anxiety · social anxiety

A good day with some bumps in the road

Yesterday was an overall good day, I think. I attended a social anxiety group meet up in Bryant Park to see Broadway musical shorts. Andrew was the host for the day. Annelise and I had already RSVPed several days prior. Some other people RSVPed too, but only one other person showed up to hang out.

I was too exhausted from lack of sleep and from my crying fit on Wednesday to really worry about Thursday’s Bryant Park meetup. On Wednesday night, Annelise and I were texting back and forth about Thursday. I guess she could infer from what I wrote to her about that I was concerned about how many people were going to show up. She ended up calling me to discuss her opinion on this.

Notably, I did not tell her about my talk with Andrew and Brian, but I did tell her via text that I wanted to try therapy. During the phone conversation, she spoke of her experiences with having seen many therapists for her own issues with social anxiety and depression, and her discovery that having anxiety is normal for anyone, even for those without social anxiety. She explained that the difference is that people without social anxiety tend to react towards it in a calmer way, while those with social anxiety tend to overreact or come up with a lot of wild what-if scenarios. She also believes there’s nothing wrong with me feeling more anxiety when I host an event rather when I just attend an event.

Interestingly, it was also on my way home on Wednesday night, after my chat with Andrew and Brian, that I realized there was something more to why my anxiety was much more intense in anticipation of my coloring event. It’s because I got cold feet for the Sunday board games event, and didn’t go in the end. I avoided a social gathering I had intended to go to, and felt both shame and disappointment at myself for it. That’s why the next time I had to be in a social situation (my coloring event), my fear of it was massive, in addition to having the regular social anxiety jitters I get.

So, Thursday’s event. It was quite coincidental, but I ran into Andrew  as soon as I got to the street level from the train station stairs. He had been walking down the street and seen me. As odd as it sounds, I felt more willing to interact and talk with Andrew after he saw such a raw part of me on Wednesday.

Another attendee, Karen, was already at the park, but it took some time for Andrew to find her. Earlier, Andrew and I had gone to a  tent where little bags of Dove chocolate was being given away for free. Karen went to get a bag for herself shortly after she met Andrew and I, and during her absence, Annelise arrived. We had secured a spot in the grass to sit, but as this would make it hard to see the stage performance, Andrew and Annelise went to grab some folding chairs. Karen returned, with Annelise coming back with only one seat. A kind man behind Karen gave his seat to her, and Andrew managed to get a seat for himself and one for me as well.

It was difficult not to chatter during the performances, especially since the sound quality from the performances was not that loud enough, though the singing was good. Karen was quite hysterical with her comments about each musical short, and we all laughed quite a bit. Annelise took a group photo of us and posted it on Facebook.

Afterwards, we got lunch from Starbucks. While Karen, Annelise and I walked there, Andrew went to Shake Shack since he hates Starbucks, lol. I have to admit, I was less nervous going into a public food/drink establishment and ordering stuff since I was in a group. When I’m alone, I would rather not go in at all. I was a little unfamiliar with the workings of this Starbucks, though. I was surprised that the cashier asked for my first name after I told her my order, which I haven’t experienced before in a Starbucks. After I paid for my plain bagel with cream cheese and a large vanilla iced coffee, I stood there, expecting the cashier to hand me my bagel. Instead she said nothing to me and after some seconds ticked by, I gathered (from watching the other cashiers) that I was supposed to wait by the sidelines until my name was called so I could get my order.

At the other end of the counter were a bunch of employees preparing iced and hot drinks. I observed them place completed drink orders on the counter, and each cup had a printed receipt with the name of the drink on it as well as the name of the person who ordered the drink.

I got called to pick up my bagel bag, and I quickly fetched it before heading back to wait by the coffee counter. Everytime I saw a large, tall clear cup being placed on the counter, I thought it was my order, until I examined the name tag and was proven wrong. I started to panic a little internally when I saw the next cup placed down had Karen’s name on it. It made no sense to me since I had ordered my drink before Karen, and they should have already put out mine.

