I haven’t been to that many social anxiety group meetups yet, and have only hosted my own event within the group three times. It’s not that I don’t believe exposure hasn’t helped dispel some of my prenotions and fears about being at the event itself, but I’m uncertain if I can ever reach a point where I won’t lose some sleep the prior night because I’m nervous about being at the event, or agonize over how things will go at the event. I browse the RSVP list just to see who signed up. I’ll check the night before and then again on the morning of the event (because people tend to change their RSVPs from yes to no hours before the event). I cringe internally if I see a name on the RSVP list of someone I have met at a previous event but haven’t really talked to. I get nervous thinking about what I should say to the person. If I see the name of someone I consider either a good acquaintance or a good friend, I will also feel nervous about seeing the person for the same reason.
Quite possibly the worst is when I try to plan in my head what I want to say to the person and try to come up with questions or topics I’d like to bring up, but when the time comes for me to be face-to-face with the person, I get so tongue tied that my brain goes blank and all I can stutter out is a greeting before I fall silent. Or, the questions are on the tip of my tongue but it’s like my voice box has gone mute and I’m rendered incapable of speaking because of the overload of anxiety.
I read a piece of advice on the internet today about exposure that said people often can’t control how they feel in a situation, but they can control how they act. Is this even possible for me? It seems every time I try to reprogram my brain to try doing the opposite of what I usually do in a situation that is making me anxious, I just end up freezing and falling immediately back into my old habit of being very quiet. I become quiet, and my logic in why I feel the need to be quiet is quite illogical now that I think about it. I go silent in the hopes of not drawing attention to myself because I feel extremely uncomfortable and am telling myself internally to “ABORT THE MISSION”, but being quiet most likely causes the attention to fall on me even though it’s the opposite of what I wanted. Maybe my self-realization of this unintended impression I am giving other people can help me change my behavior. I guess what I need to practice is trying harder to fight my body’s instinct to withdraw when I feel my anxiety soaring.