30 June, 2007, 757 pm
Filed under: My Experience with Existence

Derek didn’t try to call me yesterday at all, and he didn’t try to call me today, either. And he’s not going to call me today. At this point, I know that either something is wrong, or that he doesn’t want to talk, which I’d also classify under something being wrong. Perhaps he’s accepted that I’m moving on the twenty-fourth and wants to move on. I mean, when I told him we’re moving five days later than originally proposed, he didn’t jump up and down or even really sound excited or relieved. It was just kind of an, “Oh,” reaction. I know I often give off that vibe, but when I found I’d have five extra days with him, I was stoked (even though, generally speaking, I want to get the move over with).

Although sitting in front of my computer, I feel bummed out that I haven’t had the communication I took for granted and then started to thrive on, I at least have the hope that I’ll see him tomorrow, assuming that nothing too major is wrong and that he still wants to see me. And if not, then I can feel nauseous for a few more days and cry myself to sleep for another week and feel like absolute shit, but I know it won’t get me anywhere in life, so eventually, I’ll recover. Maybe lose some weight like Reese Witherspoon did and come out on top. It’s just the waiting around for a miraculous phone call to cure all that hurts. The panacea. I don’t even like talking on the phone, but if it means knowing that Derek’s a-okay, then I’ll do it. And I don’t even know what’s wrong. I don’t know why I’m upset, or if this is all miscommunication (or lack of communication) and I’m mistaken.

I know also that a good portion of this lack of balance is because of social anxiety disorder. I’m thinking that Derek is judging me when he hasn’t even seen me in a week, and (if I can base this off of my own experience of being away from him) probably misses me very much. I’m thinking that he is thinking the same negative thoughts about me as the ones my internal voice tells me, things that are exaggeratedly negative. I’m thinking that he’s lying about missing me, when that doesn’t fit in with his character. I’m thinking that he prefers that girl percussionist who offered him a hug, when, if I was in a similar situation, it would make me sad, and it would remind me of him, and it would make me not want to hug the offerer, but to tell him (if I was in that situation) about how much I missed my boyfriend back at home, and I’d know that he wouldn’t appreciate knowing that I’d hugged someone else when our friendship prior to dating didn’t involve PDA to any extent. Well, except how, on spring trip a half a year prior to dating, we sat next to each other on the bus and I put my head on his shoulder when I was tired. I wouldn’t say that part.

I’ve read parts of the self help books for social phobia, and they’re nothing new. I’ve attempted the exercises, but they don’t help me. I know more than some doctors do about it. I already know about diaphragmic breathing; I’m an oboe player and you need that kind of skill. I already learned about tensed and untensed muscles from my mother when I was young and had trouble sleeping. I already know that I have extremely negative thoughts about myself often, but they’re nothing irrational like, “I’m a loser.” They’re things like, “I need to lose weight,” or, “My hair is not behaving today,” or, “That lady at the beauty salon waxed my eyebrows so that they are way too far apart and it makes my eyes look small,” or, “I have less friends than my sister does, and she’s Satan.” And I know they’re not nice and I’d be better off without them. I know that people aren’t paying attention to where my eyes are focused when we’re talking, or the fact that my mouth twitches in math class when I drop my pencil without meaning to, or that my hand shakes when I write, or that my whole body shakes when I have a band playing test. I can’t simply read a book, though, and just think that my problems interacting with society are going to go away, though. What I need is therapy and maybe, when I get older, medication (although I’d like not to be put on medication).

Here’s something for those of you wondering what I’m rambling about. I’m one of those seventeen million Americans with social anxiety disorder. This means that I find social situations extremely uncomfortable…so much so that I sometimes have panic attacks before, during, or after a social situation. I can’t talk on the phone, I can’t meet new people, I can’t go out in public, I can’t IM people, I can’t even get up from my desk at school to go to the bathroom or to throw away trash or to sharpen my pencil without suffering from extreme anxiety. If I’m invited to some big event, like the PSAT excellence awards, I’ll worry about it every night for months leading up to the event. If I have to make a phone call, I start breathing short, anxious breaths from my chest and my throat tenses. Ever since I’ve become a teenager and realized that many working class people go to my school, I can’t even order at a restaurant without feeling uncomfortable. Social phobia boils down to the fear of being judged, and it leads to self-criticism.

When I say “judged,” I don’t mean the way emo people talk about being judged. I mean that I worry that people are watching my every move and evaluating me. They’ll notice my nose is a bit crooked at one point, or that my teeth are kind of yellow. They’ll notice a hand twitch or a mouth twitch or that I’m breathing too fast and that my voice is breathy because of it. They’ll notice that because my mouth is dry, I have to swallow a lot. And what’s wrong with all that? Well, I don’t know. They’ll think I’m weird. And that’s one thing social phobes hate. To stick out, especially negatively.

