Wouldn’t you know it, just when I survived the nightmare of Halloween, this happens: people start to have parties. And even worse: I get invited!
I guess they just can’t help it. The weather is getting chilly; and it’s no fun to do outdoor things. They see pumpkins and they think of pie. They see the first snowflakes and they think of turkey dinners. They go into stores and hear holiday music. Soon everyone will be fa-la-la-ing all over the place, and they will want me to join in.
The sheer horror of it all!
Sometimes the feeling is overwhelming. You think about a room filled with people, and you just want to sit alone and hide. All sorts of worries flood your mind: will I be able to talk? What if I don’t like the food? What if I have to use the bathroom? Will anyone like me?
These questions – and more – can seem mundane, perhaps even “stupid” or “silly” to the average person. But not to you. This is what Social Anxiety Disorder does to you. It can be crippling. And so it was with me, a mere two days after Halloween and I was invited to an “open house” party.
“Open house” seemed like a scary term. All that I could think about was that I would be swallowed up in a sea of humanity. After all, if your house is open, what’s to prevent everyone from coming in?
The Big Question
I didn’t want to go. That’s all that I could think about. And then I came face to face with the big question: why don’t you want to go? The answer to that was because I was scared to go. And since I have promised NOT to avoid anything because of fear, I knew that I had to go.
Fear was not going to get the best of me – no matter what. I used the technique of “self-talk” to keep a positive sense of determination, and I tried my best not to think about the outing until just before I had to leave the house. This minimizes worry. I kept myself distracted – it works.
Out of the Comfort Zone
I left the house and left my comfort zone, arriving at a strange home with many people I did not know. There was a buffet on the table and a football game on the big screen television. I grabbed a bite to eat – whatever I felt safe with – selected a comfortable place to sit, and tried to stay calm. Once in a while, I had to sit on my hands so that no one would notice me shaking.
Soon a man came over, introduced himself to me, and asked me about the football game.
“Good,” I thought, “I know a bit about football. I will be able to have a conversation.”
And so we did. The more comfortable I became, the more I spoke until I became a chatterbox. Then I had to remind myself not to be too talkative or to be too didactic by using big words like didactic. People don’t like that.
Things were going smoothly until one of the hosts plopped a huge bowl of M & M’s right in front of me. Reflecting back to the horror of the previous day, I broke into a cold sweat. Luckily I was distracted when my team ran down the field and scored a touchdown. Crisis averted (after a few handfuls of the tasty morsels).
All in all, the day wasn’t easy for me. But I will admit that right now I am very happy because I was able to stay much longer than I had anticipated – and I was able to relax. I won’t lie, it pretty much sucks to feel anxious and socially awkward, and to have to struggle with this every single time I do anything; but I look at the alternative. I am not going to hide. I am not going to sit alone at home. I will go out and do things and have fun.
The holiday season is coming, and I anticipate many blog entries about how to cope with the days ahead. I am even going to give a lecture – in public – at a luncheon that could have around 100 people there. I am sure that you will hear about that, too. Here’s hoping that you are making progress in whatever you are struggling with.
Stay strong – and enjoy life!