Anyone who knows me knows I have a very strong sensitivity to sounds. Light too. But mostly sound.
Or maybe they don’t, because I hide it pretty well.
Right now there are men on the roof of my apartment complex fixing things. They’ve been pounding up there for two hours now and It’s really getting under my skin. To top it all off, my dad has been hammering nails with a spoon in the kitchen because some nails are sticking up out of the floor, and then he keeps turning on the vacuum which just adds to my ear pain.
I don’t want to move today. I don’t want to be outside. I want to curl in my blankets and watch videos like I usually do.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my anxiety lately.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I interact with people lately.
I’m pretty sure I’ve become an expert at faking how to have a conversation. Which is pretty amazing, when you think about it.
I started learning how to fake it in high school. I noticed one of my issues was eye contact. I could not for the life of me understand when you’re supposed to look at someone, for how long, or in what way.
Honestly, I still don’t know.
But I tackled it like I do everything else in life: as if it were a logic puzzle.
I started by doing what I do best: observing people. I saw how when they spoke they often kept eye contact and when it was their turn to think, they often glanced away–but only for a few seconds. When something happened in the background they might glance at it and it wasn’t perceived as rude by the other person unless their friend spent more than a few seconds staring at whatever was behind their conversation. I thought I had it all mapped out. So I tried it.
Me staring creepily at people for a very long time during conversation.
On top of that, in casual conversation I’m generally lost. Someone says something and I just smile politely (after years of observation, I’ve learned people enjoy smiles much more than monotony) because I have no idea if I’m supposed to talk or not. If someone asks me a question, I understand they’re looking for an answer. Otherwise I don’t see any point in talking.
Particularly with strangers. With people I know well it’s easier for me to at least comment on what they say or even initiate a conversation. But it takes years for me to make friends like that.
Even though I’m an emotional person, when people start expressing their feelings verbally I’m at another loss. Even if I empathize with them internally, externally I approach it with logic and some people are disturbed by it. I prefer to offer solutions than to just mull in the problem. They’re looking for support, but they don’t understand that my version of support is through logical conclusion.
And that’s where a lot of my social anxiety comes in. I know they’re probably expecting me to say something (maybe?) but I’m not entirely sure, and I’m no where near to knowing what to say.
I also get confused to why, when I say I prefer being by myself, people take it as an insult to themselves, as if I don’t want to be around them. I don’t mind being around people, I just prefer being by myself. Why is that offensive?
It makes me wonder about my childhood. I spoke to adults rather easily when I was four, to close family friends. When I entered “pre-school” I made a friend but didn’t really enjoy being there. I liked being on the playground by myself, being solitary while swinging or sliding or whatever.
Kindergarten I withdrew completely, until I would not speak even when called upon. Obviously something was amiss, but no one knew how to handle the situation. Putting me in their crappy public school version of speech therapy did nothing because I still didn’t talk.
I wanted to interact with the other children but I didn’t know how.
I had friends where I lived. Two of them. They were very unique friends. They didn’t fit in well with others either, and one liked skinning rabbits and eating salt tablets because her mother was very into living off the land and being “healthy”.
She liked skinning rabbits to eat. It wasn’t a Conduct Disorder type of skinning rabbits.
We did a lot of make-believe. They were into fiction and fantasy stories as much as I was and that was the main reason we all got along so well.
My entire childhood was make-believe. I didn’t like reality. I preferred to be in my head, in a book, or running around make-believing shit.
I used to think my social anxiety based itself on how others perceived me–which it does to an extent–but I’ve also come to realize it’s very much based in me. I don’t understand people.
Everyone doesn’t understand people, but I don’t understand how to interact with them and I don’t really have the drive to do so. I hate having to embody another persona just to go outside and fake it. It takes way too much energy; no wonder I’m tired all the time.
I laugh at myself about this: I’ve barely learned to ask “how are you?” to people.
I’m not joking. I’m 20.
Being with my boyfriend has taught me a lot. His family is very involved and they embrace each other when they meet and ask how each other is doing and I’m not really into being that intimate with a bunch of people, but I try and not seem like a freak–not that it’s worked to any extent–and it’s now an automatic response that when someone asks me how I’m doing, I also ask how their doing.
But like I said, it’s an automatic response. It comes out quickly and sometimes unemotional. It’s not something I do because I understand the impact of it, I just do it because I think it’s expected. It’s polite or something, right?
That doesn’t mean I don’t care about how they feel, it’s just I didn’t understand you were supposed to ask. I figured if they wanted me to know how they were feeling they’d just tell me. That’s . . . that’s logical.
I forget sometimes and I don’t say it–that’s usually if I’m expected to ask first.
A lot of my social anxiety is built around the fact that I know people are expecting a particular response from me and I have lists upon lists of responses in my head, I just don’t know when to use which response. Social interaction is more like a puzzle to me.
Who am I kidding, everything is a puzzle to me. Everything has a pattern. And fuck Vacuums. That’s my life story.
The only reason I’m good with humor is it’s the one thing I know people won’t mind. If a joke is weird, they might write it off as a weird joke but they might also laugh. If I say something weird or do something weird, the reaction is much more violent–at least in terms of the expression on their face. People forgive weird jokes much quicker than they forgive weird conversation.
It’s odd thinking about all this now. I’ve always known it, I’ve just never sat down and thought about it, not to this extent.
It makes me wonder if the more I discover myself and the more I accept myself for how I truly am, how much of my social anxiety will remain. A lot of time was spent trapped behind the anxiety and beating myself up for feeling anxious because I thought there was something seriously wrong with me.
Now . . . now I’m just different. I’ve always been different, but now I know I’m just different. That takes a lot of pressure off me.