As a child, I was always considered “shy” or “quiet” by my peers and by my teachers. My mother resented it when teachers would write that on report cards. She said that it didn’t explain how I was as a person, and that it was a bad adjective. I agreed, but somehow, I think it got twisted in my brain that she was saying shyness was a bad thing, which she wasn’t at all.

When I was seven, I moved to Virginia, and my teacher resented me. I’ve compared with other kids’ impressions of her, and they all agree that she was a bitch. I once tripped over her foot, and she got angry and I was embarrassed. That’s the first time I really remember social phobia kicking in. When I was still seven, I moved to a different school where the kids were nice and the teacher was angelic, but I was more cautious.

There’s not really much else too embarrassing that I remember until I got to seventh grade, and my English teacher was lecturing the class, and I attempted to put my hair in a ponytail while she was talking (God forbid). She got really pissed off and lectured the class, and I felt the most embarrassed I’d felt in a long time, probably because she made me out to be some kind of beauty queen primping for prom, but I was an earthy gritty type of girl. Later that year during gym, I tripped and fell over someone else’s leg (I’m pigeon-toed) while running laps and broke my glasses, and that’s another time I felt the heat of embarrassment on my cheeks.

Nothing else happened until ninth grade, when I started to feel awkward walking to the front of the room to turn in papers or to sharpen my pencil or to grab the bathroom pass. As a solution, I started sharpening my pencils at home and not going to the bathroom during school. During gym that year, two sophomores liked to openly mock my running style which friends have done to me all my life, but since I didn’t know these kids, it embarrassed me, and the next year, my teacher commented on how I ran funny and that I should see a doctor about it (which I did when I was maybe three or four years old, and they couldn’t do anything for me). So I stopped running, and nowadays, I only run by myself. It’s seemingly small things like this that led up to my social phobia. Sophomore year, I openly liked a boy, and he openly rejected me because I was “weird.” I’ve mended.

A few months ago, I stumbled across an online quiz and it told me I might have social phobia. I cried for hours, because I thought everyone had anxiety when talking on the phone or placing an order at a restaurant. I thought it was normal to only have a few friends and feel intense discomfort in social situations. Well, it’s not.

I’ve also added two new tags. The first is intended as a warning, although if you’re in a mopey mood and you want to wallow in the pity pool with me, you can click on it and read my “Pity Pool” entries from now on. Supposing you’d like to read more confident, straightforward ones that matter, you can read “Actually Matters” entries. Just, I feel bad for sometimes subjecting the readers to a little bit of both, or to the Pity Pool without their consent. I’m now giving you the option of skipping over them.


5 Comments so far
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Indeed, we all do feel like crap at times. Or even more often then occasionally. I think that’s fairly normal.

With regard to the Derrick thing, why don’t you just simply call him? If I read your post correctly, your biggest issue with him boils down to essentially indecisiveness and uncertainty; you are not sure where you stand with him. So call him. Then you can try to establish where you are heading. The above assumes that your social anxiety disorder doesn’t completely prevent you from calling him. Yeah it may be challenging considering the circumstances, but i think it’s probably necessary. What do you stand to lose by calling him?

I don’t think that I would have the strength of character to deal with social phobia. By the sound of it, it’s not something you can just “get use to”. Some praise needs to be sent your way for that.

My only advise to you is to think about the idea of normalcy. Who defines it? Why is something normal and another thing apparently not? Does this thing being normal mean that it is good/right/correct etc? Do you really want to be the norm? I talked about this stuff with a friend of mine a while back, and it tends to clarify things; to put them in perspective. Hopefully it’s an exercise that can minimise your self-criticism and judgment.

Hopefully things brighten up a bit :)

Comment by surplusvalue

HONEY! i promise you that you aren’t weird. everyone has anxieties about different things. i might act like i don’t care about what people think, but in fact i really do. and i’m always worried about what people say behind my back and stuff. i do get anxiety talking on the phone and placing orders at restaurants and when i give someone a compliment or when i’m just plain sitting somewhere. maybe i have it too. can you send me the link to the site where you got told you might have it? i want to take it myself.
and like surplusvalue said, think about “normal”. i was at this forum by capital one for girls a few months ago and the speaker was incredible and one of the things she said was that just because something is considered normal doesn’t make it right. it’s not the way things have to be. and what is normal? it’s something people have cooked up in their heads to make themselves feel better. it’s like money. in truth it’s just a round piece of metal or a piece of green paper, but we give it value and people kill each other over it. that’s what normal is, except in a more mental way.
i’m always here if you want to talk

Comment by divya

I was shy as a kid, but a lot of what you described your social anxiety to be is simimlar to what I always thought of as shyness. I really think it was just shyness for me, because now I’m the talks-to-strangers-all-the-time type, but I have weird things, like I get really nervous meeting someone in person who i know really well online, and I hate calling people on the phone, whether I know them or not. So I can relate, to a degree, though I think for me it was shyness that i was lucky enough to pretty much get over.

