I am a social person. I’m bubbly and friendly (most of the time), and I like talking. If you know me in real life, you are probably laughing right now, because yeah, I talk a lot. I’m comfortable talking to most people about most things. Or I used to be.
My unemployment has had a nasty side effect of making me a hermit. I mean, I leave the house to go to the grocery store, to go to the fabric store, to eat lunch sometimes, to have drinks with friends. I go out. I have a hobby (more on that later) that forces me to leave the house and be very comfortable around lots of people. I am superficially social.
I was out on Friday night, sitting at a bar, waiting for my friends to show up, and I realized that I was having an incredibly hard time interacting with the person sitting next to me. They asked, “How are you?” and I’m pretty sure I said, “I’m okay, how are things with you?” but it felt weird to say. I’m not actually okay. However, no one at a bar on a Friday night wants to hear that. We chatted a little about the show we were there to see, and other life stuff, but the entire time, I was aware that I didn’t know what to do with my face. Do I smile? Do I look bored? What kind of stories am I supposed to share with this person? I can usually fake all this stuff if I have to, and I’m sincere about it 90% of the time, but all of the basic human social cues that we take for granted flew out the window and I felt like curling up into a ball.
So I left the bar area and went to sit by myself in a corner. It was very pathetic and it made me sad. Social situations have always been complicated for me, because in addition to my myriad of “life issues,” I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (HOORAY). Despite those usual complications, I typically enjoy social interaction. I have an anthropology degree, for crap’s sake! On Friday, I felt like I failed at being myself.
The cure to this new social anxiety is to be around people, right? And since that’s sort of the last thing I actually want, I am forcing myself to be social until my skills return. Yes, I’d like to have lunch. Yes, I’d like to go for a walk. I am saying yes because saying no is no longer an option.