Tag Archives: social anxiety

Like a Robot

There is an old cantankerous man who lives in our building, and every time he walks into the elevator and sees me on my phone (which is always), he makes a snide comment about it. Normally I just smile awkwardly and sort of ignore, but today I decided to defend myself.

Old man: “Those things are ruining people. Nobody talks to each other anymore.”

Me: “Yes, you always say that to me.”

Old man: “Well, it’s true. How’s anyone supposed to meet if they’re always looking at their phone?”

Me: “Actually, I met my husband on my phone.”

Old man: “You mean you were talking on the phone when you met him?”

Me: “No, I literally found him BECAUSE OF my phone. I was in an elevator like this one, and instead of talking to people around me, I was scrolling through a dating app. I came across his profile, read it, and I liked it, so I connected with him and we started talking.”

Old man: “I see…”

Me: “Right, so, if I hadn’t been looking at my phone, if I had been talking to people around me instead, as you always say I should be doing, then I wouldn’t have found my husband.”

Old man (long pause): “Well, young lady, I guess that’s a good point.”

Me (smiling, resisting the urge to literally pat myself on the back): “Thank you.”

(We both step out of the elevator and into the lobby) 

Doorman: “Hey there, Eddie!”

Old man: “The whole world’s gone to shit. This girl met her husband INSIDE A PHONE! Like a ROBOT!”

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The Difference Between Me and Eric

Eric: “The woman breeding our future puppy was so nice when I spoke to her on the phone, and she really just breeds for the love of it– in fact, once the dog is ours she wants us to keep her updated on how he’s doing, because she cares that much about each of her pups, she just likes to know what they’re up to. How nice is that?”

Me: “You mean we have to keep talking to her?”

Conditions for Eloquence

I gave a speech at a friend’s rehearsal dinner last weekend and someone came up to me after and said, “You are an extremely eloquent speaker.” And it got me thinking, you know what, yeah, person I don’t know at all but who is now my new best friend, when it comes to verbal communication, I am extremely eloquent!

….as long as I have an entire 16-size-font, double spaced script in front of me (rehearsed for a minimum of three weeks and approved by no less than five trusted individuals), have at least one glass of wine but no more than three in my system, I am not interrupted once, it’s neither too hot nor too cold in the room, there are zero weird noises, no one looks at me funny, I’m not hungry, the lighting is friendly, I am feeling good about my outfit, my acne is under control, I’m not PMSing, and I remembered to take my Prozac.

Otherwise when I talk it’s this:

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I Am Miserable In This Photo

I want to apologize.

Last weekend I went to a Phish show and posted this photo on Facebook, for all of you to see:

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In it, I am fucking miserable.

Surprised? I’ll bet. Nothing says “My life is so happy and fun, guys!” like an open-mouthed, wahoo yell-smile, indoor sunglasses, bright lights, and background spirit fingers.

(For the record, Eric is exactly as happy as he looks. If he had a tail, it’d be wagging. Which is why he is the absolute necessary img_7492 to my img_1179-5.)

The second after that photo was snapped, my face fell back into its previous anxious contortion. That entire afternoon and night, I just couldn’t calm down. I didn’t feel present. Everyone around me was excited, and I couldn’t get on board, not matter how hard I tried. I felt disassociated, stuck in my bell jar, uncomfortable in my body. I was trying to move to the music but just….couldn’t. Everything about me felt awkward, disconnected, and out of place. And so, the self-defeating but all-too-predicatable marathon of thoughts began swirling through my brain, a loop so familiar that I carry a VIP pass to this particular ferris wheel ride of misery: “Why can’t you just relax, Emily? Why can’t you just have fun like everyone else here? Why do you have to be such a goddamn downer? JUST ENJOY YOURSELF FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN! STOP BEING THE ABSOLUTE FUCKING WORST!”

(It’s weird how this strategy never works.)

Those sunglasses? Not a cute, bright-lights-at-Phish gimmick.

They were necessary to hide my tears.

Now brief side clarification– my misery that night had NOTHING to do with Phish. Phish critics might think, “Of course you were miserable at Phish, it’s a crowded shitshow.” And yeah, it sure is! But truth be told, I actually like Phish. A lot. Ok, not nearly as much as the die-hard, 100-shows-and-counting phanatics I’m usually with, but I do have an appreciation for the music, the people, and the scene. In fact, I had been to a Phish show 8 days before this one and had a genuine blast. My mood was stable that day, and the music and crowd were in sync with my dopamine levels. I got lucky. I should have posted a photo from THAT show. At least it would have been authentic.

So why did I choose to post a “joyful” photo when I felt shattered inside? I’m sure there are a million different answers to that, all of which I will analyze to death with my therapist next week, so she better buy at least 3 hats, 2 helmets, and hold the fuck on. But I’m in touch with myself enough to know that the main reason is this:

That photo represented how I wanted to feel.  And maybe if that was the image I projected to the world, it would, in some way, become the reality.

 

But shame on me. I know better.

I know that when I’m down, a filtered, look-at-me-having-fun photo feels good for one moment and one moment only. Then I’m just part of the problem, a problem that I’ve always been so conscious and critical of.

