Friday, June 27, 2014

When You Don't See Me

 

"I don't exist when you don't see me
I don't exist when you're not here
What the eye don't see won't break the heart  
You can make believe when we're apart
But when you leave I disappear
When you don't see me."


One of my favorite songs is The Sisters of Mercy's 'When You Don't See Me'.  If I had heard it when I was a teen, it would have probably been my theme song.

I have been having an e-mail discussion with one of my goth friends about what is basically "social anxiety", in which we both confessed to having horrible anxiety after committing to attending something like a meetup, club or other public event, and we waffle back and forth right up until the last minute about whether to go or not.  What shocked me about this is that she is the last person I would have thought would have this problem; she is extremely friendly and outgoing, but she told me that she has to "warm up" to someone before she is really comfortable with them.  We are so alike in this respect that it's not funny.

I've always been pretty much of a loner.  As an only child, I grew up with a few other kids on the block to play with occasionally, but mostly I was on my own.  Being a year younger than the other kids in my grade, I spent my elementary school years mostly on the outside of the social circles.  I always had at least one real friend (versus just acquaintances) each year, but I spent the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades in three different schools, so I had to make ALL new acquaintances/friends in both 4th and 5th grades.  I always felt out of sync with everyone else, and buried myself in books that surrounded me with imaginary people whom I felt more comfortable with than I did with real ones.  When I wasn't with my own friends, I actually did feel invisible.

I lucked out in 7th grade, when I met the three other girls who would be my cronies all the way through high school.  But that ended at graduation, when three of us went to college in three different cities, and the fourth disappeared into oblivion.  After two years of college (where I found a boyfriend but no regular friends), I got my AA degree and went to work, which further distanced me from my two other friends, who were still getting their bachelor's degrees and living on campus.  All the women I worked with were much older (I was only 19) and either married or divorced, so even work wasn't a place where I met people I could relate to. 

After high school, I didn't have a circle of friends, or even a best friend, until I started taking belly dance classes.  That's also when I discovered my alter ego, "Lucresha the Bellydancer".  When I was in costume, I was a totally different person.  A few years later, I discovered my second alter ego, "Lucretia the Mary Kay Rep".  They kept me going through my 20s, 30s and into my 40s, until I stopped dancing professionally because I no longer had a group to dance with or a place to teach or practice, and became too busy with school and work and my new marriage to keep selling Mary Kay.  Eventually my MK and dance friends drifted away, and there was no one at work or school whom I really connected with on a personal level.  While we did belong to a couple of Renaissance Faire group and went to faires regularly, I frequently felt invisible there as well, especially after the faire closed for the day and we were all ourselves again for the evening.

This may sound somewhat like a sob story, but it really isn't.  I honestly have never felt a need for lots of friends, but I did get tired of having almost no one to talk to except my husband and son. However, I also realized that most of the friends I'd had over the years were only friends because we happened to be doing the same things at the same time in the same place; we weren't friends because we actually connected with each other in a personal way (except for Debbie, who is still a friend today).  When you REALLY need to talk to someone at 2am, it's nice to know there's someone who actually won't mind if you call.

I have made quite a few pagan friends in an online group I've been part of for years, but the problem there is distance.  None of us live in the same state, and two live in other countries!  It's hard to be close to someone when you never actually see them, and when most of your conversations are group-oriented, anyway.

When I joined the goth meetup group, this changed considerably.  I actually connected closely with three different people almost at once.  I was a bit leery at first about throwing myself wholeheartedly into it, just in case it didn't last, but that hasn't happened. Now I feel like I have real friends who understand me and are okay with my weirdness.  I still need my space, but that's not ALL I have anymore. And while I still feel invisible in certain places and with certain people, it's not as bad as it used to be, and it doesn't bother me nearly as much.  

Have you ever felt invisible?  How did/do you deal with it?

