My avoidance tendencies, in relation to my social anxiety, involves being avoidant if there is a social interaction I do not want to be in. Also, because of my immediate fixation once I am in a social situation is to be fearful of being judged or constantly being on my toes on how I am being perceived by the people around me, no matter if I have met these people before or not.
To better explain the problem, I’ll start by talking about my current housing situation. I still live with my parents. This is a source of both comfort and agitation for me. Comfort, because I have a place to live and my parents have never threatened to kick me out or make me pay rent. I’ve also been unemployed for the last three years since my one year stint in medical billing and coding school, which, by the end, was a bitch to graduate from. Agitation, because I feel frustrated at myself for still being unemployed and financially dependent on my parents. I also feel I am a burden to them.
I entered the medical billing school hopeful and optimistic about starting a career in a field with skills I could be good in, but throughout the year, my anxiety grew worse to the point the only reason I didn’t drop out is because I didn’t want to saddle my parents with double the amount of owed debt (my school was going to charge me about double the amount in unpaid tuition for any courses in the program I wouldn’t finish if I dropped out).
Before this year in medical billing school, I had flunked out of a four-year college I previously transferred to after earning my associate’s degree at another school. I intended to finish my two other years in school and get a bachelor’s, but yeah, I ended up flunking out because of multiple reasons. One is anxiety issues, which soared in intensity since I had very abruptly stopped attending therapy. I made the decision myself to stop going because it was apparent to me that my parents had some animosity and disliked paying for my sessions. I was in cognitive therapy, however, I was very unwilling to try anything my therapist suggested. That was one of the hardest times in my life. I would be so anxious about even doing anything differently in my life, like even getting suggested about trying something as small as sitting in a park near other people, was anxiety provoking enough as it was if I had to actually think about doing it.
Anyway, stay with me on this subject. All this relates back to my avoidance tendencies that I briefly mentioned in the introduction paragraph. Mainly, I perceive I have had bad experiences in school overall, and the last year I even remotely recall enjoying being in class was in fourth grade. Even now, sometimes I feel haunted by my memories of my painful experiences in school. I am trying to move past it, yet at the same time, it’s like a shadow I can’t shake off, especially since I can’t exactly wipe out memories that I want to forget forever. So not only do I have a negative outlook on my school experiences, but I have a lot of shame and embarrassment associated with my inability to have excelled in school because of my social issues. I also loath to think of when I had earned my associate’s degree, but I still drew a blank when I tried to imagine what I wanted in a career or job. I went to college because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. They say it’s normal for new college students to not know what to major in and they are able to figure it out later on, but in my case, I spent those two years in school never figuring out what I wanted to major in. Part of this indecision, I think, is due to lack of exposure. Even making an appointment to talk to a counselor about what kind of majors I could look into based on my course interests was too difficult and nerve-wracking for me. I knew I would be too nervous to talk anyway. I’m almost sure my school had a mental health services office, but I never looked into it either. After getting my associate’s, I was so anxious about the prospect of no longer being in school and still not knowing what the hell to do with my life, that I transferred to another school to continue studying for a bachelor’s. And you know already (from reading the previous paragraphs) how that went.
So, failure in both school and job seeking. I can’t begin to emphasize how nervous I get during interviews. First, there’s 24/7 skepticism going on in my head wondering if I even qualify for this job, if my lack of paid work experience will be a detriment to my chances of being hired, if I will fuck up on answering all the interview questions, etc. Not to mention that I get very self-conscious when I have to talk about myself during interviews. My stomach literally sinks to the floor every time the question, “So, tell me about yourself” comes up. Ugh.
My negativity about myself makes me believe others look at me in the same light. The problem (that relates to social anxiety) is that I get anxious when guests come over to visit. Particularly if it’s a friend of one of my parents or a relative I am not close to. The one thing that immediately strikes fear in me is how I’m being perceived. I deliberately will stay in another room where I feel comfortable just so I don’t have to see the guest or whoever is visiting. Often times, I stay away until the person leaves. This is where my school and job experiences come in. It’s embarrassing to be asked questions about how I’ve been or what I’m doing right now in my life. Are you kidding? Those are the worst questions to ask a social anxiety sufferer. Even if I see the guest for like one minute, I get hung up on how I was perceived.
My parents always speak to me in Mandarin, but when my mother has her relatives around, she switches to talking to them in the Hokkien dialect, probably out of habit. My dad is the same way with his dialect, Hakka, around his family. The problem for me is I know for sure they use their dialects, out of convenience at times, to talk about me or my brother to other people under the pretense that neither myself or my brother can understand what is being said. I may not know how to speak either dialect, but I can understand some of it for sure. And I find the way they use their dialects to be inappropriate and rude. It seems to be culturally accepted, which I find sad. My own father once told his elder sister (who hates her own daughter-in-law) to use Hakka on the phone to speak ill of the daughter-in-law since she doesn’t understand Hakka.
It’s 10x more horrible because I don’t feel my parents understand what is social anxiety. I heard my own mother tell her aunt on the phone (in Hokkien) that I’m “scared of people”. I come from an Asian background, and I do not know for a fact if Asian families are as cut off from knowledge about mental wellness, but for mine, I strongly feel my parents are from a generation where things like therapists and talking about your issues with a professional, are definitely not well understood or accepted. I’m 26 now. When I was a teenager, I definitely felt that my parents should be responsible for providing financial help for me to see a mental health professional, but now I just don’t care for their help. It’s a very touchy subject for me. I’m uncomfortable with openly explaining to them what social anxiety is, and also I’d rather just take care of my social anxiety on my own (going to SA group meetups, talking to other SA sufferers, etc).
Right now I’m in a situation where my mom has a friend over, and she’s stayed over for two nights and is leaving today. I had hoped this friend would be gone by this morning, but apparently not. They’re hanging out in the living room, too, and I can’t do downstairs and into the kitchen without having to pass this room. So now I’m stuck in my room and can’t see myself feeling comfortable enough to go downstairs. Yeah, I know this is quite possibly the dumbest thing ever for someone with social anxiety. I do feel like a prisoner of my own fears, yet also feel responsible for dealing with it myself without involving my family. That includes not talking to them about why I get uncomfortable around guests, or I just inconspicuously disappear into another room when I know there’s going to be a guest coming over the house. I disappear because I want to avoid the situation that is giving me anxiety. The times I try to push past it and just go downstairs, smile, say hi and act casual, I feel like a total fraud and almost like the other person can so obviously tell I have social anxiety. Maybe if I get accepted into that therapy services program, this is something I can try to work on overcoming. Maybe.