On Social Anxiety: Daily Prompt “Party Animals (?)”
There was a lot of my life when I put myself into uncomfortable situations with strangers during painful social swarmings called “parties.” Back then, parties were a way to meet new people and get drunk with old friends. Now I think of them as painfully awkward and forced contact with STRANGERS.
Almost everyone is a stranger when you’re struggling with anxiety disorders. Even parents, cousins, brothers and sisters, old friends. Sometimes my fiancé feels like a stranger and I assume the same will extend to my children in at least some respect, when and if I have them.
There is a safety in staying home, writing and reading, cooking my own meals, pouring my own drinks. When I go out, alone or with others, I am in a spotlight. I am a mime on a stage making an attempt at a parody of normal social interaction. All eyes are on me, on every little flaw and detail, every slip up, every breath. I try to control my breathing because suddenly it sounds loud and ragged and then I am out of breath, trying to force my lungs to take small, soundless gulps of air and somehow turn them into enough oxygen to keep me on my feet, to keep my panicked body running.
Without warning, I’m in a full sweat. I haven’t heard the conversation going on around me, I can’t hear it now even when I try. The words are a foreign language I don’t know, the body language is alien, the faces are blank.
In the past few years, my anxiety has gone largely untreated and grown and now I’m even uncomfortable thinking about relationships I had before. Everything hurts, like pulling teeth, and I can’t pick up the phone. I let the lines of communication languish and stick with my drink and nightmares. I can’t understand the concept of a party these days. I let the internet do my socializing for me, ignoring the possibility that my social anxiety disorder is being fed and pruned into a towering monster by social media and social networking. So many uses for the word “social” without any society at all.