Me? Socially Awkward? Never!
I don’t often say this straight out because I usually think it’s pretty obvious, but I literally suck at human interactions. Yes, I know I look like I have everything together and about 90% of the time that I’m around people, I talk pretty much constantly. But if a magic genie appeared to grant me three wishes, one of those wishes would definitely be used to give myself the ability to keep my mouth shut for once in my life.
The usual image of social anxiety is a shy person who rarely, if ever, speaks and they can usually be found hiding in a corner. That can be true. But a socially anxious person can also be one who is constantly running their mouth, having little to no filter and seemingly completely at ease with talking about anything with everyone.
I’m talking about myself here. Hi! *waves*
I got back from a wonderful yoga retreat in the mountains of Costa Rica about a week ago, and I got the chance to meet some really amazing people and hear their stories. I also got to do some activism and raise awareness about mental illness and connective tissue issues. Especially when my wrist became partially dislocated after I picked up my tea cup and then wouldn’t go back in (I have photos, if you really want to see it. Or you can just hang around me long enough and watch it happen in real time.)
But anyways. I forgot how much I love to speak up about mental health and give people an idea of what living with a mental illness (or 3) is really like. We just have different neurotransmitter ratios in our minds than everyone else, and sometimes that makes things a little harder. Sometimes we take store-bought neurotransmitters to make our lives more like your lives. But it doesn’t make us dangerous, or druggies, or lazy. Sometimes our brains are sick, and we need help to make them better.
I also forgot how much I second guess every other word coming out of my mouth. We returned at the end of February and its now nearly St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m still replaying conversations in my mind with a running commentary of “I should have not said that. Oh god, I know that look. I’ve said too much. Seriously why can’t I just keep my mouth shut. That sentence didn’t even make any sense. You totally interrupted someone. Shut up.
Occasionally this running commentary happens while I am talking. You would think that I would learn. Ha. You know those people who say exactly the wrong thing, realize it, and then keep talking and somehow make it worse? Yeah. Me. I will dig my hole all the way to the other side of the planet.
The only problem is that most of the time, this hole is only in my own mind. I have, in fact, actually not said the wrong thing. The other person is actually enjoying this conversation and everything is fine. Rationally I know this, but I don’t believe it. Sometimes it takes a very long conversation with a friend or family member to convince me of this, other times I will never ever believe it no matter how long anyone tries to talk me out of it.
It’s like being colorblind. To me, the apple is clearly green. I just have to trust everyone around me that the apple is red. This was probably one of my hardest posts to write because I’m re-reading it while my brain is screaming “LIES!” Talking about my suicidal thoughts was easier than describing my constant need for validation while being utterly convinced that I’m the most annoying human on earth and asking for validation will only confirm that I am, in fact, completely terrible.
I‘m only just now realizing how detrimental this is to my self-confidence. Also, the times when I did possess this elusive quality was more of a fabricated construct of medication more than any actual “confidence”.
My therapist is great at calling me out on my shit in a very gentle and non-accusing way, but I always make her laugh because I never make any kind of excuses. On one of our very first sessions together, she told me “you know you use this coping mechanism that’s probably gonna end up causing a problem in the future, right?” I was like, “yeah, I know.” There was a pause and then when she realized I wasn’t going to follow that statement up with anything, she had to quickly become very interested in arranging her pillows in order not to start laughing. Laughing at your client in one of the first times you meet is apparently not good protocol.
Right now, we’re working on me recognizing the fact that I’m actually a pretty funny and entertaining person to be around. That still feels very fake for me to say or even think. But I’m having more moments where I have that little internal happy dance after a conversation and think I did well, without needing reassurance from anyone outside myself. I’ll get there, little by little.