anxiety · avoidance tendencies · social anxiety

Unwanted Housemate

So what I feared has come to pass. My brother’s friend came last night and is staying over until sometime tomorrow when he’ll be driven to the airport by my brother. I suppose since the airport is closer from here rather than my brother’s own apartment and that’s why both of them are staying over. Of course being in the same space as a complete stranger, especially in my own home, gives me a lot of anxiety. I’m not so deluded that I expect my parents to not let people stay over if they have a friend or relative visiting, just because I get anxious being home when strangers are around. In the past, I would just hide in my room all day and not come downstairs unless it was to eat because I didn’t want to see whoever was staying over.

The houseguest arrived late in the evening yesterday. I was already comfortably tucked into my bed and in the midst of reading a book when I heard a lot of noise coming from downstairs. Just the knowledge that the stranger I so feared was now in the house made my heart race. I was at least grateful that my earplugs muffled the voices so I could pretend they didn’t exist. I told myself what I had to in order to calm myself down.

I finished my book (it was so engrossing I had to get to the end) and went to bed a little earlier than usual. I conked out and awoke to my alarm the next morning. I laid awake for a few moments before I heard footsteps in the next room to mine. The footsteps were obviously not my brother’s so I deducted that the guest had slept upstairs.

I know my descriptions are ridiculous regarding how far I go to avoid a person I could just say “hi” to and get it over with, especially since the guest in question is flying home to Germany on Wednesday. Whatever small impression he gets off me between today and tomorrow (if I allow myself to be in his presence at all) won’t matter since the chances of he and I crossing paths ever again are very slim. I know this but I’ve spent the entire day away from home all because I don’t want to chance it. 

The guest had accidentally pulled down the whole shower curtain along with the pole which was holding it up. My brother got me to help hold up one side of the pole as he fixed the other side. At this point, the guest had already gone downstairs and was no longer upstairs so I didn’t get a chance to see him at all. After the curtain and pole were set back in place, my brother asked if I met his friend. The simple and honest answer would’ve been to say no but I was too scared if I admitted that no I haven’t met him yet, he would realize that I was purposely being avoidant. I was so panic stricken that I could only muster an “mhm” as a substitute response. I meant to come off as surprised or even confused by his question, which I know makes no sense but this is what I do when I want to prolong myself from giving a proper answer to a question I do not want to answer. Now I’m concerned my “mhm” came across as an affirmative yeah I met him because my brother didn’t prompt me with anything else after that.

If this was a regular day, I would’ve gone to yoga class in the afternoon, probably grabbed a quick bite somewhere, kill time in a cafe by reading or cross stitching, and then return home happy as a clam. Instead, I stayed out well past the afternoon because I dreaded with an intense fervor that my brother would suggest eating out together as a group. He never once implied that he wanted to but the fear of it becoming a reality is what drove me to not want to be home for dinner. I arrived early enough for yoga and but before that, I did some light shopping at the craft store. I ended up skipping yoga it in favor of lunch since I didn’t anticipate the hunger pains I’d feel. I usually don’t really eat lunch when I’m out. The reason is that I don’t like using money so if I have to, I settle for the cheapest thing. But I made myself eat since the yoga studio was within walking distance and I knew I’d have no energy to walk if I was that low on fuel. Then I waited for the next yoga class at 6 pm. I ate a sandwich dinner afterward. I spent another hour journaling before I made my way to the subway station to begin the inevitable ride home.

During this, my mind kept squirming for a way out of this. I toyed with the notion that my brother and his friend wouldn’t even be back yet when I get home. Perhaps they will be asleep and I can go to my room without any interaction? Like a reverse version of a stalker, I secretly watched from behind my blacked out curtains this morning when the two of them left and walked down the street, as a sag of relief settled in me knowing that I could see them going away and I no longer had to hear them in the vicinity of the house.

I know I’m making this situation a lot bigger than it is. My avoidance of strangers in the home setting is just the tip of the iceberg for what the actual problem is within me. Even around my brother and my parents, if I know they are going to be home, to a certain degree it makes me hypersensitive to be on the same floor as them knowing that they know I am in my room or somewhere in the house. I even feel uncomfortable watching tv in the living room if I know my mom is going to be sitting there scrolling on her phone. I guess for me it’s a mixture of wanting to do whatever at home without being seen/noticed by people because I’m constantly worried or scared about receiving negative feedback from others even if people aren’t showing any sign of disliking me or judging me for how I choose to spend my time. What I get caught up thinking about is my own perception of myself which I automatically assume is how other people view me. An example is if I decide on one day to stay home and work on something in my room for some of the day. While I myself know I am doing something, I get hypersensitive about perceiving that whoever is home doesn’t know what I’m doing in my room since I don’t actively share unless people ask me what I was up to and even then I get terribly flustered and

