Thursday, July 7, 2016

Social Anxiety, Part 2 Billion

In the grand scheme of things, this week hasn't been that bad for me. I mean, I've had worse weeks...MUCH worse weeks. The week I just couldn't function any more and had to go home mid-semester and miss three days of class. The week I found out the guy I was convinced I would marry was dating someone else. The week my psychiatrist had me go off of Klonopin in a week. My whole body has trembled from medication withdrawal, my life has hung in the balance, my heart has been crushed, my dreams have been shattered, I have wept nightly on bathroom floors and turned my own hand against myself. Those were bad weeks.

This week, I've felt content. My proverbial sun has shone (as has the actual one, almost too much, if you ask me). The only tears I shed were in laughter (and in watching Finding Dory, but that doesn't count either). My dreams have been in limbo and my future has seemed hazy, but it still shines bright with hope and prospect. My heart has experienced pangs of hurt, but they don't shake and shatter it like they would a year ago.

All the same, it hasn't been my best week either, and tonight I'm feeling a bit defeated, albeit not depressed (thanks, SamE. Keep up the good work). Let's start with the small things; I gained the weight I lost a couple of weeks ago back. I've been trying to exercise but we've been eating out more often due to a series of special occasions in the last couple weeks. I try to accept my new, post-life-crashing-and-burning size, but it's still difficult, especially when even nice guys are like, "I want a skinny girl with pillowy breasts." But I'm venturing into murky waters.

I had also had some kind of awkward social interactions that week that I kept worrying about. This is one of the most frustrating elements of social anxiety; you obsess over whether you did something wrong in a social interaction, which makes you want to avoid them even more because you feel miserable about them for the next three days. Also, I had a conversation yesterday with a lady from my church who was pressuring me to join a small group or Bible study, which made me frustrated once again by my lack of faith and the church's lack of sensitivity. And before that, a friend of mine had talked to me extensively about faith, which brought up some hard questions once again for me.

Maybe I should just get to what's really been bothering me: The Incident. I've been wanting for quite some time to submit something to the blog of this one advocacy organization I follow because 1) they're an organization I really admire, 2) I love writing, 3) I really want to share my story with others to encourage them, and 4) I want to get more involved and connected in the mental health advocacy field. The problem was coming up with a piece. The other problem was that I was, well, scared. Pee-my-pants scared. Intimidated. I mean, I've published pieces on another website, but honestly they will accept any coherent piece of writing that comes their way. Which is awesome. People should have a voice even if they're not a stellar writer. And I'm so, so glad I got to have that opportunity and I hope to write more for them if I'm ever struck with inspiration.

Now, I write a lot on here, obviously. I think I'm over sixty posts total now, but to write a standalone piece conveying both your overarching story and some particular message is not an easy feat. I didn't feel like there was a piece on here that fit the bill. So for months I contented myself with the fact that I had published on the one website and that was enough. Then, one night in the wee hours of the morning, I was struck again with inspiration. What started as just a few sentences I wanted to jot down before I went to bed turned into two pages that kept me up an extra half-hour. I added and refined a little more over the next few weeks. I shared it with my mom. I knew right after I wrote it that I was considering sending this piece in. It seemed to fall in line with their poetic style, though it was a little long.

I was so nervous about submitting to such a popular website that I knew got a lot of readers and most likely was not accepting any old thing that passed across their desks, that I started to feel very self-conscious about the piece. I even started to hate it. But I knew that there was not much hope of my writing another standalone piece any time soon, and I was eager to submit something. So after more weeks passed, I finally spent half an hour drafting a meticulously thought-out email to the organization, attaching my story in a document. I asked my mom to read over the email multiple times. I read over it multiple times. I checked the document name. I considered how the greeting might come off. I included a heartfelt thank you for the organization's work because I know running an operation like that can get discouraging. But all along I had a niggling feeling that I should really read over my work again. But, like I said, I had come to hate the piece and just wanted to get it in to be considered. Kind of like a paper. You're proud of it, you put the hard work in, but you just want it submitted and out of your life and you cringe to open it when it's passed back because you're so self-conscious about how it came off to the professor.

Of course, something had to go wrong. I realized five minutes after I sent the damn thing that I had sent a draft, not the edited, pared down final draft. It wasn't the end of the world because there weren't really any grammar errors in the one I sent; it was just really long for a blog post. But I love long, as you might be able to tell. The only awkward thing was that there was a random sentence highlighted in the middle that I had marked for consideration to remove.

