I went bowling last night. As a social anxiety sufferer, the situation was not ideal; a bunch of people screaming, laughing, drunk, with music blasting the delicate cilia from my ears and neon lights making my pants look like something from the eighties. But–there’s always a but–I had fun. I won the first round, lost the second one miserably, broke part of my nail off, and had to wear the damn bowling shoes without socks because I hadn’t remembered I was wearing flats . . . but I had fun.
I like taking advantage of those kinds of situations. Although uncomfortable, I know the only way to conquer something this debilitating is to feel the anxiety, study it, and beat it into the ground. I fully admit i’m not strong enough to do this myself. I only go outside if i’m feeling particularly confident (dare I say, euphoric?) or if someone entices me out. In this case I was certainly enticed. After wallowing in a dangerous depression for the last two weeks, I needed something to help poke my head back into reality.
We got a lane surrounded by two large groups. The score board sits eight feet above our heads, large enough for the entire building to see. To make matters worse, there are seats behind the lanes for people to munch out on nachos or knock back a cold one. I know everyone watched me. I could feel their judgement slithering through my bones. They didn’t like how I walked. They noticed I had no socks. They noticed when I bowled horribly. They noticed when I lost. They noticed I sat oddly trying to avoid their stares. They noticed I couldn’t talk loud in fear of everyone hearing my words, judging my words and my humor and my laughter.
Rationality is nothing compared to anxiety. You could be the most rational person in the world and fall to your knees wailing all hail the Overlord Anxiety, our faithful master and king once it takes control. So when I felt the warm rush through my veins and the sudden blankness of my mind, the alertness of my hearing, I broke into my own brain and asked myself how I was feeling. Panicked, came to mind. Why? I couldn’t pinpoint it. Then what’s the point? The thought knocked a bit of the anxiety back. I bowled a few good rounds. While sitting I felt eyes on my back. They were staring at me. I was sitting weird. They were talking about me. Once again, I pried apart the doors blocking entrance to my mind and asked myself how I was feeling. Disturbed, came to mind. Exhausted. Paranoid. Embarrassed. Did I hear them talking about me? No. Than I couldn’t be sure they were talking about me. But what if they are? Then let them, they’ll forget about you in a few minutes, they’re all drinking anyway.
Back and forth internal banter–a hallmark of anxiety, I should think. Of course I appear aloof, uninterested, so when I get tapped I smile and politely ask them to repeat their statement. But all of that bickering helps me put control of my mind back in my hands where it rightfully belongs. If I don’t contradict my own thoughts then i’ll be thinking what my brain wants me to think, not what I want to think. The same applies to life: if I don’t question the environment around me, the ideals of those around me, then i’ll end up living a life according to my environment or a life according to the opinions of someone else.
No one can see the frustration inside or feel the energy drain from constantly fighting yourself. I don’t blame anyone for not understanding my fears. In fact i’m quite impressed by people with enough arrogance to say to my face in blatant monotone “that doesn’t make sense” or “I don’t understand, that’s weird”. They’re telling the truth and I can respect that. It’s harder for me to respect someone who sits and exhausts themselves convincing me they get it when it’s obvious they don’t.
But I often wonder how others help themselves or don’t help themselves. I tend to feel more comfortable around others at night. I can’t see their facial expressions entirely, nor can they see mine, and through the darkness I find comfort. Words flow easier. My eye contact isn’t creepily absent or creepily overdone. After bowling, and in the crisp night air of 11pm, a car rolled by with smoke pouring through their windows and some rap music blasting their tiny sub-woofers. I did my usual dancing routine that I think makes me look like a straight up O.G and we went our separate ways–something i’d never do with the sun up. I never saw their face, they never saw mine. It was a distanced act of communication: my favorite type.
It’s from incidents like this that I realize I’m way more outgoing than I ever appear to be. I love making others laugh, entertaining them with bold logic or embarrassing stories, spewing satirical banters, helping them when they need help, loving them when they need love, and making sure none of them have to feel the discomfort I have to feel. I never ask for anything from them and I don’t expect things from them–as long as they’re never on the brink of ending their life or suffering in any form, as long as I can make someone feel lively, i’m content with my life as perceived by the outside world. Internally, I feel manipulative, rude, disturbed, and pessimistic; all qualities I would embrace were it not for my anxiety.
So there’s a thing i’m thankful that my anxiety keeps under control. I’m thankful that i’m hyper-aware. I don’t want to rid myself of this entirely, I just want to improve what I don’t like. I want to improve social skills so I can hold down a job. I want to be relatively calm in public, around a crowd, around my family, around other’s families. I want to be able to contact people over the phone. I want to boost my confidence. And therefore, I think maybe i’ll start leaving the house in the evening just to help quell some other anxieties, start off slow and steady. I think nighttime harbors more gifts than people give it credit for. And I’m absolutely sure people harbor more strength in themselves than they give themselves credit for.