Thursday, October 9, 2014

Coming Out of the Socially Inadequate Closet

http://api.ning.com/files/E4nzSQYY5FKNGJzJMLRluADMtfYFRJCqMJuYycv4ZMx0EaL6cXUxJqOGFYEhWvwL5C3mDCWX36n91Z64CKou7VEJWkUVbrHP/DoAllTheSociallyAwkwardThings.jpg

One of the problems I've always had is not feeling socially adequate.  Oh, I learned to fake it pretty good, but I have serious anxiety issues whenever agreeing to attend any kind of social function, even where I know (and like) more than one person there.  The most recent of these events was last night, when I attended a friend's birthday celebration with my husband, at her house.  After RSVPing "Yes" last month, I began agonizing about it a week ago, trying to decide if I could get away with telling her I was feeling sick, or something unexpected came up, or my nine cats all died at once... you get the idea.   I felt totally stupid and ridiculous, but I could NOT get around the terror.  Finally, I looked up her invitation on FB, where I was able to see who she had invited, who had accepted, and who might come but wasn't sure.  I found that I knew several people who were coming, and it was a smaller group than I had expected.  I was able to calm myself down to the point where I could relax and look forward to it.  But yesterday... again... the anxiety began screaming through my head.  I told Martin that we would go at least as far as Party City, where I had to return something, and then we would decide if we went from there to the party or home. 

We ended up deciding to go celebrate my friend's birthday with her, even if it was only for a half-hour.  As soon as we parked and turned off the engine, I was FINE.  We ended up staying for a little over an hour, and I did enjoy myself.  It did help that most of her friends that I meet are pretty nice and laid back, and since we are both organizers in our meetup group, we know quite a few of the same people.  My other friends also showed up, and it was great seeing them again.

http://captainawkwarddotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/social-anxiety-party.gif

WHY does this happen??  Why do some people have no problem at all being sociable with strangers at any type of event, while others would rather be run over and stomped on by a herd of stampeding wildebeest than go to a party for someone they know?  And just as important, HOW can we overcome this seemingly ridiculous problem?  I say 'seemingly' because there is absolutely nothing ridiculous or funny about it when you are feeling that way; it's demeaning and demoralizing, but never amusing.

(I'm an anthropologist, so you'd think I would know these things, but nooooo...)

So, how do YOU deal with this problem?  And if you're one of those people who has no trouble socializing... Share your secrets!!  Why are YOU so lucky?????     ;-)


27 comments:

  1. I have the same problems as you. Like you, I am really good at covering up. I am so good at wearing a mask that when I tell people I have social anxiety, they are shocked. What works for me, i tell my mind to stfu, I force myself to go. I just dive into it. It doesn't always work but I hate being controlled by something.

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    1. I forgot to add, i work as a receptionist and while it was difficult at first, it has helped me deal with some of these issues

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    2. Yep, that's pretty much what I do, thanks for the validation! :-) I used to be a receptionist also, and yes, it was a bit easier then because I could put on my "professional face" instead of dealing with people on a social level. My mom was a receptionist for many years, and she taught me all the tricks! Being a professional bellydancer helped as well, once again it was an impersonal "work" thing, although it may seem weird to some people that a woman wearing a sparkly bra, bare midriff, and sheer skirt with tons of makeup on dancing in a club or restaurant would have a "professional" attitude! ;-)

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    3. Ooh I always wanted to take bellydancing! sounds exciting. Glad to hear I am not the only one that deals with the social anxiety and works in a very extroverted position! Thanks!

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    4. I have a feeling there are a LOT more of us than we realize! And seriously, GO for that bellydance class! It's tons of fun, great exercise, and you don't have to perform publicly if you don't want to. :-)

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  2. I think it's like most any anxiety therapy, either you treat it with meds or do exposure therapy. If you continually expose yourself to situations that raise your anxiety eventually you'll get use to them. Obviously you take it in small steps and work up to more intense situations. It's worked for my OCD and I know it's worked for others who suffer from social anxiety.

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    1. Hmmm, that sounds like pretty much what I am doing, so I guess I'm doing it right. :-) I'd rather not take meds if I can avoid it, NOT that I have anything against meds or look down on those who use them, I don't! I'd just rather not unless I absolutely HAVE to. But I might try upping my dose of St. John's Wort before going to a social event, that could be a viable option. Thanks for the tip!

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  3. I always feel shy around strangers, especially when we have nothing in common. I have learned to play extroverted but I think sometimes I play it up to much, and I think men might often think I am being flirty when I am not. Argh.

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    1. Ugh, that WOULD be a bit of a problem! It's so hard to tell when it's too little, too much, or just right... makes me feel like Goldilocks trapped by the Three Bears! And I don't find making forced conversations with people enjoyable, especially if it appears we have nothing in common. I'd rather just sit and be quiet if I have nothing to say, but that's not the point of most social events, unfortunately. One of the nice things my friend did last night was to have the TV on, as there was a marathon of "American Horror Story" episodes playing. This gave everyone something to do if they wanted to, and we ended up making comments to each other about the show, which made it easier for those who didn't know everyone to "break the ice" and not feel like we were awkward strangers stuck together in a room.

