Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Anxiety

I love when I sit down to write a post and then realize what I was going to say is not quite...right.

For instance, this post was going to try and explain my social anxiety. I doubt most people really realize that it is an issue for me.

But then I Googled "social anxiety" and the article that I read (yes, I read just one) said that social anxiety is a fear of being judged by other people. In fact, it says, "Social anxiety is a discomfort or a fear when a person is in social interactions that involve a concern about being judged or evaluated by others." And that's not exactly what is going on with me. For the record: I don't really care what people think about me. No, let me rephrase that -- I am not afraid of other people's judgments of me. How else would I get away with being as blunt as I am?

Anyway, the problem is the fact that I moved all the way to the big city to meet new people (men) and expand my social (dating) circle...and so far, it's all been moot because I can't find whatever courage, gumption, or other extroverted traits I thought I possessed in order to do this very thing! It's frustrating because the rational side of me knows that there is nothing to be afraid of, and the emotional, messed up side of me is really just getting in the way.

This isn't all entirely new, however, my anxiety is largely diminished whenever I have just one cohort with me in groups of people. Even if I'm off on the side, watching the person be center of attention, or talking to other friends that I don't know, I feel much more comfortable than I do by myself. I don't think that this is somehow abnormal - in fact, I'm sure most people are more comfortable in group settings if they are intimately (and by that, I do not mean romance-novel "intimately") acquainted with someone. I've almost always had that in my life. In grade school through sophomore year in high school, it was my best friend. My junior and senior year it was a different good friend or my sister. My first weeks in Provo were greatly eased by my just-moved-to-town-too roommate, and so on and so forth.

There was one munch and mingle that I went to by myself when I lived in southern Provo, and I had a full blown anxiety attack. This was a year or two after I had gone off anti-depressants, and had not had any issues, except, I was the youngest person in the ward, and I knew only a handful of people, none of them well enough. I felt myself hyperventilating, and close to tears, and I bagged the whole thing. I went home immediately, and it wasn't until I walked out of the crowded hallway did I feel like I could breathe normally. Since then, I haven't had to worry about those situations. Not to long after that, I moved into the Omni and gained a very close-knit, large group of friends; and I've had something along the same lines ever since. (Even in The Single Tree, where I moved in and knew no one and somehow developed friendships with the girls in that ward...Still not sure how it happened, though, none of the friendships have really "stuck", since I moved.)

So now I live by myself (which I still love) and spend a lot of time by myself (which I mostly love) and by the time Sunday rolls around, I am so unused to being around people, that the thought of approaching people, or attending a munch-n-mingle by myself literally has me tearing up and quaking in my boots. I've missed several activities that I've actually wanted to go to simply because my brain could not fathom the idea of going and being by myself. My imagination (of which I have already proven gets carried away) starts putting scenarios in my head of walking into a room and standing there utterly along, tongue-tied, deaf, and mute. Or sitting on the edge of a lake watching everyone have fun while trying to pretend like I am enjoying reading and talking to no one. (Our ward had a campout that I wanted to go to, but could not bring myself to attend alone.)

So Sunday, while my whole ward was feasting on something that smelled truly delicious, I left. Thinking that if someone stopped to wonder at why I was taking off before the food, I would plead a headache. Only, no one stopped me, so I didn't have to use that age old excuse - true though it was.

So what is my problem? I really am not worried about what people think about me -- unless it's subconsciously. I am worried about going in and being that lone person, sitting at a table with no one else, quietly eating while trying not to make longing eye contact at the group of people obviously having fun. I don't want to be the awkward, fat girl with no friends. Which makes this all a giant Catch-22. How can you make friends with people if you don't attend activities? And how can you attend activities if you are near-tears at the very thought of going alone? No wonder people drink as a social lubricant.

2 comments:

  1. This is an area where most of us struggle, I think. What works best for me is to try and meet new people in a slightly more controlled arena; for example, I regularly attend a knitting circle, a book club, volunteer at different organizations, and go to my local Diabetes Support Group. I feel less anxious at a knitting circle, because there will always be people who want to talk about my favorite brands of yarn and exchange tips on our various projects. At a book club, I'm guaranteed to have something relevant to the conversation to contribute. Volunteer organizations never have enough hands on deck, so I know that I'll be thrown into a team work scenario that lets me get to know people as we work towards a common goal. Don't ask me to go to a mixer, though, I'll just revert to elementary school! -Dana

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