To all the people I’ve crossed the road to avoid, it’s not you, it’s me, honestly!
I’m sure we’ve all done it at some point, haven’t we? We all have our own reasons for not wanting to talk to someone or make eye contact. Maybe you’ve had a long day, it’s been a bad day or you quite simply are not in best of moods. We all have our reasons, don’t we?
But have you ever thought to yourself, upon catching sight of someone “Oh I haven’t seen you for so long, how have you been? It’s lovely to be able to catch up!” But by the time the conversation has run through your head, you are mentally worn out from steeling yourself for the upcoming small talk that you have now subconsciously made the effort to avoid them. Thus reducing any semblance of human interaction to a simple nod or smile or a “hey how are you” shouted over a road of busy traffic. You see, I have and quite frequently do.
So trust me, it’s really not you, it is me. Socialising and making small talk, being surrounded by more than a few select people, it takes effort. A physical and mental effort which, I am not going to lie is draining.
“But I can see you scrolling on your phone” you are thinking. And yes, I totally am. Because the words on my screen require no effort from me and little to no interaction. I’m not trying to be rude, I promise. I am just simply trying to cope.
So you just don’t like people?
Yes and no. True yet false all at the same time. I can handle you one on one and if I feel comfortable, you will no doubt find the chatty me, slightly sarcastic, deadpan and more self-deprecating than is possibly healthy. That is when I am fine and I put on quite the show of looking and being ‘normal’
But stick me in a situation where I feel a little self-conscious and awkward or where there are a lot of people? You can say hello to the deafeningly silent other side of me as my social anxiety kicks in full throttle. So yes, it is false but also very slightly true. Saying I don’t like people, to me, means crowds of people and interacting with others so much it is draining, leaving me feeling like I need a day in bed to recover (a social hangover if you will!)
The side that fidgets nervously whilst constantly checking out her surrounding whilst simultaneously wondering if she can get away with leaving now. The person who checks her phone so much it literally never leaves her hand, even if it is in her bag.
Because honestly, it is a safety blanket.
It is something to occupy my time and attention whilst I wait for leaving time when I can go home. A time when I can lock myself away to lie down and not talk or interact with anyone. Something resembling bliss.
So whilst you may see me and think me rude or unsociable, I really do not mean to be. Turning down your invitations over and over so you stop including me. It stings but is totally understandable and I know. I know exactly how it looks and must feel for others but honestly, sometimes I quite simply can’t. It’s not me really just my social anxiety tightening it’s grip once more.
Can’t do what you think? Or spend time with your friends? Spend time enjoying yourself? Again this couldn’t more true yet false all at the same time. Imagine pushing yourself to do something you are so completely and utterly terrified of and then imagine doing that in a room full of others. Carrying with you that feeling that not only is everyone watching you but also talking about how silly you look sat there pretending to be normal. Because try as you might, you cannot think of anything to say and sit nervously looking around just in case someone does try to engage you in small talk. “Stop being so paranoid,” you say. “No one is even paying any attention to you!” You may know that. Hell, even I know that, but that doesn’t block out the thoughts of the feelings. it doesn’t magically make them stop. It really doesn’t work like that.
Right then, in that moment, in that situation, all I can think of is what on earth am I going to say. Alongside worrying about having to mingle or even wait in a bathroom queue/the bar/counter/etc with other people. You may not see the fear, the stress, the nervousness but it is there. The odd lip bites or drumming of fingers a slight giveaway but can you see I am doing my best to hide it? Or am I not hiding my social anxiety all that well?
So excuse when I make my excuses not to come or blow you off. Or choose to not introduce myself or join in a conversation with you and/or others I don’t know. Or even cross the road when you see me coming you see, it isn’t really you. It most definitely is me. Me and my social anxiety.