Strange things happen in social situations …

I have a bit of a social phobia – social anxiety is probably a better term.

It has it’s ups and downs, and generally I can imitate “reasonable” functioning when I need to.

When I am going through a particular difficult anxiety/panic or depressive exercise, then socialising is very difficult for me.  I tend to want to avoid it and duck for cover.

Of course I handle alcohol like someone who shouldn’t be allowed to drink.  At all.

When I am in a socially-making-me-nervous situation I tend to drink more.  The more I drink, the more comfortable I feel.  But the reality is I do not feel more comfortable.  If anything it makes me more anxious as the more I drink then the more I worry I am about to do something socially inappropriate.

And the more I drink increases the chances of me saying something inappropriate – and often something I do not really feel, but it is what is running in my head.  Drinking = stop valve in head not working = emotional puking on the table.

There are always a stream of socially inappropriate things running through my head.  All the time.

It is a bit like having this gnawing feeling to say something, but knowing that you shouldn’t.  The more you are under pressure (because you are in a social setting) the louder the gnawing becomes and the more you just want to say something.

When I am at my less than ideal stages, I opt to go to the bathroom and then I talk to myself in the mirror.  I blurt to myself in the mirror as then I hope by blurting I can join a social situation and nod-and-smile like everyone else. Strange much?

I know it sounds grade-3-and-Sally-just-cannot-keep-a-darn-secret, but there we go.

The interesting thing was that few weekends ago I was at a birthday party.  I knew some people, was comfortable in the location, as I knew it.  But I still felt a bit out of synch.  I was quite stressed when I arrived, and I tried to calm down a bit, but I remained anxious.  It is a kids party, so really what do I have to be anxious about.  Nothing.  But that does not stop me being anxious.  Over nothing.

It was an early day thing, so I would not have my wine crutch.  Though I knew a few people, I was still nervous/anxious/stressed- and when I am nervous, I try to find a quiet place away from the crowd.  I really struggle with multiple conversations, people and trying to tune in to everyone’s social ques and it is like my brain is trying to play pick-up-sticks (remember that game) in the dark.

The day went along and it was all quite nice as parties are, it was lovely and sunny and I could sit on the grass.  I find that I am less socially awkward if I can give myself a task to do – move furniture around, do the dishes, take photographs … you know that sort of thing, so I am distracted from myself.

We stayed after the party for lunch – and again it was very nice, I decided not to drink more than one glass of wine as I was already feeling “heady” – I was just wired from the day and being in company and feeling socially awkward.

I got home in the afternoon, and I felt like I had been drinking all day – I was drained and I felt my head was woozy, and I was wrecked.

The thing with social phobia – for me – is that what is meant to be a relaxing situation becomes fraught with anxiety and tension over nothing, and by the time it is over I feel like my adrenaline has been pumping two gallons to the dozen (I have no idea if that is a term … just thought of it) and by the time I get out of a social situation, I am lie on the bed exhausted.

Years ago I did a really interesting Myers-Briggs personality test, and one of the issue was whether you are introvert or extrovert.

The focus was not whether you like people or socialising, the issue was “where do you take your energy from” – and for me anything social is totally energy sapping.  Some people move into a room full of people, and the longer they are there the more energised they feel, whilst other people (me) start edging towards the bar, away from people, then trying to find a place to lie down and go to sleep.

Again, this falls into my stuff that I do, even though I don’t always want to, I try to socialise more than I probably feel I want to.  There is value in appearing normal in main stream society, for one your kids get more invitations to play dates.

Social phobia = social pariah = alone at home = not so great after the first 3 months!

Advertisements

Have brain … cannot speak …..

I subscribe to an email which I receive  from the Daily Love each day.  The emails are exceedingly annoying and I often roll my eyes.

But for some reason I do not unsubscribe, though I am itching to.

I probably endure it as there are some of them that really resonate with me.  I scoff and tut-tut them, but the truth is that there is some “truth” in the rather sickly sweet emails and “universal love” messages that appear on my screen each day.

