I’m about to make a confession. Bring out the trumpets, start the drum roll… ta ta da daaaaah!
I’m anxious. Almost always. I’m talking about knots in my stomach, shaking hands, can hardly breathe anxiety. My greatest trigger is any form of social interaction.
I can cope (most days) with The Caveman, Stretch and Mouse, but having people around me (even close family and friends) makes me nervous. Days before.
Yes, I’m afraid of the scrutiny, the judgement and possible embarrassment. Anyone who has social anxiety will tell you, probably not though, that just knowing that you’re going in to a social situation gets you worried and anxious days before. You realize that your fears might be irrational and somewhat exaggerated, but you just can’t help it. It’s like a huge big evil dragon with flaming red eyes and twenty thousand pairs of arms with ten inch claws on the ends. It walks behind you whispering horrible nothings in your ears until you believe him. he wraps his claws around you and digs in and grips tighter until you can’t breathe or talk.
When i was younger, I would make excuses to not go to some party or whatever with my friends, but I’ve now been blessed with a family who love socializing. One of Gods really funny jokes. I go along with the three of them, but they have no idea of just how afraid I am. We’ll get in the car and I’ll start shaking and nausea will rush over me. As The Caveman drives, and I’m a nervous passenger, everything starts piling up and the anxiety intensifies. Then there’s traffic to deal with and I start thinking that if I don’t cry (which I won’t because I’ll draw attention to myself), then I’m going to puke. By the time we arrive at our destination, my legs have turned to jelly, I’m sweating, i’ve bitten a hole in my lower lip and chewed off all my fingernails. As we walk in, I know that I’m going to have to go through all the hello’s, how are you’s and nice to meet you’s with politeness and a smile on my face. I have such a twitch that I can’t smile because my face will crack. I come across cold and aloof. I’d much rather sneak in unnoticed and find a chair in a nice quiet corner.
I find it difficult to make small talk. Not because I think I’ so super intelligent that it’s beneath me, but because I really don’t know how to respond. What happens if I appear stupid or boring? Like this: Person- it’s hot today. Me- Yes, it is. See, that’s a statement which at that moment might be true. How do you answer a statement? What if the conversation went like this: Person – It’s hot today. Me- I know right! I’m sweating like a fat guy in a sauna. Is my response appropriate? Will i cause offense? Have I broken a social taboo. So I go with the short answer which means that people start leaving you alone. That’s when you start believing that you are what you thought you were – a social pariah. Every now and then I manage to punch The Dragon in his ugly face. He’ll sleep for a short while, and I’ll converse, say what’s on my mind and be a social butterfly without a care in the world.
Until The Dragon wakes up.
Then the food arrives.
So many of our social gatherings happen around a table laden with food. I guess it’s the way us humans are programmed to socialize. People + food + drink = happy times.
One of the ways people with social anxiety often deal is by drinking. Alcohol, not water. Alcohol, unfortunately, has a way of calming you down and making you feel invincible. When I’m in this situation, I often don’t eat enough or at all, which means three glasses of wine and I’m tipsy- drunk. Yes, we all know it’s not a good solution, but we’re working on it. I guess the mix of alcohol and brain chemicals will do that. My dilema – eat or drink? Eating around people is another chapter in the anxiety diaries all on its own. What if I drop food off of my fork and The Caveman points it out and then everyone looks at me and sees what a klutz I am? What if I chew like a baby or noisily? What if everyone looks at my plate and understands why I’m not a skinny cow? What if? What if? What if?
I’m wondering if choosing to be a stay-at-home-aspiring-writer-mom has made it worse? I don’t leave the house much and see no reason to do so. I don’t even think about it. When I have to and when I do think about it, I want to run. Far away. It’s about the only time I pray for the flu’.
We have a ‘thing’ with The Caveman’s family this Saturday. It’s Monday and I’m already stressing about what to wear, what food to order, what to say. In fact I’ve been practicing, but I’ve already screwed up a hundred times over. I’m analysing what mistakes I’ve made this past weekend and events long passed and forgotten by others. Those of us living with the Anxiety Dragon will never tell you that this time of year is probably the most awful for us. Christmas parties, end of year parties and New Years’ Eve parties… It’s one situation where the Dragon grows bigger by the minute, brings his friends to hang onto us while we swim through a lake made of jelly.
To all my fellow sufferers:
Good luck to you and good luck to me!