By My Own Admission
I suffer from social anxiety. Nobody would believe me if I said this because that isn’t how it seems to the world. But, it’s true. In my head, I know the whole idea is ridiculous and that this shouldn’t be so difficult or trying. Still, I just can’t help that fact and know that my feelings about it, in given situations, are just out of control.
So how am I coping with it? I fake it, I force it, I make believe that I’m by myself or that I’m just with one other person, usually the one that invited me or brought me to it. It isn’t how I want to be with people, but the whole group thing has followed me throughout my life. Having mediums like the internet and so on just makes it easier to delve into the lack of social interaction. In truth, I wouldn’t have to be with other people. But because of this, it gets worse and in situations where I would have to be in a group of people I don’t know, I clam up, get nervous, a little sweaty and just go back into myself. I don’t say anything unless I’m spoken to and even then, I feel like they’re just talking to me out of obligation, not because of any genuine interest. The pressure is so much sometimes that I almost feel sick. This reaction is rare, but it has happened in the past. Usually, this is associated with a scenario where I’m meeting a significant other’s friends or family. I get so nervous that my stomach goes topsy-turvy and I feel like I’m gonna hurl.
There’s some stuff out there to do about it, but I don’t think it will work. Granted, when I do go out in groups, sometimes I enjoy myself, but that is mostly because of the type of activity it may be. Like karaoke or bowling or something that I really enjoy, it is normal to me and its okay for a group to be around. Karaoke is the biggest oxymoron because I enjoy the crowd. I know I can sing, so I don’t feel the pressure of impending embarrassment. If I sucked vocally, I would never do karaoke at all. Doing things that I know brings more comfort to me. Everything else falls into that anxiety category.
For example, I went with Orlando to a recent Yelp event (http://www.yelp.com) and it was full of people I’d never met or heard of before. Situations like that are the worst. The only person I did speak with was Sam, who is the NY moderator. It’s hard not to like someone like him — he’s got something like 17 charisma. (D&D folks will get that number.) But a lot of the other people, I found it imposing. People were just around chatting easily and there I was, sitting at the bar milking my free drink. Even Orlando went off and started chatting with people, but when he tried to include me, I felt super awkward. They were only talking with me because he mentioned me, so in truth, they have no active interest in holding a conversation. That is what it came down to… I tried to talk with two ladies there and they were basically talking amongst themselves while I watched them talk, me listening and observing. They stopped, as if realizing they were being watched by me and asked what I did for a living. I told them — which is probably the biggest oxymoron of all! Me, an office manager. That is someone that should be assertive and confident, able to tell people what to do and all that. And I am… while I am at work. The topics of discussion at work are clearly defined. Outside of that, it’s a free-for-all. Anything can be discussed and you have to actually approach someone you are not familiar with to have said discussions.
Nonetheless, all of these things are connected. Like my friends. I feel closer to some than others because of this social anxiety reason. I realize that I’m really comfortable with Herman, regardless of whatever group it is or not; I can talk to him without feeling weird. I find that I’m not as comfortable with Danielle in situations like that, because she is a veritable social butterfly with a very strong personality. It’s hard to say no to her and to get my own verbiage out. If I had some more gumption, I could take on the many people in my life like Danielle (this of course isn’t to bash or find fault – its really just an observation and how I have been with people like her) and have a true sharing relationship with. Some people say it’s simple, to just work through your fear about it. It’s just not that simple and I don’t know what it will take. I just know one thing: friends are important things in life. Being able to interact with others on a communicative level is also important. These stances I have been living in and through are super limiting for me and it just doesn’t work. I like being alone sometimes, so I can think and get stuff done, but when I am alone for periods of time, I long to be in someone’s company.
This is really long-winded and going nowhere, I’m sure. But I had to get it out in the open. That I need help.