But high school…man, I think it is treacherous for almost everyone, because people are so concerned with fitting in and that causes them to make fun of anyone they can see as not fitting in to some weird pre-definied mold that is fairly arbitrary. Makes them feel better about themselves, somehow. High school just sucked. When people would tell me “these are the best years of your life” they were lying. I knew they were lying, because it was awful, and people didn’t immediately commit suicide as soon as they were out of high school, so I knew it had to get better!

ha. okay, that was pretty melodramatic, but that’s how I felt about high school. And it does get better, so whether or not that will help in your social anxiety, your future after high school I don’t know.

Two friends of mine have social anxiety though. They both find it easier to do public speaking type things than talking to someone one-on-one; I’m the opposite, for sure. I mention this only because you might find that public speaking is something you can do easily (or maybe you’ve already discovered that) and maybe there is something in that (becoming a public speaking character in your mind?) which will help you in general social situations.

Regardless, I highly recommend therapy. Some of your worries with regard to Derrick are similar to doubts I have in my own life, which therapy is definitely helping me deal with. Our internal dialog doesn’t always do us any favors. Finding a good therapist is the key, of course. Talk to your mom about what is covered under her health plan, and if it is too tight financially, then at college you should have access to a therapist for free.

Luke had some good advice too. It reminds me of something utah phillips said in a story he was telling once. Which basically was along the lines of “there is no such thing as normal. you meant to say average.” And really. Who wants to be average? ;)

Comment by Deb

merci beaucoup for your support and for your assurances that certain shynesses about things like talking on the phone, et cetera, are more common than not. i suppose sometimes in all my fright, i don’t always realize that hey! i’m not alone. thank you for that.

haha, i forgot to mention that he was on a malicious schedule that made it hard for me to figure out when to call him. it would have helped very much if i was able to call him myself. i probably sounded somewhat psychotic without that key bit of information, but i suppose that’s alright.

thanks for the support and the exercise in thinking, by the by. i’ll take that into consideration. i suppose the definition of normalcy gets fucked up depending on age and gender and location and so on. i actually read about a study of “popular kids” that in shanghai the popular kids’ traits included reservedness and quietness and that in canada, they were more outgoing and talkative and open. it really gave me some perspective, and it brightened my day. maybe it’ll help if i completely reconsider the idea of normalcy.

marry me.

just kidding. i appreciate the money comparison. it’s just metal and paper. and people die over it. it splits up families…you’ve got me thinking.

haha, oh, high school! while i know they’re probably not the worst years of my life (that was middle school…ha), they’re certainly far from my best so far. i just imagine that college and after will be better, probably because i’ll have to learn to fend for myself without having my mom here to make phone calls for appointments or my sisters here to answer the door or my dad to go through drive-thrus or to the grocery store to pick up dinner. i feel like when i’m forced to immerse myself in social situations, it’ll probably get better. and maybe it won’t, but i think it’ll be progress.

and since you’ve mentioned it, it’s weird, but i do enjoy speaking to crowds. like, when presenting projects, something i’ve worked hard on, or my opinion, something i’ve taken time to develop and make concrete, it’s intriguing to have someone listen and evaluate and learn. and i love to make people laugh. in sixth grade, we had mini debates in english class, and mine was about whether or not the school day should be extended, and somehow i came out on top, winning my debate and stealing the award for the most influential speaker. and then there have been incidents throughout the past year or two in english class and history class. in english class, i did that paper on factory farming and it was neat being able to ask questions in class and voice my opinion. and then my favourite teacher this year, my history teacher, constantly brought up controversial issues, or he poked us until we brought them up ourselves. it’s thrilling, really. i don’t feel that i really talk well to groups, but i’m well-received by the crowds. interesting…

and that quote’s neat. i suppose you could really relate that to anything in life. i mean, i already do think along those lines with most things. i go above and beyond with my school projects. i like for my room to be the most tidy, and for my art to be the most meticulous. i think animals should have the best lives, not just mediocre ones or awful ones. i guess it’s time i applied that to myself–that i should be the best i can be, not limited to a certain extent.

Comment by leindiemeister

You know, every once in a while someone uses a word I would never have expected to hear in normal conversation. (well this is a blog, so I guess it doesn’t count, but stfu I’m making a funny here) So far the words have been libido, nubile, and, yay, panacea. You might remember George getting that ‘most likely to make you use a dictionary’ mention in the school news paper? Well, he’s the one who said those first two (Please don’t make me tell you who said the third, I’d have to kill you(police: I didn’t do it!(better safe than sorry(woo parenthesis crazy)))). I guess you get an award for using a word that can’t be linked to sex.

I wonder if panacea can cure erectile disfunction? Oh wait. I take your award back.

Comment by wut?!

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