The SociABLE Sunday’s series aims to highlight and raise awareness of the struggles some people can face when socialising, making friends or attending events in their community. I believe everyone should be included and ‘able’ to socialise should they wish. In this series I will share a range of stories and feature some fantastic guest writers. See Samuel’s story below.
Greeting the World
I had spent all morning trying to talk myself into leaving the house.
Silently reciting words of encouragement as I grabbed my keys and walked towards my car, I turn up the radio during the drive, eager to quiet my fears. Eventually, my methods work, as the butterflies in my stomach begin to abate. Perhaps I can enter this new, unfamiliar setting without being crippled by thoughts consumed by the unexpected.
As I approach the building, I begin to feel anxious. I wonder how long it will take to quiet the negative self-talk ringing out loudly within my head. I carefully open my car door, looking around to see if anyone else has spotted my arrival. Not a soul in sight. I walk closer, attempting to ascertain which room to enter that will bring me to my intended destination.
I nervously enter, hurriedly walking up the stairs. I look around, unable to find the room. I travel up and down the stairs, searching desperately for the group I am attempting to join. I am completely in my brainstem, unable to process incoming stimuli. I feel as if I have just been dropped behind enemy lines, fearful that my presence has been sighted by the opposition.
Unable to withstand the emotional onslaught, I exit the building and return to the safety of my car. All I can think about is returning home.
Readers who suffer with anxiety will readily relate to this sequence of events. Anxiety is a toxic emotion, one powerful enough to dictate the way we live our lives. Oftentimes, combatting such feelings force us to seek greater control over the arc of our lives. Upon realizing that we cannot control the reactions of others, it becomes all the easier to remove other people from the equation. Full control can only be attained in living life alone.
As anxiety continued to increasingly take control over nearly every area of my life, I finally realized I had a choice to make. I could confront my fears head-on, venturing into public places in order to conquer the fears doing so would inevitably summon. Or, I could continue living inside the world I had unwittingly created. While shutting others out did allow for more control, it also paved the way for a lonely existence. I clawed my way back into the public sphere, taking one careful step at a time. Navigating the journey by following a few simple rules along the way.
The Art of Asking Questions
Anxiety can often have a disorienting effect. We enter a social situation without any nerves, only to feel in a fog as the event unfolds. It can become more challenging to formulate a plan, occasionally leading to a state of paralysis. In those moments, it can be helpful to have someone standing nearby if at all possible, quietly asking you questions to logically work your way through the maze of swirling emotion.
I learned this after attending a funeral for a distant relative. The event proved challenging for a number of reasons, and elicited all sorts of emotional responses.
At the end of the service, I was presented with the choice of leaving with my parents or taking my younger siblings’ home. I stood in the middle of the sanctuary, unable to reach a decision. I was confused, unable to fully process. I broke through the confusion by asking my brother a series of questions.
“What happens if we leave now – will we miss out on anything?”
“How much longer do you want to stay?”
My brother calmly answered my questions, even though he likely thought I had finally completely lost it – if I ever had it, that is. With his help, I made the decision, and felt confident in my ability to reason through my anxiety the next time around.
It’s OK to Go Home
In the end, you know best. While it is helpful to have a group of trusted people in your inner circle who can assist you in making informed decisions, it’s also important for you to possess the freedom to make your own. You know your body better than anyone else. You understand instinctively in certain situations that any amount of positive self-talk and activities designed to lessen anxiety are simply not going to work.
Everyone has those days when seemingly nothing will go right. On those days, it’s OK to go home.
Knowing when to throw in the towel is a valuable skill. Going home may seem like giving up; but, in fact, it is having the wisdom to know that you need some time away. This doesn’t make you a failure or unable to hold up under the weight of stress. It simply means that some days are meant to be spent away from large crowds.
Which brings me back to the day in which I found myself driving home after prematurely leaving an event. Throughout the ride, I punished myself internally, repeating all the nasty things I had ever thought about myself.
Only once I got home did I come to an important realization. I had placed so much pressure on myself that the slightest deviation in my plan caused me to overreact.
Why did I expect myself to be perfect one hundred percent of the time?
Part of the human experience is expecting a near perfect result. We long to bat a thousand, hitting every curveball that is thrown our way. All while ignoring the fact that even the best baseball players fail to hit the ball even half the time it comes across the plate. In 2018, Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox landed near the top of the American League batting average charts. His average? .342. Meaning that when he swung, he missed more than he hit.
As we go about our daily lives, we should keep any perceived step backwards in perspective. For, if Betts is allowed to miss, then so are we!
Samuel Moore-Sobel is a freelance writer. He is nearing publication of a memoir focusing on his experiences revolving around both trauma and recovery. He writes a column for the Blue Ridge Leader and has written numerous guest blog posts concerning his experience as a burn survivor. Visit his website and blog, www.holdingontohopetoday.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.