Tuesday, November 8, 2016

You win some, you lose some.

I've gradually found myself finally adjusting to the grind of school again. Of course, now the semester is almost two-thirds over, but that's just a small detail, right? It's a little scary to think about how fast time passes...It makes my anxiety about death and time passing and losing people and not taking advantage of every moment all come rushing back to me.

Thankfully, I haven't experienced much depression in recent weeks; I've been stressed and not sleeping well but overall I've been feeling pretty well. Of course, that makes me wonder what the heck is wrong that things aren't terrible, and I've been racking my mind to figure out if there's been any changes in medication or lifestyle that I can attribute the good mood to so I can make sure to keep doing whatever it is that's helping. But there isn't an obvious thing. In fact, I'm surprised I'm not depressed because I'm having trouble sleeping most every night.

Whatever is going on, I'm thankful for the reprieve. But I have noticed a slight uptick in my social anxiety, which has been frustrating because I'm still pitifully desperate to make friends but increasingly terrified of making conversation. There were a couple of occasions where people in my class actually initiated conversation with me, but I was so surprised and flustered that I could only manage one-word responses. My mind went blank and any conversation-facilitating responses I thought of were immediately shot down by the anxious naysayer that has taken residence in my mind over the past decade and a half.

Examples: "No, don't say that...that's stupid", "No, nobody wants to hear about that", "No, that's not something people talk about", "No, that would be embarrassing"....

The problem is, then you don't say anything, which is almost more awkward than saying something "stupid". The other problem is that most of the things people say are stupid, so it's really not worth worrying about and better to just get the words out of your mouth. But I find that there's almost a block between my mind and my mouth in these unexpected social situations, like my mind goes on lockdown because a threat has been spotted and closes all access to the outside. The sad thing is I daydream about talking to people, having good conversations, making jokes, showing the sides of myself people don't get to see, and making friends, possibly even developing romances.

But when even a hint of a possibility of talking to a guy I'm interested in arises, like say we both drive into the parking garage and park at the same time I immediately go into panic mode and start looking for ways to avoid the situation, like sitting in my car for an extra five minutes. I usually have a moment of clarity where I realize, "Damn it, self. What are you doing? Isn't this what you want? To talk to people? To make friends?" But I hate those awkward, passing conversations, small talk and banter. I'd much rather sit and have a nice long one-on-one chat over coffee, but that's probably never going to happen unless you have a few awkward waiting-for-class-to-start sets of small talk.

Even more of a bummer is how much you beat yourself up after social interaction, whether it went relatively well or not so well, which makes you want to avoid it even more in the future because it just causes so much stress, anxiety, and self-loathing. I felt terrible to not responding better to the guys who started conversations with me. That thought process sounds something like this: "Now they'll never try and talk to me again. Now I'll look anti-social and ungrateful. Now I'll never make friends. I wish I had been able to communicate that I appreciated their talking to me. I probably made them feel bad and awkward. I'm such a jerk. And a loser."

Thankfully, I've slowly been getting a little better at giving myself grace for "mistakes" and credit for little wins. On the plus side of this whole thing, I have been experiencing less physical anxiety when anticipating social encounters. I used to feel horribly sick when I knew I was going to talk to a professor or go to an event. For one thing, I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about the meeting for hours, even days beforehand. Then, the closer the event got, the faster my pulse would race, my stomach would churn, my veins would pump with nervous adrenaline. It was miserable. The natural impulse in that kind of situation is to cancel the meeting and make all of the icky feelings go away. Sometimes I tried to push through, but there were times that I would cave into the anxiety and cancel. People judged me for doing this, but I don't think they understood how terribly I felt.

Anyways, those debilitating physical anxiety symptoms have faded recently (maybe because of the increased Klonopin dosage to help me sleep) which has allowed me to go to meetings and try new things with substantially less terrible feelings than before, something I'd venture to say is worthy of celebration! Isn't that what mental health treatment is all about, after all, allowing you to function more normally and feel less miserable?

All in all, I'm trying to learn to take the pressure off of myself. I don't have to say the right thing. I don't have to make friends right away. It will take time and maybe I just have to wait for situations that play to my strengths. And even if I don't make friends at school, it's okay. Beating myself up will only make things worse.

I hope you and I both, reader, can learn to give ourselves a break and celebrate the small victories. And I hope that you can see a glimmer of hope that your treatment is working.

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