best feeling was to see that I was not the only one that was struggling with social anxiety. I learned several techniques that help me have a better life. I remember many times I didn't want to do the exercises because I always thought they were not helpful, but now I can say they did help me a lot.
I always keep in my mind all the things that I learned there as CBT [cognitive-behavioral therapy]. All these techniques helped me move forward in life. I have now a better understanding of my past and I'm really happy that I attended therapy. It's been almost four months since therapy has ended and I can't believe how things have changed in my life. I graduated from a university with the highest GPA since I started in college. I've been offered a job in a company where I've been interning the past months. I've been able to make more friends. But most importantly I got my confidence back. It is like people are finally starting to see me differently. They now see me as normal. I'm pretty confident that there are going to be more great things along the way that are still there for me to discover later. I can really say that social anxiety therapy has really changed my life.