Resisting social anxiety, holiday edition.
Anxiety has been a mighty foe of mine since forever. In addition to missing outings and events, it has severed my ties to my friends and colleagues. My world grew much smaller, but I didn’t even feel it happening.
When I was forced to leave my home 3+ months ago, I knew that social contact was essential. I had a safe, private space in my friend’s guest room. They also afforded me lots of family time – family meals, movie nights, etc.
Missing was general social contact. So I set out to mend my safety net and do the things I used to decline.
- Phone calls. I thought I disliked talking on the phone, so I avoided at all costs. I made a list of friends whom I knew I could count on to walk with me during all of this heartache. And I started to call them. Weekly. I explained why and they were very much up for it.
- Texting. One of my friends has sent me a DM every single day since August 27. When she’s traveling. On holidays. She hasn’t missed a day. Sometimes, we chat. Sometimes, a quick hello is sufficient. Another friend can text at work, but not talk so we text. Occasionally, I scroll through my old messages and reach out to friends with whom it’s been awhile.
- Outings. I willingly went shopping at a Kohl’s on a Saturday afternoon for more than an hour (OMG). With a friend. My older nephew and I have a weekly Starbucks date. When someone in the family asks me to ride along on an errand, I force myself to go because it’s healthy and helpful. Yesterday, I went to review a play with a friend.
- Meals. I don’t have a car, so I jump if someone wants to grab a bite. Lots of trips to Eat n Park, but also other places. I took the nephews to Waffles Incaffeinated. Again, it’s not the food alone. It’s the fellowship.
None of this has been easy. It has required practice, self-discipline, and this deep urge to make changes, so I’m never vulnerable again. It has required work and attention. Social anxiety is not to be taken lightly.
I remember the first, second, and third time I went to court this fall. At first, I was terrified, overwhelmed, and struggled to ask simple questions. By the third time, I wasn’t comfortable but I knew enough to bring a support person and prepare myself.
And I’ve realized that I’m not as socially anxious as I thought. I look forward to phone calls. I’m excited about seeing old friends. Once I woke up for a 7 AM phone call when the other person had time to talk. Each interaction strengthens my resiliency and that in turn strengthens my resolve to push forward.
I do still experience anxiety. This terrible experience hasn’t been some sort of healing silver lining. The energy I spend on all of my practices to manage anxiety is quite a bit. Is it sustainable? Likely not, but I hope I can at least carry some of the lessons forward as the next chapter of my saga unfolds. But more on that later.
I am unsure if it is just my exercises, the shock of the trauma I’ve endured, or magic. Or perhaps some combination of the above.
But today as I stood in line at the restroom during intermission at City Theatre, I struck up a robust debate about how to use wordplay to apply famous Jane Austen quotes to the situation.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in a single line to use the restroom must be in want of ….<insert>”
I have not overcome anxiety in the least. I have used it to square my shoulders, take a deep breath, and continue to live a life that has meaning and purpose for me. Anxiety keeps me humble. It gives me cause to look back at my life to determine how I went from a person to a person with anxiety in 2006 – I remember the conversation with Dr. Nelson well. It changed my world. But I’m not sure I like it.
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