Meeting Dan Barker

January 24, 2009 10:32 pm Published by Leave your thoughts
DSC00842My signed copy of Dan Barker’s book “Godless”. Yes, my real name is Bryan (for those of you who don’t know). 

Last Sunday, I went to a Minnesota Atheists meeting, where Dan Barker (Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, author of the book “Godless”, and former evangelist) was giving a talk.

But before I talk about that, I want to talk about why that’s such a big deal for me.

One of my deepest, darkest secrets (besides being an atheist) is that I’ve been struggling with social anxiety disorder for the past several years, probably longer. It’s not something that I ever talk about, and only a handful of people even know that it’s a problem for me. Most people just think I’m shy and awkward, which of course is also true.

This problem is something I’ve wanted to write about on this blog for a long time, but it’s been very difficult for me (and you’ll find out exactly why if you continue reading). In fact, one of the big reasons why I started this blog was to help me work through my own “issues”. Staying silent hasn’t worked for me, so maybe getting things out in the open will.

My social anxiety makes it very difficult for me to be around other people, even trusted family members and close friends (though it’s easier for me to be around family & friends than around strangers). I get uncomfortable, jittery, and feel an urge to run away or hide. I feel like everyone around me is watching me, paying attention to what I do, and judging me negatively. Obviously I know that this isn’t true, but it’s not a rational thing; it’s not really something I can conquer with pure willpower.

When I go out to a bar with friends, where there are lots of other people that I don’t know, I get very anxious and won’t say much, and when I do say something I’ll say it quietly, and I sometimes stutter. I’ll make frequent trips to the bathroom to hide from the perceived judging eyes of everyone around me and calm down. If it’s really crowded, I’ll sometimes shut down and stare at the tabletop, or find a corner to hide in, or I’ll leave and wait outside. Naturally, some days are better than others.

Things have been even worse for me in college. I tell people that the reason why I transferred away from a school I’d already been attending for 3 years was because it was too expensive. However, the real reason is that I felt like I couldn’t possibly continue on. The root of the problem was that, as a Graphic Design student, people actually WERE judging me, through my work. I felt reluctant to show my work in class, and was always paranoid that someone would look at my computer screen as I worked. I felt intense pressure to only show my instructors and classmates the very best of myself and what I could do, and since that’s impossible, I started to feel like everyone around me was looking on me negatively because I wasn’t living up to expectations. I would skip a class to avoid perceived negative judgments, which caused me to fall behind a little bit, and I’d feel bad about showing up for the next class. I’d be so worried about my projects that I couldn’t start them.

Wherein I solicit validation from strangers:

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This post was written by Bevans

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