I tend to “delete” most of them, but my eye can’t help doing a quick scan and read.

Today’s email resonated with me a bit.

It dovetails well in to some of the stuff I am working through Dr CBT.  Most of it comes down to what you think the other person knows, but the reality is that they do not know what you want, so are not aware they are not giving you what you want.

In short.  Communication.

The other person doesn’t know, so they do not react accordingly or give you what you need, so you get angry and frustrated with them because they are not doing what you want them to do.

But they do not know.

And so it goes on.

I struggle with the line between not-assertive/assertive and demanding.

Assertive communicating allows for you to express what you need, in a manner that the other person is clear on what you would like them to do.

You make your point, without being judgemental and attacking.  You make it clear what you need in a situation.

You then give the other person the opportunity to respond.  The key difference between assertive and aggressive is the “demand.”

Aggression is you telling someone your preference, and then demanding they act accordingly.  You may demand internally – so you imply it – but it is the expectation that the other person HAS TO DO WHAT YOU WANT OR NEED THEM TO DO.

Assertiveness is you telling someone your preference and allowing them the opportunity choose to either go along with it or not.  It’s a preference and not a demand.  You realise that it is what you want, but you accept that the other person does not have to do anything.  You accept.  What you want is a preference and there is no universal rule that makes it everyone’s MUST DO.

Yes, you would prefer them to go with your preference, but you remain in the space where it is a “preference” and not a “demand.”

It does not mean you are not disappointed when they do not do it the way your preferred, but the key is to keep the thought that it is your preference that they do something, and not your demand.

You cannot force anyone to do something that you want, that they do not want to do – and expect a good result.  Simple concept, difficult to apply.

The reaction to someone not going along with your preference is annoyance.  The reaction to someone not going along with your demand is anger. ** key point.

I make an assumption, and then my assumption turns into my fact, and I start to plan/create feelings based on that – instead of communicating effectively and allowing the other person to state the way they feel, and then I check in with them to see whether my reality is their reality.

I walk in to a conversation with a pre-determined set of demands, because I have internally already had this conversation, so the conversation is not the exchange of preferences, but merely me stating my demands, having decided the outcome, and getting very angry when it does not go to plan.

<<Side bar – it never goes to plan ….. but this does not stop me from repeating the exact same “conversation” over and over again…>>

I saw this on the Daily Love and I read it and thought “Yep that is exactly what I do…”

I had an “ah ha” moment (love those!) over the Holidays. You know there’s a saying that goes something like this… If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your family. You know what I’m talking about.

All those times you thought you had grown and become “so spiritual” go right out the door and BOOM – old habits come back like an itch you just can’t scratch.

When they first got here, I was so happy – and then the first hour passed and I noticed some of my old stuff coming up.

And I was shocked, I was SURE I had outgrown it. I went from an almost 30-year-old man into like a 5-year-old boy around them. It was SO funny.

A couple days later I was talking with my dad and I found myself really irritated at him.

And I didn’t know why. So I started asking myself while I was having a conversation with him “why do you feel this way?”

After a few minutes of inquiry I found out that all I wanted was for my dad to say I love you and ask how I was feeling.

And the irritation was coming because that unexpressed expectation wasn’t being met. And my dad had no idea all this was going on inside me.

I was the one who was aware of the Love that I wasn’t “getting” and I was mad about it.

My dad wasn’t aware of this. He has and does Love me the best way he knows how to, and he is a pretty kick ass Dad!

And this isn’t to say I didn’t get Love from them. No, I got a lot of Love – but there was a certain kind of Love that I felt was missing – and I got angry with them because I thought they were withholding it from me.

But my AH HA moment was the moment I realized that I was mad at THEM for something I was supposed to do.

So the breakdown is this… People give us Love the best way that they know how to. They can’t give it any other way than they do. And if we are trying to get orange juice from apples over and over again, not only are we going to keep getting let down, we are actually insane! Haha.

After I started treating my father this way, it was like an instantaneous shift in our relationship. And I didn’t go to him and tell him all this; I just started giving more Love.

