I have my good and bad days with social anxiety. For the past month in my anxiety-ridden life, I feel I have done more to propel myself into facing some of my issues than I have in the past. That doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with it constantly.
For example, on Tuesday afternoon, I was expecting a phone call from my career counselor, whom I have spoken to twice on previous occasions, and these incidents were also phone conversations. This is a miracle for me that I was even able to talk to him twice before, considering I am a little phobic of phone calls and have spent many a time in the past basically ignoring calls because I would be too scared to answer. I have to admit, having the experience of talking to him twice and not having my worst fears come true is helpful. Yet I still get anxiety over having to prepare for the call. From the moment I woke up that morning, I was already having some discomfort thinking about the phone call. I had agreed, many days ago, to talk to him at 3 pm on Tuesday. And this discomfort only increased as the hours went by. I could hardly relax or concentrate on anything else because I was counting down the time until the phone call would happen. On the outside, I try to keep myself put together, and I’m good at sitting and holding a neutral expression on my face, while internally, I am just about losing my shit.
For many years now, it’s been my instinct to internalize my anxiety and not let it show on my face. I believe I started doing this as a way to protect myself and keep up a normal appearance, and because I was often embarrassed by my anxiety to the point I didn’t want the people around me to know how I was feeling. This is a habit I am struggling to shed. In the social anxiety group, it’s still hard not to feel like I need to hide my insecurities and pretend everything in my life is 100% great. Like I mentioned in my last post, my instant reaction when I see someone with social anxiety dealing with it better than I am, is to feel isolated and withdrawn. It will be hard for me, but I think it would help if I actually talk about it with people in the group.
Another thing I want to grow out of is my hesitation over asking people casual questions in conversation. In my head, when I hear myself say the question in my mind, which could be as simple as “Where do you live?” or “Do you work or go to school?”, I instantly believe I will suffer some kind of negative consequence if I do ask the question. Such as, me making an idiot of myself, or the other person not responding to the question positively.
During the last coloring meet up, I remember pushing myself to ask Brian if he was from uptown or downtown New York. I felt a strange revulsion at myself as the words left my mouth, almost as if I had uttered an obscene curse that I hadn’t wanted to say but somehow forced myself to voice out loud.
This is what it literally feels like every time I want to get to know someone better by asking what seems like a mundane question, only for my body and mind to stop me at every turn. Once I asked the question, I felt nervous to hear the person’s response. I was bracing myself for something negative.
My mind conjured up many things in that instant, and they all related to me being punished in some way for what I asked the person. It’s like being so afraid of doing the opposite of what my mind is usually telling me not to do that when I do it, my brain is unable to register the action as harmless and instead delves into a wild imagination of something extremely bad happening to me as a result of my action. Instead, what I got was the person plainly telling me he was from uptown (Queens).
Perhaps if I keep at this and continue asking people questions, even if I feel anxiety asking them, could my mind learn to understand that being curious about others and wanting to know more about them is not something that should be feared? And that it doesn’t have any negative consequences?