Hiding Under a Rock Forever; Anxiety and hanging out with friends
Anxiety makes me think that no one likes me and everyone has better things to do than spend time with me in person. So I’m terrified of asking anyone to hang out.
When I was in the third or fourth grade, the mother of a girl in my class babysat me. I was never really friends with this girl, but we both had the same best friend. At recess, this girl would tell our best friend that she didn’t want to play with me. I was at her house every day after school, and she was tired of me being around. So, my best friend would apologize to me and say she’d play with me another day. That “other day” rarely came.
In the seventh grade, I went to my first slumber party at my new best friend’s house. I didn’t know any of the other girls there, so I was very nervous. I tried not to be her shadow, but it was hard. She went back and forth from the living room - where our sleeping bags were - to her bedroom where some of the girls were hanging out. At one point I was just outside her bedroom door when I heard one of the girls ask my friend why I kept following her around. I was mortified and stayed in my sleeping bag the rest of the night.
These are just two examples - out of many - of incidents that made me believe my anxiety was right. No one wanted to be around me.
Anxiety has always made having a social life incredibly difficult. Until the last few years, the vast majority of the time I was with people it was because they invited me. I have such a fear of rejection - combined with social anxiety - that inviting people to spend time with me is absolutely terrifying. What if they say no?! Then it will confirm that they definitely don’t like me and have no interest in spending time with me.
Then there’s the other scary possibility – What if they say yes?! If they say yes, I’ll have to actually go and try to think of things to say to make them want to continue to like me. Anxiety makes my brain do this terrible thing where I try to think of something to say, then I think about thinking of something to say, then I think about thinking about thinking of something to say, and next thing you know I’ve been mute for half an hour and the person thinks I’ve gone into a catatonic state.
If you need me (which you won’t, you obviously don’t like me) I’ll be hiding under a rock – forever.
That sounds like complete nonsense, right? Try telling my brain that. This is the stuff that has kept me from asking friends to hang out for most of my life.
It has gotten better, and I credit a lot of that to my best friend. When you meet her you don’t think of her as being someone who suffers from anxiety. She’s confident, opinionated, loud, and incredibly generous. She has at times literally shaken sense into me. She’s done a lot to help me learn to love myself the way I am.
I have kids, so it can be a bit more difficult for me to go out. Most of the time when she and I hang out, she comes to my house. The problem is, she doesn’t like inviting herself over – she feels like it’s rude. And I’m afraid of asking her to hang out, because what if she says no?!
We’ve both gotten so much better about this, but it still happens. She doesn’t want to cut into time with my significant others, I don’t want to find out that she doesn’t really like being in my presence. But, she’s one of the few people that I actually feel completely comfortable with, so I’m not afraid of actually being around her. I never have a problem thinking of something to say to her. It’s refreshing.
These days I don’t have a lot of social time. I have, for the most part, mastered asking people to spend time with me. Okay, so it’s only the people that I’m 100% comfortable with, but it’s a start. I try not to think so hard about what to say to people and try to embrace the comfortable silence.
It’s not been an easy road, but it certainly has been a rewarding one.