My issue that I am having at the moment is that I cannot speak when something needs to be said.   I cannot tell someone what I need from them.  When I do not get what I need, I am hurt, and I then turn that into anger.

But I am not telling the other person what I need  – so they do not have the opportunity to give it to me.  Do you see how fked up this way of thinking is? I am not sure if you are familiar with it.

I wear it like a familiar shirt, over and over again, even though it clashes with everything, and I do not have a pair of shoes to go with it, I still drag this behaviour out and keep wearing it.

I stand there, and it feels like I am standing with my hands crossed over my mouth and unable to speak.  No one is stopping me from speaking.  I am stopping ME FROM SPEAKING.

The result is I get frustrated and then angry, but this only contributes to the situation that I cannot speak when I need to about something I want to change or that I want to happen.

I know how I feel, I know what I should say, but I just can’t come out and say it.

Then the issue gains momentum, and instead of being about one thing, by the time I say something it turns into a violent emotional puke and it is about 12 things, and comes out garbled.

It does not come out in a constructive manner about discussing the issue – it becomes about the fact that I am having a freak out.  And instead of reasonable conversation, it is me screaming.

I am frustrated.  But I can’t seem to speak out about what I need.

I am not sure if this condition is only limited to me, or you may also be a frustrated-communicator ….

The ability to speak in an assertive – non aggressive – manner and say what I think or feel on a subject, without feeling bad is one of the main things me and Dr CBT are tackling to start this year off.  Part of the trick is to practice it, so it means trying to communicate, knowing you are not so great at it, and maybe it not going as you planned it in your heard.

But then you get better for next time.  I am in Grade R for Communicating Effectively at present.

Maybe I am not quite ready to remove myself from the “Daily Love” mailing list – there is a bit too much there that resonates with me.

End of year functions make me cringe … a lot ….

Last Saturday Kennith’s company had their end of year function.  I was thrilled that this year they chose to do a family picnic.

I am not really sure how end of year functions are planner or organised, but I find them generally painful.  My experience usually encompasses an 8 to 10 seater table, people sitting around on addis chairs, and looking at each other, chatting politely and praying it will be over soon.  There may be variations on this theme, but usually that is sort of how it goes.

If you are unlucky there will be a dress up theme involved.  Cringe.

I have already rationalised that end of year functions are not designed for me. But everyone I speak to seems to agree that they are a “necessary evil” but I am still confused who enjoys them.  The evening or afternoon often involves smiling like an idiot for four hours, while you count the hours/minutes until you can leave.

My theory is that I would like to spend social time with work colleagues, but in a relaxed environment over great food and a few glasses of really good wine.  It’s great to sit in a comfortable chair, an exquisite setting and be able to hear each other talk.

Unfortunately I find most end of year functions are karaokes/bad food/loud music/bad loud music/dress up theme/a venue that allows for almost no conversation as you can barely hear yourself think.  My experience is that end of year functions are all of these factors, or a combination of these.

Generally the “rule” is you eat, then you sit for 15 minutes and say “okay, I need to go…” and then do….. This is how “end of year” parties go in my experience.  {I am not suggesting I am the spokesperson for all end of year parties, I am simply indicating this has been my experience … almost to date….}

This year Cape Union Mart opted to hire a location in Sea Point, and invited staff and their kids.

They catered with a braai/salad (Bruce’s Catering I think} sort of thing.  You bought your own drinks if you wanted alcohol.  They organised soccer, a gladiator thing, jumping castle and a slip and slide thing.  No one had to dress up, no one had to sit awkwardly at a table and pray it would end soon.

It started at 12h00 and went on until about 16h00 or 17h00. It was relaxing and cool, that I think it might be classed as one of the nicest Xmas functions I have ever been to.

I have a social phobia, so asking me to socialise with a group of people creates a high sense of anxiety, panic and sometimes poo streaks in my underwear.  But turn it into a family picnic, and then I am much more relaxed, as it does not force me to stand around like a half wit smiling and nodding like a deluded idjut – I can instead look really busy with my kids.  Win!

