On Mental Health

The Second Wave


When you’re scared of something, you always feel better once it’s over. I remember sleeping HORRIBLY for weeks before my first triathlon. The night it was over? I slept like a baby. Same with the time I rappelled down a building for charity. Fear of doing something ends as soon as that something is over. Bam. Done. No more stress.

Social Anxieties, however, are a different beast.

I’ve said before that the first time I ever had a gathering at my house, it was 5 years ago and it was a Harry Potter party, I worried about every speck of dust and strand of pet hair for DAYS before. I’m happy to say that forcing myself out of my shell and hosting many things since has TRULY helped me get over a lot of my Before Event social anxieties. I hosted a book club again last night and I didn’t stress out hardly at all in the days leading up to it.

I’ve come a long way, baby.

But Social Anxieties have a Second Wave of stress that comes after the event. The wave where you replay everything you said and did at the event and want to punch yourself in the face over all of your failures. This wave is stronger if I host an event, but it happens even if I just go to an event. I remember the night after a Christmas party last year, I woke up in the middle of the night stressing out about a self-deprecating joke I had made. I don’t think those people got the joke. They don’t know me that well. Did they know I was making fun of myself? That I wasn’t serious? Should I Facebook message them to be sure?

(I did NOT Facebook message them. BUT I HAVE BEFORE.)

The Second Wave of Social Anxieties is actually what makes us so anxious socially to begin with. It’s the embarrassment over dumb things said or done. Or the shame over mistakes you made. It’s the replaying of those over…and over…AND OVER again that make it so hard to put yourself out there time and time again. All you keep thinking as you consider a social gathering is, “Yes…but how many times will I do something that I will later lose sleep over?”

And yes…you can tell us that no one remembers or cares. And on some levels we know that is true. But the anxiety is not a conscious choice on our parts. We can’t say, “Hmm…she probably doesn’t even remember that I called her the wrong name!” and then stop stressing. Even if part of us believes that, the rest of use with the social anxieties does NOT believe it.

Well…I’ve been up since 2:30am stressing about book club last night. Stupid stuff that logically I know bothered NO ONE, but still! I woke up stressing. My dining room chairs are gorgeous, but not comfortable and I was worried about the people who had to sit in those for too long. Did my kids eat too much of the food sitting out? I bogarted way too much of the conversation. Did I laugh too loud?

Logically, I know that none of those things will keep people from ever coming to book club again.

(OR WILL THEY? ACK. What if people don’t come back because I laugh too loud?)

Anyway…I’m pretty sure that my worries are unfounded. But still…here they are…waking me up at 2:30am so that I can start my day worrying about the night before. Like sane people do.

It was a great night. I have a great group of friends. We joked that the book club grew out of several discussions with people about our own social anxieties or awkwardness so now we’re unofficially the Socially Awkward Book Club. You know, so that everyone feels welcome! Obviously these people get me, so I shouldn’t be worried.

But – it wouldn’t be a thing I talked about if it followed any sort of logic, now would it? Donnie’s sleeping like a baby. It was his house too. We both hosted. (We had three boys in our book club last night! Woo for co-ed book clubs!) But does he torture himself about whether or not people were comfortable? No. He sleeps because it’s over and he enjoyed himself. Bam. End of story. And when he finds out later that I woke up at 2:30am stressing about whether or not I laugh too loud? He’ll shake his head and be grateful that I – at least – don’t let these anxieties hold me back anymore.

Because – in the end – it’s still totally worth it. Rappelling down the building? NOT WORTH IT. Forcing myself to move past my social anxieties to fill my house with people talking about books? WORTH IT IN EVERY WAY.

6 thoughts on “The Second Wave”

  1. When it comes to interacting with new people, or in groups of people, I have the “fake it until you make it” philosophy. And I enjoy people and hearing their stories so I can usually ask questions and keep things going smoothly. That kind of anxiety doesn’t typically stay with me after an event. On the other hand, I do NOT sing karaoke and I do NOT dance. I can sing in the shower just fine, but in front of people? No way. I get terrible stage fright and I choke up and just, no. And dancing, I like the IDEA of dancing, but I’m not very good at it. And about 20 seconds in I just get all self-conscious about people staring at me and it immediately ceases to be fun. I didn’t even want to dance at my own wedding, but somehow it ended up happening, and the first dance was so painful! I just kept reminding myself to breathe and hold onto my husband and that all the people watching us love us. And then my husband kind of spun me out in a twirly kind of thing and I didn’t trip and fall or die and I was so amazed I looked out at everybody and said, “What, no applause?” Which made everybody laugh and clap but then I started blushing because I just ASKED for accolades for something I did (not even that well!) and was embarassed about being an attention hog. AT MY OWN WEDDING. And do not even talk to me about at somebody else’s wedding, or heaven forbid a bar or club or something. Just, no. I am perfectly happy to nurse my drink and watch everyone else dance. So while I don’t struggle in exactly the same way you do, I can completely empathize!

  2. My mom and I commiserate since it happens to both of us. It doesn’t help at 2:00 a.m. when we can’t get to sleep, but it is nice to have someone to “talk it out” with the next day. Sometimes it hits me the minute I get home and persists. Another thing that can happen when at a gathering of friends is that I will be having a good time, but then suddenly will feel a flush go through me that I am just done and really want/need to leave.

  3. There you go again, all up in my head. 🙂 Just know that you give us wallflowers, who haven’t worked up the nerve to join in yet, so much hope.

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    Aska says:

    My thing is always, “Did I talk too much that people think I am obnoxious? Did I talk too less in the group that people think I am weird?” Also always, I wish I could have talked to people to get to know them personally. I absolutely love the title of the book club group 🙂 Being in the book club, to be completely honest with you, I didn’t think there was anything specific you did that I can think of. Really. But, I know you still think about it because I do too 🙂
    As a person who is in the middle of introvert and extrovert (I really don’t know. I am confused about myself most of the time.), I enjoy your book club. I look forward to more gatherings and getting to know everyone!

  5. My neighbors’ mail was delivered to my house yesterday, so I walked it over last night and spent about 5 min chatting with them. I spent the next hour going over EVERYTHING I said in a total social anxiety freak out. I’ve learned to laugh at myself when I really get going because it truly is comical, but still…at 2:00am, it really seems worth staying up to heap imagined guilt over a non-existent offense on yourself.

  6. I love the name of the book club! It makes me laugh and makes me feel welcome. I am usually socially anxious enough that I don’t often go to functions like this, but I had fun and want to go to book club again. A funny thing – on the way home from book club, I said to my husband that maybe we could host it sometime (we never host anything except family at the holidays). The first thing we talked about was where people would sit. Our dining room chairs – they are antique and old and rickety, and some of them really aren’t okay for anyone to sit in anymore, so I would worry about them collapsing! It helps me to know that there are others like me who worry about stuff like chairs at 2am!

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