21 comments:

  1. I'm glad you've found a place with like-minded people you can form friendships with. Sometimes I have wanted to be invisible, like when my son was still in primary school, and I was dropping him off or picking him up or being roped into doing activities at the school. Don't get me wrong... I give an award winning performance as Gregarious, but I had zero in common with any of the other parents (apart from having offspring the same age) and I found interacting with them absolutely exhausting.

    Apart from my husband, son and a couple of close friends, being online is actually the first time I've had an opportunity to interact with people who have similar interests to me. :)

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    1. I'd love to see/hear your "Gregarious" performance, sounds like fun! ;-) I can see where invisibility would come in extremely handy for avoiding things you DON'T want to do. Unfortunately, that appeared to be the only time certain people ever DID see me. Grrrrr...

      I never connected with any of Stuart's friends' parents, either, but then I never met most of them. Well, there were the people next door, but while Stuart was friends with their three boys, I never warmed up to their mom/stepmom (one was hers, two were stepchildren), she was very strange, and not in a good way.

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  2. You can consider me a member of your club as well. When there's some social gathering that I have to attend I spend days dreading it, all the while trying to psyche myself into gearing up for that which I must do. It ruins my whole week. Sometimes I get a nervous pit in my stomach.

    People think I'm talkative, and I suppose that I am at times. But I have to like the person first. But even if that same person invites me to sit in at a table with a group, or invites me to a social event, I generally politely refuse. I always find myself wishing that people wouldn't invite me places because it puts me in the awkward position of either accepting the invitation or possibly offending them.

    As for junior high school, I spent those three years without a friend in the world. I'd been thrust into an environment where absolutely no one was even remotely like me and most everyone hated me. It was only when I got into high school that I developed a small group of friends. I was most definitely not popular.

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    1. Welcome to the club, Nightwind, happy to have you! :-) Seriously, though, I'm sorry you had to go through all that crap, too... Junior high was definitely the WORST time for me, even with friends; high school was much easier. I think school, particularly 7th through 12th grades, is one of the most nightmarish things we can put children through. The social pressure is so intense, and sensitive people can really be traumatized by it. There's definitely something to be said for home schooling!

      I can also be very talkative once I'm comfortable with someone, sometimes too much so, at least in my opinion. But I hate private social events, like parties and dinners, because if the people I like are hosting it, I never get to talk to them, but instead get stuck "mingling" with people I don't know and don't care about. Bleahhh... I haven't been to a party in years, and I don't care if I never go to one again.

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    2. " But I hate private social events, like parties and dinners, because if the people I like are hosting it, I never get to talk to them, but instead get stuck "mingling" with people I don't know and don't care about."

      Did you ever hit the nail right on the head! That's exactly what I've said repeatedly.

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    3. Great minds think alike! :-)

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  3. Totally empathise. I'd been a member of the Whitby Goth Weekend forum for several years before I *finally* attended my first meet up. Even walked past the venue and gazed in the window on one occasion, but didn't have the balls to go in. Didn't feel interesting / goth enough / likeable / sommat. Then mu husband & I sank a few beers before hand one year for dutch courage - and met a super (and small) bunch of reprobates with whom we now have an annual meet up. Though it is rather weird to be recognised by your online handle!

    This social anxiety thing stops me from going to writing groups - though I did brave a free session in my local library this week (and was the youngest by 20 years!!! Felt like a complete cuckoo in the nest. More about this on the blog later...). I blush when my turn comes round at book group - I've been going 3 years!

    And yet for work, I could stand up in front of 80 people and talk. Give advice at funding fairs, over the phone, etc. And I'd come home and never want to talk to anyone ever ever again! 'People'd out' was how I felt. I rather like being solitary, though I do have a couple of very good friends.

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    1. ended that last sentance a bit abruptly! Friends I've had since being 5, so lets say we've seen each other at best, worst, naked and hammered!

