On the extremely off chance that you ever see me out, just know that I am probably waiting for it to be over. If you acknowledge me, I will probably respond in a series of fragments I’m trying to pass off as small talk while I’m actually busy drowning in a sea of self-doubt. Whether it’s a small set of acquaintances, a crowded house party, my two best friends or my boyfriend, it seems that no matter how much I like someone, my cocktail of panic, anxiety and depression make every single moment with them taxing.
My knee-jerk reaction to every single, “Hey, want to hang out?” text is some sort of angst-ridden, guttural moan or screaming followed by intense guilt due to the initial reaction. Thank God for texts, though. Imagine me making that noise over the phone or in person.
Nobody wants to hang out with someone just because that person feels guilty about saying no, so this led me to mull over what exactly causes me to make decisions about social interactions.
First is the anxiety. When someone invites me to a party, out to eat, to the movies or anything really, I become possessed by anxious energy.
How many people will be there? Will I know any of them? What will I wear? Do I need to shower? Roughly how many people at this place have been sick in the last week? Who will have sat in the chair before me? What if my blood sugar is running low but there’s nothing I feel safe eating? What if there is no clean bathroom in which to wash my hands? What if my IBS starts acting up? What if people can sense that I’m not having fun and get mad at me? What if someone brings up a controversial subject and I can’t resist giving my input? Were my hands clean the last time I touched my makeup brushes? Are my clothes clean? Did something bad happen the last time I wore these clothes? Should I use 24 or 25 pumps of hand soap right now? Will it dry my hair out if I have to wash it for the second time today when this gathering is over? Where is my emergency hand sanitizer? What if I throw up? What if I need to poop? What if I die? What if I die in a mortifying way? Isn’t all death mortifying? What if I can’t have fun because nothing matters? Why am I worried about any of this if everything is meaningless? Should I just say I can’t make it tonight and cross my fingers that they accept my apology? Why am I so egotistical that I think they should care if I show up or not? Do they even like me or do they just feel bad for me? Yeah, I’m not going to go. They don’t even really like me.
This litany of questions is just a sliver of them. I promise the list would get increasingly irrational if I continued. Shockingly, however, if I actually want to do something badly enough or care about the person (people) involved enough, I can overcome the anxiety. Depression is the actual force to be reckoned with.
I can go from a panicked mess to a depressed lump in five seconds flat. I reach peak anxiety (usually in the form of a panic attack) and lose the ability to do or think about anything at all.
The anxiety was hard enough, but then I woke up one day with “nothing matters” rattling in my gut like loose marbles. Depression. It informs almost everything I do(n’t do). It’s not that I don’t want to not care. The not caring is completely involuntary.
I’ve always been introverted and placed a premium value on my solitude, but before depression, when the opportunity arose, I relished the chance to see my friends. Sometimes I would even initiate activities with them. Now, I breathe a sigh of relief when I make up an excuse to get out of something and count the hours until I can leave when I actually do go.
I am at the point where the sheer presence of other people is stressful to me. This isn’t a product of them putting a lot of pressure on me to do things I’d rather not do. It just feels confining. Like, being alone is absolute freedom, but at the same time, my feeling that “being alone is freedom” stems from being trapped in a web of anxiety, panic, depression and OCD.
Because I have engineered a life that doesn’t require much social interaction; however, I feel fine most of the time. I don’t realize how anxious I am until I have to leave the house and even the sunlight sends me into a panicked frenzy. I don’t realize how depression has taken root in all aspects of my life until I’m too unfocused, indecisive or lethargic to enjoy where I am.
Believing that I am fine “deep down” coupled with the not caring of depression makes it almost impossible for me to want to get better.
I do enjoy being with people. I love people, and I don’t want to hurt them. I can’t say the same for my depression and anxiety, and when I’m losing the battle to them, they take over my desires. But getting better is terrifying because if people don’t like me when I’m better or if my problems with social interaction do not dissipate, I won’t be able to blame it on mental health conditions. It’ll just be me. I never want it to just be me. That is when I’m afraid I would feel truly alone.
This was originally published BlogHer