I got to play gladiator fight with Connor. Connor played soccer, the girls played for hours on the slip and slide or on the jumping castle.  It was relaxed, the sun was shining and I was quite happy to while away the afternoon in this manner.

It was a relaxing day.  The only error was they did not serve wine at the bar.  Rookie mistake.  But someone saw the problem and dashed out to purchase a half dozen bottles of wine, which made me all very happy.

I had a great afternoon with the kids, and I still got to speak to a lot of people while we chewed on a chicken leg, and messed potatoe salad on our respective chins.

Great idea.  Executed brilliantly.  Lovely day out.  Cape Union Mart’s clever people who plan end of year functions scores a 10 out of 10 in my book for a great “end of year function” …..

<< they were also good enough to have a roaming photographer who captured some great moments>>

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Having my black dog at heel instead of pulling me along ….

Depression is somethings difficult to explain without it sounding …. a bit er ………. depressing.

It really is not the thing you can put a fun spin on,.  I try to make light of it, but people inevitably look at you more strangely than they did before.

At that point I down the glass of wine I am drinking (real or imaginary), and then you change the conversation as you offer to fill their glasses with more wine (real or imaginary).

Claire sent this link to me, and it is really exactly how depression is.

Depression and it’s little friend Generalised Anxiety Disorder <I have a social and sensory-sensitivity thrown in> is a total jedi-mind-fk.  It does not come with a cool light sabre and that heavy breathing guy in a slightly too big head mask.

Everyone tells you to “just be happy” or “snap out of it” or “you will get over it.”  All I want to do is get the shovel out of the garage, and hit the person in the head.  Then go and lie back on my bed, and stare into the vacant distanc, or close my eyes and wish for sleep to come.

Even when everyone is dancing around and so frkn happy, I sit there and smile and really I want to curl up in a ball somewhere, or at the least hold my breath until I pass out.

Social situations push me further than I want to go.  But I seldom opt out of social things, as the remedy is not to sit in a room, and rock yourself to sleep, but the solution is to put my self into social situations and remind myself that “I can do this, I can do this ….”

I think most people who suffer from depression can win an Oscar for faking-happy.  I tend to have to fake interest/happiness/contentment/mild interest when in reality I just want to somewhere and die.

To add to it, no one says {okay you are depressed, it’s okay that you do not feel the same as other people} so as a child/young teenager/young adult you decide that if everyone is smiling, what you need to do to fit in is to smile …. like a bit of a douche bag, as you really are just mimicking behaviour.

Seems the correct thing to do, right?

I have suffered/struggled/ignored depression for several years.

It just is.  I can’t blame things. I am just made this way. I think there were contributing factors, but to be honest no matter how things had occurred, I probably would have ended up in the same place.

<for me making this observation is a huge step, I have lamented various issues around my up-bringing for several years as a way to pin the tail on to the donkey going ‘that’s what caused this’…. but the reality is that I was made this way, there were some environmental issues that probably did not help, but odds are I would have ended up the same place no matter the journey>

My happiest moments are often tainted because I am smiling, but in reality I am not happy at all.  I knew I should be.  The problem was that “should” never equalled actually “feeling happy.”  I do try though.  Gawd only knows I try.  But it never seems quite enough.  <Excuse me while I leave the room to self-flagelate.>

The last few years have had some okay years and some shocker years.  2011 has been a corker, and really no one deserves a shag-and-a-medal more than Kennith for his trouble this year.  He has so stood there and taken it like standing up like no one’s business.

I am not writing this post, because I can click my heels together and screamed, I am cured.  But right now, with my respite from the {hole that is depression} it is wonderful to see things in life’s full Technicolor … even if it is just for a little bit.

<…in the last two days, I have started to get this gnawing sensation, that things are starting to creep back … that the edges of my pages are starting to crumble … just that little bit …. it really terrifies me…>

Illustrations are from “I had a Black Dog” from the uber fabulous Matthew Johnstone – you can purchase his books through Kalahari (delivery free until the 30 November 2011).