A Giant Ball of Tangled Lights: Even grownups have social anxieties

A Giant Ball of Tangled Lights: Even grownups have social anxieties

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I was homeschooled. Maybe I didn't have enough anxieties as a teen that it's hitting me as an adult.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I wasn't allowed to really have feelings growing up, and I'm only learning how to better manage them now (instead of bottling them up.)

Maybe it has to do with my job change and new coworkers.

Or the upcoming holidays, which are always inexorably tied with memories, like a giant ball of tangled lights all in my head.

At first I was recovering from my last position, and starting to slowly trust the stability of this new place. Even though I get anxious and my IQ drops by 30 or so points and I start messing up this or forgetting that, the people here are easygoing and patient. I returned to old patterns of fear and shame, which I grew up with for over 21 years. That's why kept cringing and waiting for the other shoe to drop, for someone to shame me or make me feel like an idiot.

Thankfully, therapy taught me some coping techniques. Grounding. Positive self-affirmations. Self-reassurance. Restating things. For example:

"Yes, I'm feeling this way because it was what I was used to, but right now, nobody is holding anything against me, so therefore I don't need to hold it against myself."

"Newbies make mistakes--you're okay. Nobody is holding that against you here."

It has helped me put things into perspective and get through the days.

Somehow, I'm still anxious. And it's getting worse, though I'm not sure why my old childhood feelings keep resurfacing. Am I talking too much? Too much about myself? Not enough? Am I friendly enough? Are they frustrated when I ask them to repeat things? Am I appearing interested enough in my coworkers and my friends? Am I self-absorbed and selfish? Am I giving of myself enough to others? Or too much? Do people think I'm weird? Am I reading the social cues accurately? Misinterpreting them?

I know the whole "people will think you're stupid" and the "you're a spoiled brat" bit comes from my dad. His long rants. His anger. His fear of looking stupid because he's afraid we looked stupid, which directly affects him (in the narcissistic mind, that is), even though we actually did everything right and nothing wrong.

While I can't hear him in my mind, my body is listening to something. My brain isn't reliving things, but my body is reacting as if he was around. Like an emotional allergy. I'm still extra sensitive to fear and shame.

So sensitive that, when something in my life tangles up in string and pulls out a long-buried association or memory, my body reacts. Instead of hives up and down my arms, legs, and back, I get the fear-tingle.

Remember how you felt when a taxi nearly ran you over? Or when you almost slid off the road in a bad storm? Or when you thought you lost your child or pet? That fear-tingle. It both drives you forward and weighs your body down.

Except that friends and coworkers don't typically start raging at you. Except that you're not entirely dependent on the unstable person anymore. Especially when you've chosen safe friends and landed in a safe workplace.  These things don't normally cause fear and despair, and yet because my lovely brain remembers the anxiety I've had about disappointing dad, fearing rages, and bringing shame on him and me, I'm constantly re-examining all of my interactions with people and belittling myself.

I'm trying to battle that negative internal monologue. It isn't easy. And that may be why I keep soaking up all the positive words and praise people say, gaining +1 energy for each positive statement. Which quickly turns into -1 energy because a) I feel stupid for needing it and b) I'm afraid that it means I'm a narcissist. Like my dad.

Dammit. And now I'm thinking about stupid things people might try to say to this to further make me feel bad.

"Think positive!"

"Don't let him have such hold of you. When I....[goes on to relay anecdote about how they were better than me in a similar situation]"

I have something to tell those people:

flipbird gif





Time to find a distraction to temporarily shut up the negative hate spiral, and time to go into my safe place. And curl up with the kitties to finish sleeping off this cold.

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  • Thank you for sharing this, RWABC. You have no idea how much comfort your words bring. I have been experiencing similar thoughts and anxieties lately and I too worry way too much about how others perceive me. Keep strong... and know that you are a strong, beautiful person.

  • Thanks, and you, too :)

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