I’ve been struggling on how to piece this together for some time now. It’s easy for me to write about events and internal battles that have now passed or that have at least peaked- but the vulnerability of putting something out there that I’m currently at war with, takes this anxiety thing I’m about to share with you to a whole new level. But writing helps, and if I happen to get a wave of strength to actually publish this, then maybe it will help someone else at some point as well.
Here’s the thing, I have anxiety, and more predominantly- social anxiety. I didn’t actually realize how bad it was until we started helping my oldest overcome some struggles he was facing- then all those similarities started to surface. Looking back, it’s secretly been there and growing since those “good ol’ college days” when the familiarity of friends, family and small town are all gone- and you are faced with a succeed or fail environment while manoeuvring down this path of adulthood.
So what does this mean exactly? Frankly it can either explain a lot or mean nothing at all- it really depends on who are you and our relationship. The other day I realized that I’ve always had my excuse crutch and it’s always been reliable and dependable. But my excuses in reality are just excuses and in order to raise honest children, the excuses have to go. I would always have great intentions of following through with plans and events, but as it crept closer I would inevitably use my excuses and back out.
So it’s time for me to be honest- to let you know why I do the things I do and why I don’t.
I work, and always have. Work is easy for me- there is no expectation to be social or engage in small talk, no requirement to share my thoughts/feelings, and above all- it’s easy to appear as though I have all my shit together. I fulfill my job, do the work, keep the peace and when I’m faced with personal struggles- work more and harder because it’s stability, it’s comfortable and it’s a distraction. I used to blame by social outcasting on my job, then I blamed it on my husband’s job and most recent years- my children. It sounds a lot better than stating the truth- that I actually don’t feel confident or worthy enough to be in your company. The most saddening part of all is that my partner of 17 years has just realized that I do this; I had him convinced all those years that I was too busy, too tired or couldn’t find a sitter so I didn’t have to engage with others.
But you know what’s not easy?
Purposely being looked at.
It’s the requirement to be off script, to make an error or speak out of turn. It’s the fear of being ridiculed for how you look, what you say (or don’t say), life choices, stature, where I live/don’t live, education level and most importantly- our opinions and stance. I believe in things that most don’t, I encourage diversity in ways others won’t and I’m so afraid to be a failure that I can’t stop giving everything all the time. Some consider that a good trait- but in my mind, I’m actually a failure if I can’t succeed at them all. And the perpetual self-doubt I’m experiencing, I perceive it as a failure to you directly my friend- so it’s best just then to avoid you. And now that the kids are entering school age- the moment I step foot on school ground, I can feel the palpitations starting with this whole new increased level of judgement.
To save you from diving down a giant rabbit hole, I won’t even get started on all of the other anxiety sources- that’s a revelation for quite another day.
So the question becomes: How does one get passed all this? How do you deal with it?
Well mostly I’m still working that out (hence why this is not yet a passed issue). But otherwise, I use my kids. Yep- I just said that, now let me explain…
For anyone that has known me for a very long time (and might have some littles running in their circles too) may have noticed that I do more than I used to. Sorry friends- that doesn’t include group dates, dinners, weekend trips, online groups or events- those are still a giant taboo in my head. My outings are now the birthday parties (even those are tough sometimes), exploring, playgrounds and zoo trips. I know I have insecurities- but I won’t allow my perceptions to ruin the childhood experiences of my children.
I will continuously swallow my stomach and silently shallow breathe if it means my boys get to ride on a monster truck or eat sticky cotton candy or tell nonsense jokes around the fire with their friends. This is my battle, and I will not allow them to be isolated from making memories or having a free childhood because I struggled to look in the mirror that day. I’m working on the self-assurance that not every person I encounter is judging, but it’s what I’ve always remembered knowing- so it takes time.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to ramble with my writing and keep putting myself out there (even it only means holding the hand of a child admiring vintage tractors), as one day I like to think that there will be someone else that knows exactly what I’m feeling and this may explain the things that they can’t.