having a choice

I know this post probably seems to contradict my last past, but I’ve given my last post some thought. I do think that I fall more on the introverted side of things, yet when I’m in a social situation, I want to be seen and heard and enjoy being the center of attention. I guess I am an outgoing, socially anxious person. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know.

***

Anyway. My girlfriend is up visiting her family right now, and I’m feeling a little guilty that I’m not there. I chose not to go.

Right now, I’ve made a conscious choice to only engage in one social situation, outside of work, once per week. Whether that’s with one  of my friends or my girlfriend’s friends or her family it doesn’t matter–one per week. I’m very fortunate that I have a job right now that isn’t too demanding socially. I have to interact with my boss and co-workers and occasionally I have to engage with a few clients on the phone or in person, but it’s not bad at all.

It’s a pretty firm decision–to only engage in one situation per week–but every now and then I’ll allow another social situation or two depending on the situation and how I’m feeling. I don’t like feeling like there’s a quota in place–and my girlfriend especially doesn’t like that.

Anyhow, giving myself a choice is a powerful thing. In the past, there were times where I felt like I was being forced into social situations. I felt like I had no choice–that my girlfriend or friends were forcing this awful situation on me and I had no control. But I did have control. I made those choices to go, not them. Saying no to social situations is difficult to do. On the one hand, I don’t want to say no to too many, because I don’t want to avoid everything and become a hermit or something; but, on the other hand, it’s important for me to do what feels right for me. Getting flooded in every single social situation only reinforces the anxiety. I need to pick and choose social situations that I don’t get too flooded in to slowly immerse myself back into social situations that I find anxiety-proving–gradually increasing over time–so that I can eventually become a healthy social person (whatever that means). Avoiding too many situations as well just reinforces the anxiety. It’s all about balance.

The important thing is that I realize that it’s my choice to enter–and stay in–a social situation. Knowing that can help ease the anxiety in itself. And, although, I do feel guilty about not going with my girlfriend to see her family, I think it’s the best thing for me–and that’s what matters most.

***

With all that said, I’m feeling very lonely. I can’t ignore that. Yes, I do feel good because I do have a choice, but I miss my girlfriend and wish I would have gone with her to see her family. But I bet if I was there, I would be anxious and want to be somewhere else. I can never win, I guess. *Sigh*

What a pointless post. I wanted it to be optimistic because that’s how I felt like ten minutes ago, but now I just feel sad and lonely. Sorry.

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19 responses to “having a choice

  1. You’re the only one who knows how much social stimulation you can stand.
    But, I’ll tell you this – if you run out on/avoid people often enough, eventually they’ll stop asking you to join them. And, then you’ll really be alone. Like I am. With no social skills to approach people and say ‘hello, I’m ready to be with you – can we do something?’
    I wouldn’t quite call myself a hermit, as I do get out 5 days a week to work and maybe 2 or 3 times a month (other than with my family), but I’m more isolated than I want to be. And, I have no idea how to change that. It’s easier to make an effort to overcome your social anxiety when you’re younger. Which you are, to me at least.

    • I’m coming from a place where I have few friends (at least in the city I live in) and few social interactions out side of work. To a certain degree, I feel like I have the social skills set of a fifteen year old. I’m having to rebuild my social structure, in other words. I’m gaining more confidence through therapy, and this medication I’m on, Nardil, is really, really helping. I just want to take things slow. Building up slowly and gaining confidence in my mind is key because having a huge setback could push me back in a downward spiral. I understand that setbacks are part of growing and recovering, but too big of one can be bad.

      Anyhow, I agree with you that it’s easier to overcome certain things, like social anxiety, when you’re younger. But the important thing to remember is that it’s never too late to change.

  2. Telling your gf what you posted above about wishing you’d gone, but feeling like you lose either way, would likely go a long way with her – from a female perspective.
    I’ve tried structuring social events like you. Sometimes I like knowing that I have plans on specific days of the week and other times, I dread dread dread that time.

    • I have told her. She appreciated it. She’s much more understanding about me picking and choosing certain social events to go too. I think there’s something to be said for spontaneity as well–how those type of events can be good because they reduce anticipatory anxiety, which is usually much harder to deal with than the actual event.

      It’s good to hear from you, by the way.

  3. Going slowly with social situations and watching your stress level seems like a fab idea Mike. You know what you can handle and what’s right for you.

    Don’t apologize for saying you’re lonely – I say it all the time on my blog, and it’s OK I think. Loneliness is a real painful feeling, and why not say it if that’s how you feel. Take care

    • I wasn’t apologizing for feeling lonely. I was apologizing because my mood in the post was all over the place. I hate when I start with one thing and end somewhere totally else. Much like a therapy session, I guess.

