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What a guy with social anxiety wants you to know about inviting him to a party.

Here’s what helps (and what doesn’t) when going out.

What a guy with social anxiety wants you to know about inviting him to a party.

Dear friends,

First of all, let me explain what it feels like to be me, a guy with social anxiety.

Picture a scene that fills you with gut-clenching dread. A dark alley at night maybe. The edge of a windy cliff with no railing. A deep ocean, too dark to see what’s beneath you.


Photo via iStock.

Think about how those scenes make you feel. That’s the same feeling I get in social situations.

Having social anxiety disorder means I experience intense, oppressive feelings of dread — sometimes even panic — just about every time we meet up with our friends or go out to a restaurant. It occasionally even happens when you come over, too.

None of that is your fault, obviously. There’s nothing rational about these feelings. I can take steps to fight the dread — and I’m fighting hard to do that, all the time, even when I’m exhausted — but in the moment of panic, I have no more direct control over my social anxiety than you have over your allergies.

Telling me "Everybody here loves you!" doesn’t get rid of my dread or panic any more than telling you "My cat loves you!" clears up your feline allergy. I wish it were that easy. Believe me, I do.

Having social anxiety isn't the same as being an introvert. It's also not the same as having low self-esteem or being shy or no fun.

Unlike social anxiety, introversion isn’t a clinical disorder; it’s a personality type. An introvert is a person who's "predominantly concerned with their own mental life." That doesn’t describe me. I care about you, and the rest of our friends, very deeply.

But I’m not an extrovert either. Neither of those terms fits me.

Photo via iStock.

For me, a fun night out with cool people is every bit as energizing as a good movie at home. It’s just much easier for me to put on a movie than it is to fight my social anxiety for hours until I finally relax enough to have fun.

You know me, so you know I’ve got a healthy sense of self-esteem.

I’m not shy at all when we’re alone together, talking for hours on end about our favorite songs and stories and characters. We’ve laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. We’ve made up inside jokes that can’t be explained.

I can be the fun friend sometimes, too. Photo via iStock.

"Well, of course," you may be thinking, "I love all those things about you! Why can’t you bring that side of you along when we go out?"

Imagine if every time you wanted to go meet up with friends, you had to hike to the top of a mountain. No matter how much you loved your friends, you’d have to spend time and energy gearing yourself up for each trip — and you’d arrive exhausted. If you huffed and puffed your way to the top of the mountain only to find that everyone else had decided to meet atop a different mountain at the last minute … well, you’d be pretty annoyed, wouldn’t you?

This is basically what I go through every time I decide to go out socially.

My "night out" actually starts days in advance, when I first hear about the plans you’re making.

Right away, a mental alarm goes off: "DON’T GO," flashing in all caps. Once I’ve managed to deactivate that alarm, then the spiral of anxious thoughts kicks in — not just anxiety about what to wear, but over every possible outcome, every person who might potentially show up, every question or joke or come-on to which I might need to reply. Obviously this makes no logical sense.

I know. I keep repeating that to myself. I shout at myself: "This makes no logical sense! I’m fed up with this!"

By the time we go out, I’m waging all-out war against an army of vague and specific fears.

I'm battling uphill, taking heavy losses with every step toward the front door.

This is the feeling I get when I'm preparing to go out. Photo via iStock.

But at last, fighting furiously, I manage to gain the upper hand! I know where we’ll be going, who’s going to be there, which side(s) of myself I’m going to put on display, and which interesting things I can mention when the conversation converges on me. Every time the anxiety mounts a new attack, I’ve got an answer ready. I sit by the door, waiting for your text…

And I wait and wait and wait some more, continuing to fend off fresh waves of dread every 30 seconds or so, until you text an hour later to say we’ve ditched the old plans. Now we’re meeting up with some people we haven’t talked to in years, and instead of a quiet bar, we’re headed to the fairground for an outdoor food fair.

At the very least, I’ve got to lie down and regroup before I can fight my way to the top of a completely different mountain.

The thing is, I love having adventures with you! I love seeing new places. I love catching up with people I haven’t talked to in years.

It’s not like I sit at home and think, "How dare they change plans on me?" Exactly the opposite. I scroll through the photos you’re tweeting, and I think, "How dare I be such a burden? I’ve got no right to ask you to structure your plans around my anxiety." At least, I've been told all my life that I don’t have that right.

I definitely don’t want to be treated with kid gloves now that you know all this about me. I don’t want to make it weird next time we go out. That’s the absolute last thing I need: even more tension in my social relationships.

You know what would help me most of all? Two things: consistency and low pressure.

As long as I can assure my inner army of dread that I know where we’ll be going and what we’ll be doing and that I’m only going out for one drink and then I can leave — whether that turns out to be true or not — then I can usually keep the worst of my anxiety at bay, maybe so well that no one would even guess I have it.

This could be me; it's what I dream of. Photo via iStock.

That’s what I dream of more than anything else. Just to be able to leave the mental horror movies behind for a night and go out and have fun.

via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

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via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."