"I have some friends for evening wine and cheese. Would you like to come? "
I was touched to be included in this last text invitation from a client. Part of me really wanted to go, especially since she is a wonderful person, and most of my social interaction is at my pre-school age. But the thought of going into a group of people I did not know and talk to was a huge one.
"Thank you very much for the invitation, but I have plans that night," I believed. I was justifying at that time (I do not need to know that my plans only look at Netflix) ), but I still feel terrible about lying. I am convinced that the guilt will be written on my face the next time I see her. Many people get excited when they receive an invitation for an event; I get nausea. Not because of the people involved (usually) but because people are involved. Although I have not learned to identify him as such until the last few years, I have suffered social anxiety throughout my life. As a teenager and a young adult, I was forced to feel uncomfortable in social situations even if I was overloaded because I assumed that my "shyness" was something I needed to overcome. I told myself that the cold sweat, the shaking of hands, the beating heart, the tight throat, the fuzzy thinking, and the embarrassing obvious redness would surely wane as the ice broke. Sometimes it happened, but more often, but not not.
I feel comfortable with a few close friends, but at the moment a group grows beyond the boundaries of my trusted circle, I can feel the monster of anxiety mixed in life, resurrecting all my deep-rooted fears of not being judged (and to get it right)). When this happens, my survival strategy is withdrawn: watching, listening, hugging the periphery of the room and forming lasting relationships with pets.
People often confuse my relative silence into groups like alienation, but I'm quiet because I weigh every word before I pronounce it, considering how my contribution to the conversation will be accepted, terrified that it will expose me as a scam , which I convinced I am.
Even if I look calm during an interaction, I will spend days after that, even weeks, even dissecting it, fixing myself to what I convinced myself to be social woes ̵
Like many people with anxiety, I'm highly functioning, and my troubles are usually not obvious to others (my lecturers used to point out how calm and peaceful I always appeared, although I was worried). I will be attending events or going into situations that make me feel uncomfortable, either for professional reasons, a desire to see friends, or an excessive desire not to disappoint or offend others. But I do it at a price. You see, social anxiety can cause and feed a more generalized anxiety for me.
"I was managing" this by forcing myself to ignore it as much as possible and continue with things. It's not a good strategy.
In the last few years a lot of "life" happened, with many unexpected challenges. After all, anxiety swallowed me to such an extent that I could no longer ignore it and found myself in a dark abyss that cooled me for my soul. I never want to find myself again in this gulf. This experience taught me that my mental health is a priority. This is not a price I'm ready to pay.
I do not avoid all meetings and social interactions. When I feel good, I like to connect with others. I take care of my friendships and appreciate the possibility of new ones. Just some kinds of interactions are more stressful for me and sometimes, depending on other factors in my life at the time, I have to avoid them to keep feeling good. Ninety-nine percent of the cases have nothing to do with the person who rejects the invitation – a true honesty to the good: "Not you, I am."
I do not feel guilty about inviting me if I'm physically ill or injured. Why then am I ashamed to admit that I feel psychically frail? When I visited my doctor last year, apologizing for my incessant panic and crying, and trying to test anti-anxiety medication, she asked me if I would feel bad if I wanted to get help for an early leg. Of course not!
It seems that in our society there is a tacitly misconception that mental illness is something that can be transferred. Many people successfully hide it when it can possibly harm the feelings or discomfort of others (as I have tried to do most of my life). But even if the disease becomes invisible, it is still there; as much attention as the broken bone or disease, or consequences, should be given.
Thanks to recent public awareness campaigns and more people share their personal stories, mental illness is becoming a less taboo topic in the general conversation, and I am "outed" myself as an anxiety sufferer in several publications. Complete strangers know my state of mental health and yet … I'm still not ready to tell anyone in real life, "Thank you very much for inviting me to the invitation, but social gatherings are the cause of my anxiety and that's a challenge lately, so it will pass. "
Let's be real here. If you are not anxious, a small part of you would not think, "Wow, that seems extreme. It's just wine and cheese! You may feel a little offended or wonder if you did anything to offend me.
Considering that if a person refuses an invitation because there is a physical injury or illness, you probably would not think about it. You would certainly not accept it personally. Sometimes I drink and say I'm busy because the last thing I want to do by avoiding a trigger of social anxiety is to cause another and potentially harm the relationship. Is this a durable solution? No. I appreciate honesty and creates a lot of dissonance in me so as not to be completely honest with people, especially with the people I care about. But at least in my mind this is the best way to deal right now. Writing for this helps me to be more brave and to make the general conversation of anxiety ever closer to my personal relationship.
I hope that one day soon the refusal of an invitation to mental health will be so acceptable to others (and to me) to say, "I'm sorry; I can not do it – I have a flu. "
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