  4. In my mind we are one species, seperate from the “outgoing” ones. Sometimes when meeting people for the first time, especially if it’s the parents of your own girlfriend, the first impression could be the last impression, if they do not have your presence around them so they can really get to know the real you. So don’t feel bad for now going, maybe for now it’s maybe for the best of things. When you feel you are ready to meet them, let it happen, or make it happen. And in my mind if I was worried about my girlfriend’s parents thinking stuff about me, i always remember that as long as she’s with me then they dont matter, so keep that in my mind my friend and remember that loneliness just means you are by yourself, thats it. The future means so much more, and all the pain and misery will pass if you make the best of the future, it’s only what you make of it, don’t let the anxiety win. Cheers buddy.

  5. I know it is hard to make does decisions. On the one hand you want your privacy, be were you are comfortable, and not having panic attacks. On the other hand, you wish you were like the rest of the people and go out like regular people do. I spend a lot of time feeling lonely, but I don’t have a boyfriend to wait for. Know that you made the best choice for you at that moment. Things tend to balance each other out at the end.

    • I agree. Somehow things do usually balance each other in the end. I didn’t go to see her family on Saturday, but I did have lunch with them yesterday. I need to pick my battles wisely, so to speak.

  6. Perhaps the focus isn’t really the “quota” but what you are able to handle. In some ways it may seem selfish but you have to take care of yourself first. Participating in an Ironman race one in a while is fine but repeating it everyday definitely burns you out.

    It’s good that your girlfriend is understanding. 🙂

  7. Saying no to something that stresses you out is important and limiting your social interactions is a good way to gain control again when you feel like you are in the process of losing it, or simply overwhelmed.
    The difficulty is knowing when enough is indeed enough, because I would usually withdraw so far that before I knew it, weeks had gone by without staying in touch with anyone. As with so many things, balance is the key, and challenging oneself without losing sight of realistic capacities. (As you already wrote.)

    The latter – challenging yourself – is equally important in my opinion, to not withdraw into your comfort zone and stay there. I would often feel like not engaging in social activities and look for excuses to stay home, but after forcing myself, the vast majority of those days turn out enjoyable and manageable.
    I don’t have any friends living geographically close, so usually we keep in touch online and even those I meet face to face most often, I see maybe three times a year in person. But I try to make more of an effort both online and offline, so that those opportunities do not melt away as well, like they used to.

    • I’m in the same boat: I don’t have many friends who live near me. Keeping in touch with people has never been easy for me. But I’m getting better at it. Sometimes just an email once a month is all it takes.

  8. Making boundaries for ourselves whether we have a mood disorder is difficult enough much less when we have social anxiety or depression. And so many times, like you, I’ve had to choose very carefully when I feel stable enough to engage with others. Especially my own family, which always sets off panic inside me. By taking care of yourself even though you’re feeling “guilty” you’ll be able to give more in your relationships, although it may not feel like it right now. And loneliness….I don’t care what existentialists say that “we’re all alone and will be when we die, etc..” it’s very painful to experience and then feel shame about.

    I know this is a long comment, you just brought up so many points to ponder on. Guilt I know is easy to feel when we feel like we haven’t measured up in some perfect world. You do what you can and you’re doing the best that you know how to do and being able to hang in there takes a lot of courage!

    • I agree: Most of us out there are just doing what we can, and it does take a lot of courage and will power to keep going, day in and day out.

  9. I love seeing the process you are using to expose yourself. I am doing something similar presently and I wish I had done it years ago. It really does pave the way for lasting results. and you will see how quickly you’ll be able to do more things socially too, so keep up the good work!!

    For me, it was going to the gym. Then joining. Then taking a class. Then taking a class that was popular (very intimidating for socially anxious me). Then taking the popular classes every chance I get till it’s no big deal. – I’m still working on that last one lol, but I’ve come a *long* way.
    I relate to being an outgoing socially anxious person too. When I’m comfortable, watch out world 🙂

  10. You do have to take it a step at a time. Baby steps. I think it’s the only way. But also it’s good to be mindful of the fact that we can’t always plan out every situation. Things arise we have no control over. Those situations can bring me down. Anyhow, I’m glad things are going well for you!

  11. Thank you for this post. I found your blog through the SA support forum, and this really resonated with me. I have so much anxiety around my boyfriend’s family — so much that we are on the verge of breaking up because I recently couldn’t handle a visit. I don’t know how to fix this, and he doesn’t seem to understand; just thinks I’m rude, probably.

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