It’s no secret that social media can be harmful to self-esteem. I’m not making any groundbreaking statements in that regard. The constant comparison to other people’s happiness and success, which is generally the majority of what gets posted, makes us feel badly about our own less-than-perfect lives. We’ve all experienced this. It’s insane how we can scroll through a news feed and, even when we KNOW, intellectually, that what we see is not capturing the true, more nuanced reality of our peers’ lives, we still, on some level, process it as such. Our visual perception, paired with our own insecurities, trumps our rational mind every time.

That is why I am so disappointed in myself for posting a photo that projects fun and joy, when inside I was torn to pieces.

This helps no one.

Especially not myself.

I know better than to communicate an inauthentic truth. I know what it does to my mental health when I try to put forth a version of me that isn’t real, and the possible damage it can do to others who struggle. It’s the main reason I have this no-clear-theme-and-sort-of-all-over-the-place mess of a blog– a mix of stories that highlight my imperfections, struggles, and staggered journey. Yes, some of my expereinces are joyful, and I’m always thrilled when I get to share that. And I will continue to share that, as we all should– when it’s genuine.

But a lot of the journey is hard. And awkward. And sad. Anxiety-and-guilt-ridden, scary, uncomfortable, confusing and head-in-hands frustrating. So I try my best to capture that, too. Not push it down and cover it up with a camera-ready smile. Because if I’m doing that, if I’m masking the struggles, I’m just another “Look how great my life is ALL THE TIME!” social media monster. We have enough Kardashians out there eating us alive, ass-first.

The thing is, my life really IS great, guys.

It’s also a category F5 shitnado.

I promise an online presence that continues to project both these realities.

Forgive me?

 

 

 

Stigma

Went to see my general practitioner for my yearly check-up today.

Doctor: “Are you still taking Prozac for depression and anxiety?”

Me: “Yes, 30mg.”

Doctor: “Hmmmm. That’s more than you were taking last year.”

Me: “Yes…”

Doctor: “But you just got married?”

Me: “Yes.”

Doctor: “Well that’s a happy event! That didn’t help the depression?”

Me: “It was a happy event. I’m not sure what that has to do with my mental illness.”

Doctor: “I would just think the wedding would boost your spirits, no?”

Me: “It did. It also boosted my husband’s spirits– and yet, wouldn’t you know it, he still has diabetes!”

 

Yeah, so. I need a new doctor.

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Yes, I’m SOOOO Excited! But I’m Also Anxious as Hell

The wedding is in 5 days, and I am an anxious fire monster.

I have resisted writing in detail about my anxiety because I don’t want it to be misinterpreted by friends and family as doubts about getting married. I have zero doubts. But not being open about my anxiety is, as always, making it worse.

I should know better by now than to sit and stew.

So let me be as clear as possible and immediately halt any possible misinterpretation for those of you who still might not be totally clear on how mood disorders work– this has NOTHING to do with Eric. I have never been more confident in a decision in my life (which is saying a lot, as decision-making, for me, is the ultimate anxiety trigger, and is usually done with 100% haste and 0% confidence). I love Eric with all my heart and can’t believe I found him and get to marry him.

But anxiety doesn’t care if you’re grateful or happy. Anxiety has its own agenda, and the only way I’ve found to combat it is to do the exact opposite of combating it– to accept it and to be open about it. Because when I’m not, it eats me alive.

To be clear, I am excited– VERY excited. But the things is, when you have an anxiety disorder, excitement and panic run through the same pipeline, and, despite the fact that you are happy and really looking forward to something, that anticipation can FEEL very uncomfortable, produce an acute restlessness, make you feel like you’re crawling out of your skin, and just cause you to feel plain bad. It’s a frustrating cycle because you know you are lucky and happy, and you want to just feel those simple feelings of happiness and gratitude, but the nerves take over and don’t let you. They just leave you feeling like you sort of want to vomit, and maybe casually pull out your arm hairs one by one.

About 3 weeks ago, I began to feel like a line of drummer boys entered my body, and started a looped parade through my bloodstream, playing a steady, catchy beat– not altogether unpleasant, often actually fairly enjoyable. Sometimes I’d find myself bopping to their steady rhythm and feeling the flow, other times I was like, “Eh, I could use a little calm and quiet now. Oh, no? You’re not going anywhere? Ok I guess I’ll just drink wine straight from the bottle.”

And then, somewhere around last week, the drummer boys decided that right on top of my heart was a good place for them to all settle in, place their instruments on the floor, and then just start banging the SHIT out of them. Cymbals flying, drumsticks clanking. Even some cowbell. Because every band could use a little more cowbell.

All that being said, I know once this weekend arrives I will be thrilled and full of joy and love. Once all the people I care about most in the world are there, gathered in one space, and I get to marry this ridiculously awesome guy while surrounded by them, it will be incredible. Anticipation is always the hardest part for me. The lead-up is torture. Once the event is happening, the energy takes over and I can enjoy myself. I know I will.

So for all of you who have been so lovingly inquiring, “Are you so excited?!”, the answer is yes, absolutely. But I’m also anxious as fuck. And that’s ok. That’s who I am. And I think as long as I acknowledge that’s ok, to both you and myself, I will be able to at least mildly quell that inner voice asking, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just be happy? Why can’t you just be like everyone else?”

Because I’m not everyone else. I’m me.

And you know what? I found someone who can’t even remotely personally relate to these feelings, but who does everything he can to fully understand them, support them, and, inexplicably, love me even more because of them.

Can’t get much better than that.

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