Karen got her drink and she noted I was still waiting for mine. She then passed me to go add milk to her coffee. When she came back, she commented on the good quality of Starbucks coffee and how the order was to her liking. I mistook this for her order being a special order, and my brain scrambled to push the words out even though I was in panic mode over my missing iced coffee order.

I’m actually glad I said something in response to her, and I even asked what was in her coffee order. I pushed myself to do this, and I did it. Had this been the old me, I probably would have just gave her a nervous smile and nodded silently because I would be too anxious to say anything back. Karen clarified that hers wasn’t a special order, and it was just a regular vanilla iced coffee. She went on to explain that she meant Starbucks coffee has the right amount of milk for her tastes, and in the past, she’s gotten Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and they never added enough milk in the coffee for her.

Annelise, who had been standing outside, came in to see if we were done. Both she and Karen noticed I still hadn’t gotten my drink. Karen suggested I try saying something to an employee.

This is the part where I froze. I physically couldn’t bring myself to go towards the counter and get the attention of one of the employees. Instead Annelise stepped up for me. She repeated my order to the employee, and when she got it wrong, I chimed in to correct her, but my voice was not loud enough for the employee, so she had to repeat it for me.

Eventually I got my drink. Karen was outside waiting for us, and the three of us walked back to a sitting area. Along the way, Annelise commented that I am very similar to her husband, who once didn’t go to the restroom for a whole hour because he couldn’t find the restroom on his own and was too shy to ask anyone for directions. I felt myself blush as I sipped my drink and was walking behind Karen and Annelise as this conversation went on.

For sure, I need to work on speaking up. One of my most dreaded situations while I was in school was frequently not getting papers or homework material that the teacher passed out to the class, and I would be stuck having to notify the teacher about needing extras of the materials. I struggled with this for years, and still do. Sometimes, I found it easier to not speak up at all because of several excuses I gave myself. “I can’t do it.” “I don’t want to draw attention to myself.” “It’s embarrassing for me.” “I’m afraid of looking stupid.”

I’m only afraid of the situation because I assume something negative will happen if I speak up. I’m making a big deal of something that isn’t actually that big of a deal.

The three of us sat down to eat. Andrew hadn’t come back yet. I felt quite envious of Annelise’s casual nature in how she asked Karen questions about herself. I have a natural curiosity about people, too, but I often am too shy to ask the questions. I only listened along, nervous at the prospect that soon I would probably be asked questions too. Karen then asked me what I do in my life. Gosh I was shy in my response. I basically answered her question by saying I am job hunting and that I need more interview experience before I lapped off into silence. But thankfully, she said something in response to me that delved into the topic of school. We talked about my associate’s degree. She had the opinion that many people will say it’s better to go back to school and get a bachelor’s degree, but in her view, there’d be difficulty with being in school and having to somehow support oneself financially at the same time. I agreed with her, saying that going back to school is too stressful, and so, I am trying to work with what I already have now in order to find a job.

I still feel off balance sometimes in a group conversation. After Andrew returned (with no lunch, since the line at Shake Shack was too long), the conversation changed topics many times. Jobs, schools, finances, taxes, health care coverage, buying houses, street traffic, other meet up events. The list goes on. It was interesting to learn more about Karen. At times, I felt unfamiliar with a topic and resigned myself to just commenting on something when I felt like it, or kept quiet and just listened to other people talk.

Karen had to leave early because of needing to drive home to New Jersey. We made a stop at the restroom first though.

After Karen’s departure, the three of us walked around the park and chatted. It felt relaxing. I made an effort to express my opinion even when I felt the onslaught of discomfort. Maybe it was easier since I was getting used to being around Annelise and Andrew. It must have been the third or fourth time we had walked around in a large circle when we noticed a display for free board and card games in the park. We got a table and played Chinese checkers twice and a card game called Apples to Apples. It was quite fun.


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