Social situations are hard for me. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and find crowds particularly daunting. When I am in a social situation with a lot of people that I don’t know it is really easy for me to shut down. I have to fight really hard to talk to anyone and, often, have to fight all of my instincts to keep from running out of the room. Noise is the worst. If everybody is talking while I am surrounded by people, or there is loud music playing, it can be too overwhelming for me to handle. These situations are when I feel at my weakest. The biggest problem is that people don’t understand. People often say things like “everybody is uncomfortable, you just have to ignore it and start talking to people.” Often I want to shout “why aren’t you listening to me? It’s not that easy” at them, but what good would that do? People don’t understand because it’s not something that they deal with. It’s a mental health issue, so it is still highly stigmatized and ignored. Many people assume I’m lying when I tell them my issue, so I have only really just begun to trust people enough to talk about it.
My volunteering as well as my interest in writing have forced me to have to fight my anxiety in order to attend conferences and galas and other such events. I’m lucky to have one of the more mild forms of anxiety. I can sit in a room with 10 people and not know any of them without feeling much in the way of anxiety. I ca talk to the people around me and enjoy myself. The anxiety doesn’t tend to be unbearable until there are about 100 people around. That is when I begin to panic. But even then, I don’t have a lot of the issues that others have. I don’t become physically sick, I’ve never fainted. Given how weak I feel when I am suffering from my own anxiety, I can’t imagine how bad that feeling must be for those with the worse forms of anxiety.
It is hard for my partner as well. When we are at a conference we are there to meet people. It’s a networking event. My partner wants to walk around and talk to people, but he feels tied to me. I view it as a victory if I manage to talk to a hand full of people in a day, because it’s more than I used to be able to manage. But for my partner it is a wasted day. He could have talked to three times as many people on his own. It is upsetting to me, because those are the days that I am at my strongest. Those are my best days, the days when I feel like I have conquered my fear. When I am at my weakest, when I feel like a failure, is when I can’t get over the feeling of being overwhelmed. The days when I separate myself from the crowd and don’t talk to anyone.
When do you feel like you are at your weakest? How do you conquer that weakness?