Anxiety Makes Me Have a Love/Hate Relationship With My Social Life
The other night I was supposed to have a bunch of friends over. I made the event on Facebook weeks in advance when I was feeling really social, checking off “interested” to a ton of other events in anticipation that I would soon be doing all the things. I felt like I was coming out of my lethargic, winter-long hibernation — which happens every year. I wondered why I had felt the need to hide away in my apartment for so long even, and was optimistic that things were going to change… but then, my anxiety hit.
Suddenly it would be the middle of the day with nothing going on and I’d feel like I was going to die. My heart would race, I’d start to feel shaky and my mind would be filled with dread. This led to lucid nightmares when I was sleeping, and nauseating tension when I was awake. This spring-induced anxiety — just like my winter-long hibernation — is common every year. But for some reason, just like how I forget how cold it can get every. single. time., I forgot that when the sun starts to come out and I want to make plans, my body’s like, nah.
By the day of my event, I had so much anxiety that it woke me up throughout the night with panic attacks. I remember thinking while I slept that I felt like a failure. There are so many things I want to do with my life — some simpler like making friends and traveling, and others that are more complicated like running a magazine — but how could I do any of it when I couldn’t even face my friends coming over?
People have told me that I seem like an extrovert because I have a big smile, I’m friendly and I’m not scared to talk to people. I like being around people — but my anxiety makes it difficult to be around them for very long. It tires me out to be social, so when I’m already exhausted from my mind racing, the last thing I want to do is go out and worry about what people think of me. I know it seems like there’s an easy solution: just stop caring about what people think! But it’s not a matter of having low self-esteem. I’m a very confident and happy person. Of course I have my insecurities — but that’s normal. A lot of the time I can let those insecurities go… but when I have anxiety — which is most of the time — it completely distorts my perception of things.
People ask me to do interviews sometimes, and because of my anxiety, it makes it hard for me to get my thoughts together. I start to overthink everything I’m saying. Even when I’m out with my partner, who I’m incredibly comfortable around, I constantly worry about saying the right words — and because of this, my mind often goes blank. Once, I was out at a bar meeting my ex’s friends and they asked how we met. Suddenly, it was like my mind had a seizure halfway through the story and all my thoughts jumbled together. I pushed through to the end while sweating uncontrollably, fully knowing that I wasn’t making any sense — and then cried myself to sleep when I got home.
The only time I feel like I can express myself properly is inside my head or when I write it out. Texting and messaging is majorly how I communicate while running my magazine. It’s super frustrating when I’m trying to make a point verbally and my brain just can’t put together what I’m trying to say, but when I’m writing it down, I feel like I can breathe. This could also be due to the fact that I have dyspraxia and ADHD — which can make language difficult. And of course sometimes I have days when I have almost no anxiety. But the only time I don’t seem to have anxiety is when I’m drunk… and I’m not sure if it’s easier to express myself then or if I just don’t care.
Working from home on my magazine has given me the advantage of being able to work around my anxiety. But it doesn’t help that I’m alone more often, either. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m more comfortable being alone or just that I’m so used to it. I feel much happier having a nice dinner and watching a movie by myself than going out to be around people — but I also find that my anxiety gets better the more I’m around people, and the more I feel better, the more I want to be around others (as long as I have time alone in between to recharge). So, I often plan to go to events— and sometimes I make it out and have a great time, and sometimes I cancel and watch Netflix at home. It’s a constant struggle, and I’ve tried a lot of things (medication, meditation, attempting to become an alcoholic) — but I’m still on the lookout for what works for me (I’m currently exploring medical marijuana).
Anxiety is more than just being scared to do something. A lot of the time I’m super lonely and I don’t want to be alone — but my body physically makes me sick at the thought of leaving my apartment. However, I’ve found that it helps to find your tribe. The last couple of years I’ve been going to more events and meeting more people who are open to talking about their struggles — and as it turns out, a lot of people have anxiety. It actually works to go to a party and just be like, “Hey, my name’s Amanda and I’m having a lot of anxiety today,” — and a lot of the time people will be understanding, or even like, “hey, me too!” People bond over their struggles. And now, I have all these friends who share mine.
If you also have a love/hate relationship with being social and don’t know what you have to offer by showing up to an event, remember that at least you can help someone else feel less alone by talking about what you’re going through. Chances are, someone else there almost didn’t come because they were struggling with anxiety too. And, if you feel the need to cancel your plans because you just don’t feel up to it, remember it’s good that you’re taking care of yourself and you should be proud that you’re doing that. At least, that’s what my friends tell me.
Unsplash photo via Shwa Hall