Easter resurrects social anxieties

23 Apr

Loyal readers should know that anxiety has been playing an increasingly prevalent role in my life these days. Always eating away at me in the background of life, recent health problems and deaths in the family, and the loss of my part-time retail gig, have led to both a higher “base line” anxiety from day to day, and a noticeable increase in the frequency and degree of anxiety peaks I experience before most social encounters.

Easter anxiety: I know they see through me. Cartoon courtesy of Jason Love, http://www.jasonlove.com

Even this past weekend I felt my heart racing and nearly pumping out of my chest – Alien style – out of anxiety. The cause? Getting together with a few close friends and “friendly family” (i.e. not my father or brother) for an Easter brunch. What could be anxiety-provoking about a big greasy Sunday brunch with a side of sauvignon?

It was the small talk that did it for me. I’m terrified of it now, and having a hard time a) getting over it, and/or b) accepting it. I used to be able to work a room like Sinatra, and now I’m afraid to engage in simple mealtime banter with people who know me best. I’m intimidated by it, ashamed of where I am at this point in my life, afraid to be honest for fear of people “tuning out the crazy” while afraid of putting on a good face for fear that they’ll see through it.

Easter brunch turned out fine, sort of. I couldn’t help but zero in on the prosperity/accomplishment gap between me and the other adults in the room. And by extension, I assumed they thought the same and couldn’t help but look down on me as the heir to the family “crazy throne” currently inhabited by my dad. Blame my inner critic for this outlook (more on him in future posts)

Many told me how happy they were to see me doing so well (crazy-wise) and how proud they were to see my progress. I didn’t believe them of course – my inner critic again – but it still felt good to hear. And my often-used coping mechanism in such settings – hanging out at the kids’ end of the table talking about middle school and Instagram – kept my spirits up, for whether they know my story or not, they do a good job of convincing me they like me no matter what.

Up next…how will I cope with my social anxieties as I need to ramp up my job hunt. How will I keep my head on my shoulders as I reach out to more distant friends, old acquaintances and clients.


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