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    1. Well, but your last home was so awesome, who would want to leave it anyway??? And I'm sure the new one will be also, so again, who needs to leave home when you've got THAT! ;-)

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    2. Well, and it doesn't hurt that I'm a fairly solitary person who likes solitary activities, Lucretia! :)

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    3. Hmmm, yes, there IS that! ;-)

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  5. I'm with the Insomniac. I have gotten to the point where my anxiety almost rules my life. I took on a 3rd shift position so I could away from seeing people on a daily basis.
    I started to see a therapist about it and he helped with some techniques and medication. But now that I can't take meds (breastfeeding) I am back to square one.

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    1. I'm seeing that the depth of my problem isn't nearly as deep as it is with others; thank you for being so open about it here! Does your therapist have any idea, in general, WHY some people have this problem so badly? To me, knowledge is power, so if we had an idea as to the why, perhaps we could more easily work on solutions.

      Fortunately, breastfeeding doesn't last forever, so you should be able to go back on your meds after that. I hope they will help again.

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  6. Urg, I get exactly like that but it's caused by my depression not my anxiety. It sucks because I'm doing a writing degree primarily and always get invited to book and poetry releases and readings. I always want to go but I can never actually get myself to. Just thinking about it makes my stomach churn. And I know it's going to massively hurt my career in the long run. Not to mention how many bridges it burns when you don't show up to your friend's play (that you actually paid for in advance).

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    1. Oh, that does suck! But maybe your friends would understand if they knew what a problem this is for you. And if they can't/won't, maybe they're not such good friends. Hmmm, speaking of friends, would bringing a friend or two to the events help at all? There IS safety in numbers, as the saying goes, so if they stayed with you at all times, perhaps you could get through at least part of it. Just a thought...

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  7. As out-going as I seem to be on the outside, I have the same social anxieties as you do about parties, etc. I just try and breathe in and out and let my body relax before entering the event and tell myself, "You can leave whenever you want to". It usually helps me, but sometimes the anxiety reaches outer limits. I'm also good at covering it up and people think 'I'm the life of the party' when I'm just freaking out and hiding it with humor. Sorry you suffer from all this and it seems like their are a lot of us out there. XOXO to you all!

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    1. Oh, wow, thank you SO much for sharing that! Based on your blog posts and pics, I would NEVER have guessed, and have often envied you in that respect. I think you're right, there are probably a LOT more of us "social anxietists" out there than anyone really realizes, OR wants to admit. Hehehe, too bad we can't organize "practice parties" to help both us and our fellow sufferers overcome this junk! ;-)

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  8. I beleive that more than we think have the same issue. I was at a farewell party the last day with colleagues, old and present. I had a severe angst about it and it got worse because I came very late to the appointment (because of a spontaneous meeting with my new boss). I arrived in an unmatching circus like outfit and wet hair. But the party went well. I have attended parties were I have felt completely off and odd. Afterwards it's usually feels good.
    I tend to smile and giggle extremely much (because of my anxiety) and people take it for friendliness.
    The cartoon is fab :)

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    1. Yes, I can get pretty giggly and silly as well, and for the same reason! Wouldn't it be funny if everyone was really doing that because they were nervous, but no one realized it?

      I thought both those cartoons were just perfect for this. :-)

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  9. This past spring I learned that my niece plans on getting married next May. I've been absolutely dreading the upcoming event since I learned of it. Just the other day I thought about it and realized that I am now six-plus months closer to having to attend the event. My how time flies when you don't want it to.

    On the other hand, there is a nearby pub that I'm quite comfortable going to. I usually bring a book with me to read when I go there. Still, there are a few people I like talking to and even if a stranger starts talking to me I can be quite talkative. Invite me to a table with a group however, and I always find myself in the awkward position of trying to explain why I don't want to sit in a group. Go figure!

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    1. Well, I'm happy for your niece, but sorry you have to deal with that! Perhaps you could attend the ceremony, but have something you simply HAVE to do immediately afterwards? That works for me quite frequently. You wouldn't have to worry about offending anyone, and you will have been present for the important part, anyway.

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  10. Oh man, I am SO sorry. Parties are horrible horrible things. I used to be able to cover up my anxiety and embarrassment, but ever since I moved to this hot little country, I've become a chronic blusher for the first time in my life. I used to say whatever the hell I wanted to and not give a hoot, but here, for some reason, I can't even say a joke without blushing. Then, the Costaricans that lack social grace (all of them, bless their hearts, but they love to make fun of everyone), point out that I'm blushing and then I blush even harder and all I can do is laugh awkwardly and bury my face in my hands, hoping that a unicorn flies by to distract everyone from the fact that I have turned into a human tomato.

    I take GABA sublingual drops before leaving the house, and use rescue remedy spray under the tongue when I start feeling a panic coming on. The blushing, it seems, is untreatable!

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    1. Thanks for the sympathy, I do appreciate it. And I have discovered that we fair-skinned people are totally at the mercy of our emotions, turning red at the worst moments! Fortunately, I'm not an easy blusher, so at least I can frequently get away with hiding my embarrassment. I'm so sorry you are having that problem! I do like the flying unicorns idea, we could use them here as well. ;-)

      And I'd never thought of using Rescue Remedy, that is an EXCELLENT idea, thank you! I don't know what the drops are you mentioned, but will definitely look them up.

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  11. Yes, being both a blusher and fair-skinned is a curse! I buy the GABA "drops" (really, they are chewables) from vitacost's website, they work much faster than regular GABA tablets. Good luck!

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    1. Oh, okay, I've used Vitacost.com before, they're not bad. Thanks!

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