I’ve written before about social anxiety and how it runs me down sometimes. And unfortunately, the only weapons I have to use against it are distraction (works a lot, but not always, and thankfully pretty easy to come by) and reassurance (works EVERY TIME when it’s sincere, but much harder to find because it requires another person who is willing to listen and will then be sincere back to me about whatever the anxiety trigger was).
I have less than a handful of friends who provide reassurance for me (all but one of them struggles with social anxiety too), but J is unquestioningly the person in my life who gives me the most reassurance. I know this is social anxiety talking (for something that convinces me to rarely speak, it seems to never shut up), but I am astounded DAILY that J still gives me patient, consistent reassurance and I’ve not totally worn him down. But I haven’t. Social anxiety is relentless, but J can still beat it. He seems to never tire.
J doesn’t say much. He’s not a wordy man. But the short phrases he regularly repeats to me really count. His words of reassurance are a grand expression of love to me. I feel loved every time he says them…’I love you,’ obviously, but also…
- I’m right here.
- I’m not going anywhere.
- It’s/everything’s gonna be okay.
- We’ll get through this.
- It’s/you’re alright.
- I know/I understand.
Other people say some of those things to me at times when they can tell I’m anxious, and sometimes it works. Sometimes they mean it. It works when I can tell they mean it. But sometimes (often?) they are just placating words to say to get me to stop pacing or crying or dumping an anxious thought spiral on them. They mean well. I can feel that. But they don’t really mean the words. I can feel that too. The problem with saying those words to someone to curb a SOCIAL anxiety spiral is, when they come across as disingenuous, or hollowly pacifying, they don’t provide any comfort. What happens is, it makes things worse. Like…I can sense that the words are being said as ONLY an attempt to stop the expression of anxiety, which makes me want to curl up and stop expressing myself. Those words, when said to stop the expression instead of the root of the actual anxiety only create more anxiety. I can tell it’s bothering people that I’m talking/having a rough time/expressing myself around them (which is exactly the problem I normally need reassurance about…feeling like I’m bothering people when I talk to them or express myself around them, particularly about needs or problems). So to appease them, and stop upsetting them, I need to shut up. Which is exactly what social anxiety wants me to do.
But I know J always means all of it. He doesn’t lie to me. I can feel that he’s not lying to me when he says those things. He’s earned my complete trust, which can’t really be said for the vast majority of adult humanity. I mean…it’s only J and those other less than a handful of people, and those other folks? I love them dearly. I’m immensely thankful for their priceless presence in my life every day. The people who ‘get it.’ The people who let me let things out with them in order to process them myself without making me feel like a constant drag or burden. But they aren’t J. J saying THOSE words severely wounds social anxiety every time, and usually kills it. Because he’s put so much time and effort and patience into building my trust in him. I know he’s always honest and BELIEVES the words he’s saying. He’s not just trying to silence me for his convenience.
Today’s love song is how I feel when J loves me through a bad run of social anxiety or a panic episode. I’m so grateful for him and his superhuman patience and his loving honesty…Sheryl Crow’s I Shall Believe. J always tells me honestly he won’t give up on me. And I always believe him. Because I’m confident that I can.