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    2. Wow, I'm glad you worked up the courage to go to Whitby and the writing group after all! I seem to have the opposite problem with groups, I have less trouble if it's a large public activity where I don't have to worry about meeting people as it's always haphazard when you do, but it's those planned meetups that scare me! Also, I've found I tend to be much older than everyone else, and I always wonder if they're going to look at me and think, "OMG, what is that HAG doing here???" Fortunately, my goth friends all thought I was much younger until I told them, and they actually don't care.

      I've recently read that public speaking is considered by Buddhists to be one of the Five Great Fears, along with fear of death, illness, losing one's mind, and losing one's livelihood. So for you to be able to get up and speak in front of so many people puts you ahead of the class! I started speaking in church when I was about 3 years old, and there were usually about 100-200 people in the congregation, so it doesn't bother me all that much, either, and I have been speaking to students and parents at front desks and on the phone for years. It's that alter ego thing, I think; we put on our professional personas, and it's not a problem, because those are masks that we wear. What scares me and, I think, so many other people, is letting people see our REAL selves, for fear that they won't like what they find, and then we won't measure up to some standard that we or others have created in our own minds.

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    3. One of the real joys of Whitby is the huge variation in ages, from Baby Bats to ver Elder Goths - who all mingle in and have fun, regardless of age. I'm 42 and probably bang in the middle of the age demographic. At the writing group I was easily the youngest by 20 years! All good though.

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    4. One more reason why I'd LOVE to go to Whitby! :-)

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  4. I'm glad you found your place and people to connect with! I can relate to a lot of this. I was bullied during elementary school and really didn't have any friends back then. I felt very alone and as soon as I could read, books became my friends. Like you, I am an only child, so there were no siblings for me to feel connected with. When I went to middle school I had no social skills whatsoever. I had never learned how to make friends and open up to people, because of the bullying. What I had learned was to always expect the worst of people. I started talking to some classmates eventually and thought they were my friends, until they ditched me when it became clear I was more into dark/alternative stuff. I was 15 when that happened and I just felt so alone. I got held back that year, because my grades dropped. I just felt so bad and alone all of the time that I couldn't keep up with the coursework anymore and didn't bother to either. The next year I met some other people who were into the same clothes and music as me and I actually made some friends. I am still friends with some of them and I am very grateful for that! They're the best friends I could have ever wished for :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing that. The WORST year of my pre-adult life was when I was 15... and it still makes the top three worst years of my life overall. I was totally miserable, but honestly had no idea WHY. It sounds like you had a much worse time than I did, but you are so lucky that you eventually did meet others of like mind! I never did at school, all my friends except for one were mainstream, and although they were still great as friends, I still wish I'd been born just a couple of years later!

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  5. I go through phases where I can't be around too many people and I delete my facebook. Its more days than weeks but I have been bothered for weeks and just stayed away from most of the population except my close friends. I do have a thing though where I don't want to be bothered by random people. I'm really bad at small talk and have to work at it believe it or not. I don't always know what to say but it depends on the person. I usually let people come up to me. I get anxiety in grocery stores sometimes. Not so much goth clubs or shows or metal shows or goth stuff but certain random places like a cafe' if I see someone I don't prefer that I haven't seen in a long time and I've avoided I get major anxiety it sucks!! I'm like ugh please go away I've avoided you for a reason. I'm pretty honest about my feelings too I cant just pretend to be nice to someone I don't enjoy :p Its good and bad lol

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    1. I hate small talk, too. I don't mind a few random comments, but trying to invent something to say to someone just to be talking is NOT me! If I don't have anything to say, I'd much rather just sit in silence with them, which can be extremely pleasant if both people are okay with it. Unfortunately, most people don't know how to do that, and it really bothers them NOT to talk! Bleah.

      And if I see someone I really DO NOT want to talk to, you should see me sneaking around or hiding to avoid them, hehehe! I've occasionally done some really weird things to do that!

