I’m a chronic plans canceler, there I said it, but that doesn’t make me a bad friend. My excitement when I originally made plans with you was genuine, it wasn’t fake. You’re my friend, and I love you, and it’s always exciting to spend time with you. I mean, nothing makes me happier than to enjoy a margarita, and a plate of nachos together. But what happened from the time we made the plans to when it was actually time to go is a battle I’m exhausted of fighting.
See, the moment I realize that tonight I have to leave the comfort zone of my house, my heart starts to beat a bit faster. I get this clammy feeling and I feel a little nauseous, but it has nothing to do with you. It’s all me and my head, believe me. I suffer from social anxiety, a condition triggered by social interaction that heightens… no… maximizes the anxiety in my body. I know it’s difficult to understand, because you’ve known me forever and we’ve spent countless nights together that you probably didn’t realize I was anxious, so let me explain.
The anxiety is already looming over me when I put the address into google maps. The phone will guide me with as much ease as a computer can, she’ll tell me every turn to make, when to switch lanes and prepare to exit a highway but none of that will stop the anxiety from fueling the circling thoughts in my mind. I know I’ll be okay, it’s just the build-up before even stepping foot in my car that paralyzes me.
And the thought of walking into a restaurant alone, terrifies me. Absolutely leaves me in shambles. Will there be a hostess who will immediately show me to the table? What if there is no one there and I have to stand there awkwardly and wait? What if there are no seats at the bar? Then what do I do? I don’t know if you want to wait for a seat to open or choose another place?
When my social anxiety takes over, I lose trust in my own decisions. I don’t think that what I want is going to make you happy. I end up telling myself you’re just going to regret asking me to hangout, that I’m too much of a burden to keep around, that I can’t even walk into a restaurant without panicking.
And let’s say, I actually do make it to the happy hour. We’ll sit and I’ll be two margaritas deep and I have to wee. Any other person would stand up, excuse herself, and scurry on to the bathroom without a worry in the world. Me, though, that’s not the case.
The thought of having to get up and walk across a room full of people to the bathroom makes me want to throw up. My social anxiety makes me hate the feeling of having other people’s eyes on me. They’re all hanging out at the bar, laughing, watching sports and making jokes, probably thinking “what is she doing here?” I feel that other women look at me with pity, like they feel bad for me or something. And men? Well, luckily, to men I’m basically invisible… unless they’re looking at me with that ‘yikes’ look.
That’s only an inkling of what it’s like to live with social anxiety. It’s being terribly uncomfortable in a crowd of people, of wishing and praying I could find an excuse to go home and curl up in bed. I don’t even remotely feel like myself in social situations. I lost track of what I’m saying, where my mind is, what my voice sounds like… It’s hard to explain if you’ve never experienced it. But I hope on some level you understand.
Because I do cherish our friendship, more than you probably even realize. I don’t want to lose you or have you thinking I don’t care about you, it’s just my social anxiety getting in the way of our friendship. I’m trying though, every day. I’m a work in progress and maybe one day I won’t feel as consumed by this feeling, but for right now, that’s where I’m at. So just remember that you are important to me and I need you in my life, but it would mean the world to me if you understood how worked up I get when we make plans to go out.
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