I felt utterly humiliated. I wanted to crawl under a rock, shrivel up, and die a thousand dehydrated fruit deaths. How could I be so stupid? What would they think? What should I do? I buried my face in my hands as I explained what happened to my mom. I slunk off to my room and threw myself on my bed. I hadn't felt this awful in a while. I was mad at myself for not being more careful, and I burned inside with the human hatred of realizing that something is your fault. As I lay in despondency, my mind drifted back to old haunts of self-berating.

What the hell had I been thinking, thinking that I could be published? That I could become a mental health advocate? That people would want to read my blog or listen to my music or hear my story? That I had a voice in this world that people wanted to hear. I have always been rejected and I always will be rejected. I am a nobody. Why did I think I could change that? I will always screw things up. I will always be unpopular and go unnoticed. Such was my line of thought during those gloomy ten minutes.

I felt like I was being punished for thinking too highly of myself, being put in my place and having my grandiose dreams put in check. It's embarrassing to share the possibilities for the future that crossed through my head as I wrote that email. I hope maybe people would actually start reading this blog. Maybe I would be invited to speak somewhere. Maybe I would be invited to sing. Ha. I could feel the power of the possibility of finally achieving my dreams start to rise to my head. So when I realized I had made such a stupid mistake, I felt that I was being shoved back into my little school desk and reminded that I was a mere plebe, meant to watch others have success.

My mom came and discussed things with me and I felt a bit better. I decided just to leave the situation since the final draft wasn't that much better than the one I sent, but I was still embarrassed about the random highlight, and just stressed from the social anxiety the action caused in general. It didn't help that I had had another embarrassing situation happen that morning and was also having socially anxious afterthoughts about a get-together the night before with an old friend.

Today, I found myself terrified to even open my email, even though I needed to check to see if other people had responded to some important messages. If the organization had responded, I didn't even want to see, because then the pressure would weigh on me to open it, even if I avoided it. I would rather just not open the damn inbox at all. Eventually, I had to, and I got my sister to do it. I cautiously looked over her shoulder and saw there wasn't any reply at all. All that worry for nothing. The incident kept weighing on my all day though, and I tried to reason with myself about it: I didn't even know them. It didn't matter if they didn't publish the thing. It didn't matter if they were confused by the highlight or judgmental about the length. None of it was a big deal and my life was much larger. But I still felt like an idiot and wanted to erase the entire occurrence from my life.

Initially, I didn't want to write about the situation on here because I thought it might be in poor taste, but I've come to view this as a safe, and crucial, space to share my struggles. Which is weird because anyone can read it. But I figured some people might be able to relate. We all make dumb mistakes. We blow things out of proportion. We get discouraged. We feel like losers and idiots. We feel worthless. We feel like we can never break out of the circumscribed place we've been confined to. But we simultaneously believe that we're the only person who feels that way and everyone else is very satisfied with their lives and feels like they're cool.

Writing this made me realize that my anxiety about this situation is a little silly. But the whole incident shut down my dreams to some extent. I'm kind of grateful, because they were the sort of dreams that were getting a little out-of-hand. It's probably better if I walk the plausible, accessible path before me and have a more realistic view of what I'm able to achieve in life. It's easy to fantasize about being famous, marrying someone well-known whom you admire, being a musician or having a TV show or whatever. But those sorts of things happen to the top 1%. And they usually happen either completely by accident without trying or by some fluke after years of hard work trying to break through.

For a decade or so, I've dreamed that all sorts of far-fetched things would happen to me; that I would meet people, marry people, accomplish things, publish other things, open businesses, acquire popularity, work dream jobs, etc. Such fantasies have been a double-edged sword. Maybe it's time I tucked them away into my little girl toy chest and moved into the real world. After all, I have plenty of potential for success in my own tiny corner of the world, even if it isn't the artistic opportunities or fame and attention I have previously hoped for. Maybe this incident will help me pop the bubbles that have carried me away previously into impractical skies, distracting me from living in and enjoying the reality and possibility of the real life that lies before me. I mean, dreams can be fun, but they can really mess with you too. Distract you. Get your hopes up too high. Delude you. from seeing the truth about people or situations.

I guess it's time to get real.

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