• The Battle Scars of Social Anxieties

    Back in 2010 (I think?) Donnie completed his first triathlon training class at Fleet Feet and wanted our family to attend the pool party they were having to celebrate. I remember really dreading the thought of it. The triathlon season had taken me to a bad place as I was bitter and jealous that he had this activity outside of the house (I was still a stay at home Mom and miserable) and that he had all of these fit and trim friends and I was not doing anything athletic but taking care of the kids and maintaining a constant level of grumpiness.

    But he wanted us all to go to this pool party and I wanted it to storm so it would be canceled.

    We went, but I didn’t want to talk to any of his fancy triathlon friends, and I didn’t want to hang out around fit people, so I got in the pool with the kids and basically stayed there the entire time. We got out to eat, quickly, while giving everyone the side-eye, and then I made Donnie take us home.

    For awhile there, it was MY face next to the word “party pooper” in the dictionary.

    I remember the discomfort of being at that party VIVIDLY, even now, 6 years later. I don’t remember talking to anyone and I used my kids as shields all night long.

    Little did I know that I was going to join a boot camp (that would also TERRIFY ME) that would lead to making friends and gaining confidence and six years later I’d be in book clubs and triathlon training groups and trail running groups and I’d be embracing Donnie’s triathlon career with matching t-shirts and spectating plans and I’d still feel uncomfortable in a bathing suit but I wouldn’t let that ruin my fun.

    I still have my issues. I still need twice as much alone time to come DOWN from a social outing as the outing took to begin with, and I still am constantly embarrassing myself with my awkwardness. But I’m getting out there. And I’m keeping the bitterness at a more tolerable level.

    My biggest hurdle is that there is still a part of me that assumes everyone hates me. Not a HUGE part, but it’s still back there and it comes to the surface when I do something stupid. I recently called someone the wrong name, TO HER FACE, and didn’t even realize it until the ride home. And I swear, not a day goes by where I don’t consider how much she probably dislikes me now. I try to be logical, and put myself in her shoes and think Wow. If someone called me the wrong name like that I would be SO EMBARRASSED FOR THEM, that I’d go out of my way to be kind so they wouldn’t stress out about it. So, that part of my brain doesn’t hate myself, but the rest of me? Every time I remember that I did it (which is constantly) I moan – AUDIBLY. There’s something that triggers the memory, which autoplays without my authorization, and to stop it I’ll say – OUT LOUD – “Nope. No. Noooo.”

    The other day my daughter heard me do that and said, “What? No, what?” And I said, “Sorry…I just remembered something embarrassing I did and I was trying to stop remembering.” She said, “Oh, man. I know that feeling.”

    Because she is her Mother’s Daughter.

    Sometimes I’m still not emotionally capable of dealing with social situations. There might be a gathering I’m supposed to attend and if I’ve had a high anxiety day in other areas, it might be hard for me to let go enough to put my best foot forward for a group event. I have to prepare for them, emotionally, so sometimes I still cancel or back out. But most of the time? I actually look forward to them. I have made enough friends now, in the last 5 years of conquering my social anxieties, that I’m rarely going to a function where I’ll be entirely alone. I’ve also gathered an arsenal of tools to help me cope in social situations. The most powerful one being: ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS. I found that if I can keep other people talking? I lessen my chance to do something asinine.

    But I’m still a complete fool. I still say and do stupid things all the time. I still replay events over for days and pick out all of the dumb things I said and did to hate myself over. There’s still always a small part of me that would rather stay home. Sometimes that part of me is quiet or I can ignore it, but it always celebrates if something gets canceled because deep down – that part of me still just wants to sit in her pajamas every night and watch TV.

    The scars are still there, but I still go because I’ve found so much good in the world through meeting people that I’ve decided the balance is in the favor of getting out of the house. I went to book club last night, even not having read the book, and being surrounded by those wonderful women for a couple of hours gave me so much joy and positive energy in my life that I couldn’t believe that I almost didn’t attend the first one they invited me to 5+ years ago.