Lately, social anxiety has been a pretty major struggle for me.
I don’t normally like to dwell on and inside negative emotions, but brushing them aside and pretending like they aren’t still eating at me doesn’t really solve any problems, so this post is probably going to be a tad dark and down and self-indulgent to try to work through some of the overwhelming insecurity I’m feeling.
I’m doing this because I feel like not talking about this shit is hindering me from writing new fiction. And that makes me unhappy. So…without further adieu, here comes all the garbage so I can get back to writing emotional, sappy, happy ending fiction.
I have a historical reputation for being cold and distant. That’s earned, but I am not really a cold, distant person. I form very deep, intimate attachments to people when I form them. This isn’t just a romantic thing with me, like it is with J. It’s with friendships too. It’s hard for me to open up and share myself with people. I know that seems like a weird thing for someone who writes a blog that is arguably pretty personal and love-story heavy, sentimental fiction to say…but it’s true. But it actually seems pretty easy for people to open themselves up and share with me, and I do try very hard to be accepting and embracing of whatever they share and whoever they reveal themselves to be, as long as that’s not hurting me or someone else. And there are a lot of people who like me being THEIR friend, at least through confusing or hard times in their lives (relationship issues with parents or siblings or spouses or children…job loss…grief…). Or even extra happy times in their lives (new love interest…planning a big trip…a wedding…having a baby…) I’m happy to be there for other people and I think I have a great capacity for empathy and sharing other people’s joy and pain, and I actually get satisfaction out of being there for other people. But I’ve noticed that leaves me feeling out of balance a lot. And when I’m feeling off kilter, and I do reach out to someone I have finally decided to trust and share myself…and it’s usually something positive (I’ve reached a breakthrough in self-awareness…J and I have a big relationship milestone coming up…The Boy is growing into a fine young man; listen to what happened with him the other day…I finished a new writing piece; would you mind reading it for me?…), I feel the distance from OTHER PEOPLE. I always get the impression that the effort I ask for from them is asking too much. Whether that’s actually the truth or just the loudness of social anxiety is irrelevant most of the time. The feeling is there, regardless of the reason.
The most special people in my life are the handful of souls (particularly J, but…there are a couple of other folks…my true friends…) who convince me it’s just loud, dishonest anxiety talking. But I have a host of evidence that many of these people…and most of the time…I’m right. It’s not anxiety lying. It’s intuition and pattern marking being honest. That distance I feel is real. The, ‘I’m not good to talk to/I’m not good company right now…’ isn’t them altruistically trying to spare me the shared burden of whatever they are carrying. It’s almost always really, ‘I don’t have the capacity to carry YOUR shit right now,’ even when my ‘shit’ is, ‘I’m happy about this thing and I’d like to share it with you; one of the finite number of people I trust with my insides.’
So I pull away.
I know there are countless memes and ‘inspirational’ and life advice-type snippets floating around in cyberspace that thank those ‘low maintenance,’ ‘easy-going’ friends who just understand that life gets busy, and you don’t have time to talk and text and get together all the time, but can just pick right up where you left off 14 years ago, the last time I made time for them in my busy, important life. And I get it. Life IS busy. And sometimes really hard. And I know that not everyone is blessed (yes BLESSED) with my life of relative financial and relationship stability. But when I reach out to a person (which is difficult for me…and if I am reaching out to a person?…they KNOW that’s difficult for me, because I’ve told them and they’ve seen it), sometimes multiple times over months, and they make no attempt to contact me back? Well…I let go.
And I think people consider that cold of me, because they think it doesn’t hurt me to let go. It does though. By the time I let go of people, I’ve usually taken a whole bunch of damage.
I’ve had to let go of a person in the past couple of months that I honestly thought I’d never let go of. I thought she’d be there forever. I admit that I’m very golden-retriever-like and wildly optimistic, so I think that about a lot of people it’s not true of, but still. When I’ve invested a lot of myself in a person; when I’ve been there for them repeatedly; and when I’ve made it clear I want to be there for them…and when they’ve assured me they want to reciprocate, but then don’t and repeatedly show me that they really don’t have any intention or capability of being there for me…I have to let go. And it hurts. Letting go DOES hurt me. A lot. What gets me when I let go of a person I feel really close to is that I suspect they know damn well just how SMALL of an effort on their part it would take to keep me hanging on (they’ve watched me hang on for a long time with chafed raw hands with other people), but they think I’m not worth that small effort. I’m not worth saying something. Even when they know I’m giving up.
Hopefully this pity party post opens up some writing avenues this afternoon and the rest of this week. Hopefully it at least makes me feel less heavy and more cheerful. Thanks for reading it. And all the other stuff I write.