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  6. It's always good to read about other social anxiety stories, it makes me feel just a little less lonely in my angst! I too was a lonely child, and teenager. As an adult, while living in the Seattle area, I was lucky to have a couple of friends that I could just hang in with, and listen to music while we painted alongside eachother. Since uprooting myself and moving to Costa Rica, I've had to deal with an extra dose of anxiety and loneliness while being dropped head first into a different culture with a new language, different ways of doing things and just a different way of living, all without friends and blood family to support me. Coming to a new country can be surprisingly alienating, especially in the beginning when you can't understand what anyone around you is saying! Learning Spanish was probably the most humiliating process for me, yet in the end the most rewarding. One thing is for sure, I definitely have a deeper respect for immigrants trying to learn their new country's culture and language! It takes some serious courage and dedication.

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    1. Wow, that WOULD be scary! I think you're extremely courageous to do something like that. I've visited a few countries, like Mexico, where English is spoken but is not the primary language, and I felt extremely weird not being able to understand people. Fortunately, there weren't too many situations where I couldn't get by with hand gestures, facial expressions and the three words I know in Spanish, so I lucked out! ;-)

      I work at a university, and more than once I've had foreign students apologize for their "poor English". I always tell them, NEVER apologize, your English is fine, and MUCH better than my [insert their language name here]!! Then I tell them how impressed I am that they speak English well enough to study in a foreign country, most people can't do that. They always look so surprised, then walk away smiling. :-)

      The more stories I hear about lonely children and teens, the more I wonder how many more there are who we DON'T hear about, and why this is so prevalent in American society. Does it also happen in other societies to this extent? Maybe we "alternative" types are really the norm, and we just don't realize it because we ARE isolated from each other in a public school setting. Honestly, I think if I had another school-aged child, I would seriously consider homeschooling, and find or create different venues for socialization.

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    2. I've often thought about how I will raise my future children, and socialization is something I will put importance on. Some degree of anxiety is probably hereditary, but the least we can do is give our children the social tools to cope with, and hopefully overcome it. You're probably right, loneliness does seem to be the norm, for children and adults. From what I've seen in Costarican and German culture, loneliness is less prevalent because of the importance that is placed on family relations. Social spontenaity is also more prevalent. "Hey you want to get a beer after work" is not responded with "let me check my schedule" like it would be on uptight, unspontaneous Washington where everything has to be planned weeks in advance (and then there is always the 50% chance of cancellation). It's almost like people from the US (myself totally included) just don't want to enjoy themselves with others, choosing instead to watch TV alone, in their pajamas, with a carton of icecream on their laps.

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    3. Oh, thank you! Spontaneity is something I've been really trying to allow myself to develop, especially with social stuff, which is difficult enough for me when it's planned. (I'm sure that sounds like an oxymoron, but I'm also sure you know what I mean.) I have NO patience with people who choose to let their lives be run by phones, watches, "schedules" and other cultural leashes. I don't own a cell phone, I haven't worn a watch in years, and I believe that message services on phones were created so that we can avoid interruptions at bad moments. Why do we HAVE to answer a phone just because it rings? Answer: We don't.

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  7. I hear you loud and clear.

    I Am Invisible most all the time. Sad to say. I haven't had a real friend in nearly 20 years. My best friend at that time died in a house fire. I've not found anyone local who gets me since then.
    My husband doesn't count, its just a different relationship.

    I'm too old for the young goths and too goth for the seniors crowd.

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    1. Oh, I am SO sorry to hear about your friend. That must have been terribly hard for you, and so sad! And I know what you mean about husbands not counting (no offense to them); they're not women and don't think like we do, it's not the same at all.

      I detest Facebook (I may have mentioned that), but there is a group there called Elders of Goth that is really QUITE nice, and has some interesting discussions and people. Unless you have special permission from the moderator you must be at least 30 to join, and many members are quite a bit older. Perhaps you might find some local goths there, if you cared to give it a try. It's a long shot, but you never know.

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