I have had social anxiety for as long as I remember. When I was a kid I was also intensely shy which meant it was very hard for me to make friends. Most of my school life I had a small group of friends that I hung around with. It was when I became an adult that things got harder.
I was the only one in my group of friends to not do A levels and instead get a job and as much as I tried to keep in touch with them ended up feeling out of the loop and they kind of got on with things without me. Then I moved to a different city and that was when I really understood loneliness.
I didn't know anyone and I was shy and anxious... so I just kind became a bit of a loner. Most stuff I would do on my own or with my sister. I suddenly realised I didn't know how to make friends. I couldn't understand what it was that people did to turn work colleagues, and acquaintances into a friendship. Everyone else seemed to effortlessly slip into relationships where they would hang out or socialise and I kind of didn't.
I realised that it was my own paranoia about my anxieties that didn't help. Most of my adult life I have decided to 'keep myself to myself' as it's safer. If I don't let anyone in then I can't get hurt. Of course I am aware of the twisted logic of that but it's almost in built. When you are in school you are kind of forced into friendships- it's easier. As an adult unless you actively go out to socialise the only place you meet people is at work or college/uni. Making friends is not as simple.
Most of my twenties were spent getting correctly diagnosed and on the right medication. Now I feel I am getting on with my life but the loneliness and lack of friends is always something that bothers me. I still haven't figured out that magical equation that leads to friendship. I wouldn't necessarily say I'm shy anymore, most of the time I am pretty confident in myself but I still avoid social situations.
The last time I went to a club I had a panic attack and had to leave (that was a number of years ago) and due to my meds I no longer drink so my former method of getting drunk to shut out the anxiety and give me a bit of confidence is a no go. I would love to be able to meet some friends that I could hang out with and feel comfortable around. When I have done that I think I will feel like I truly have conquered my social anxiety.
I don't really know where I am going with this, and although it feels like I haven't finished on a positive note I do feel hopeful. I have come a long way and it's really important that we don't beat ourselves up because of our mental illnesses. I do enjoy my own company and don't sit crying in my room because I have no friends. It's more that I feel ready now to let people in. So here is me reaching out kind of in a small way. I'm sure there are many people out there feeling lonely as well so this posts for you.
(Can't find the artist of this, wish I knew)