What I get caught up thinking about is my own perception of myself which I automatically assume is how other people view me. An example is if I decide on one day to stay home and work on something in my room for some of the day. While I myself know I am doing something, I get hypersensitive about perceiving that whoever is home doesn’t know what I’m doing in my room since I don’t actively share unless people ask me what I was up to and even then I get terribly flustered and self-conscious about explaining myself. It could be something as innocuous as being in my room working on some cross stitch designs and I would still be overtly shy about sharing this info and then I’ll also be massively concerned that people will somehow disapprove of my activity or reproach me for wasting my time in this manner.

So I got home. I could see the living room lights were on before going in. I prepared to see my brother and his friend on the couch but I was surprised to open the door and see no one there. I did see my dad in the kitchen though so I assumed the guys had tired themselves out and gone to sleep. Instead, my dad told me (on his way up to bed) that my brother and his friend were probably not going to be home tonight. I was dumbfounded at the news. Gradually I started to feel sheepish as well since I had convinced myself wholeheartedly about how things would go with the guest and I once I got home. Fortune telling never works, I know, but it’s only after when the situation doesn’t happen the way I assume it will that I feel like a complete asshole for my assumptions. Now I just feel bad. I was writing off my brother’s friend without even knowing him because that’s how skewed my mind is when I’m in anxiety panic mode.

In other unrelated (or related) news, I joined an anxiety treatment group that will last for at least 12 weeks. It’s essentially group therapy that is in a school and for the person running the group, the treatment is for research purposes. Since it’s free to join and space is limited, I am giving it a go. Today I had a sort of intake session via a phone call but it was mostly to see if I meet the criteria to be part of the program. I also need to come in for an in-person assessment that will be on Friday.

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4 thoughts on “Unwanted Housemate

  1. I haven’t had roommates for most of my life. I’ve invited people to stay over if they came in to town, desparetly hoping they never took me up on it. I don’t know what I’d do if they did, and they would be someone I knew. I couldn’t imagine having a stranger in the house! I doubt I’d sleep. My thoughts are with you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah I’m surprised I am able to sleep under the same roof as the guest. And I was wrong about him leaving on Wednesday, ugh. He is still here today (Thursday) but went out this morning with one of my brother’s friends and hasn’t been back while my brother is currently at work. I pray he doesn’t return till well after having dinner. Or that maybe he will hang out till very late and just crash at my brother’s apartment like he did on Tuesday night. I feel too awkward to even stay in my room during daylight hours because he sleeps in my brother’s bed and to get to my room I need to walk past that room. This morning I only felt safe enough go past when I saw his door was still closed. He saw me when he came down to grab some clothes from his suitcase and said good morning to me. My god, I was so caught off guard that I responded with a barely audible “hey” and a shoddy semblance of a smile.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I find it amusing (and sometimes unnerving) how we automatically respond due to cultural norms. I used to literally smile at everyone I passed whether on the street or hall or wherever. I think maybe it stems from a need to be accepted like if they smiled back that meant I was okay. If they didn’t I somehow felt, I don’t know, like something was wrong with me. Recently I’ve been practicing not smiling unless they smile at me first. It’s hard and I feel like crap, like I’m somehow hurting the other person!! However, I also noticed that when I go to the VA hospital, most of us at least nod to each other in acknowledgment. It’s like we have this unspoken connection, camaraderie if you will since many of us going to the VA came out of the military somehow broken. That makes it hard going into other institutional buildings where literally no one smiles or acknowledges anyone else.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m the opposite where I feel the unspoken rule in some places in NYC is you’re not supposed to smile at random strangers because it comes off as creepy and unwanted. Or at least that’s the perception I grew up with so I obeyed that rule. Sometimes I do notice how silly people, including myself, are. It’s such a common thing to use the subway as transportation in NYC and yet it feels kinda ridiculous to think about everyone occupying almost same space in the train car but no one talks to each other lol. Panhandlers are an occasional sight on subways and often a lone panhandler addresses everyone collectively to ask for spare change, but I dread the times I see panhandlers coming up to each person individually to ask for money! I’m terrible when someone attempts to talk to me like that. I feel scared to answer in front of all those people and many a time I have pretended to be asleep rather than let the person come to me.

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