The Outsider

Well…I said that I was going to mention the positive things that I’ve achieved recently, but today has been quite negative so I’m not really in the mood for that right now. (I promise I will get to the positive stuff soon though).

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I went into Edinburgh with my dad and my sister today. Dad had the day off and had invited us to have a wander around, see the street performers, go into a couple of shops, and go for lunch. I did enjoy it at first, and managed okay in a music shop (I’m usually even worse in music shops than I am in book shops). I know logically that the people there probably aren’t paying much attention to me at all but my SA likes to completely ignore that and makes me feel that everyone is judging me negatively based on my taste in music. I did manage to stay there without getting near a panic attack though (usually I’d chicken out and leave after a couple of minutes). I was even okay with the crowds as well. But I still find myself worrying about what other people think of me when I’m having a conversation with family members in public. I’ve told myself a million times that I probably won’t see most (if any) of them again, that they’re not paying attention to anything I’m saying and wouldn’t care anyway, but I still feel very, very self concious talking when there are people walking near us. My sister soon left us and went off shopping with my cousin and their friend. Dad and I just kind of wandered around for a while then got lunch.

We ended up on North Bridge. The weird thing is that even when I’m not suicidal – and even if I’m really happy – I still get automatic suicidal thoughts whenever I’m on/ near a bridge of considerable height, or near a railway line. It’s actually the first thing that pops into my mind when I see either of those things. Not that I would act on them, of course, but they can be a bit distressing/ worrying.

We met up with my sister, cousin, and their friend after lunch and they asked if I wanted to go shopping with them. I reluctantly said yes – even though I was very anxious about it – thinking that it would make me feel better. It just ended up making me feel a million times worse. We went into a couple of clothes shops and I found derealisation/ depersonalisation (not sure which of those it actually is) taking a hold again. I tried pinching my hand to try and snap myself out of it but it didn’t really help. I felt very spaced out as well for some reason – couldn’t really stay in the present for any more than a few seconds before returning to the massive web of negative thoughts in my mind. Once we’d finished shopping, we went to Starbucks to meet another one of my sister’s and cousin’s friends, who was on a break from her work. I just felt so awkward and like a lost puppy following them around the whole time. And I just sat there awkwardly, not being able to join in with their conversation, feeling crap about myself the entire time. I wish I hadn’t bothered going.

All my sister and cousin did the whole time was talk about going clubbing and getting drunk, freshers week, their sex lives, ex-boyfriends, drunken stories about people in their friendship group, the leaving party that my sister is having next week and how great it is apparently going to be, etc. On one of the few occasions they actually did talk to me, they asked what I’m going to wear to the party (it’s a costume party). I don’t think I’ll manage to make an appearance at all. I hate when my sister has house parties because I’m subjected to loud, shitty music, annoying drunk people wandering all over the house and not giving me any peace, and people shouting all night, with no chance to escape from any of it. It drives me insane. Any appearance that I make at the party will probably only be very brief, and it will only be to say hi to my cousins. I don’t ‘get’ most people my age, I suppose. I don’t ‘get’ the whole drunken parties/ clubbing and loud music and promiscuous sex thing either. And yet…I feel very, very envious of them in many ways. Though the things above aren’t my thing, I’d love to just have a group of friends that I could go out and do things with. My sister, cousin and their friends seem so happy. They’re always talking about the next party or the next great thing. I feel like I’m missing out on the best years of life. Will I ever get to enjoy life like they do? I honestly don’t know how I’m ever going to find people who would ever want to be friends with me. It seems that having friends is a prerequisite for making more friends. I can’t trust people enough to reveal anything personal about myself. I knowingly destroy any chances of friendship that I could have had with acquaintances by avoiding anything that is revealing or would involve expressing emotions in any way. Even if I could connect to people, what would they say if they discovered that I have no other friends? I’m sure that they’d reject me instantly.

I wonder, though, does anyone really connect with anyone else? From what I’ve observed, most of the conversations that people have seem quite superficial anyway. Does anyone ever actually get to know anyone else? Does everyone still feel as isolated and lost in their own thoughts as I am? Is it all just an act? Is friendship just one big, useless lie? I worry that even if (by some miracle) I actually had friends, I’d still feel completely alone and devoid of connection, trapped inside my own mind.

Being around others my own age just makes me feel like even more of a freak for having no friends and never having had a boyfriend (two things that my sister frequently mocks me about/ makes snide comments about anyway), and for having so little social skills and life experience for someone my age. There are probably toddlers with more life experience than me. I feel like some sort of alien who doesn’t belong anywhere. Just a complete outcast. An unworthy subhuman who doesn’t deserve to be happy, to have friends, to be loved, or to belong anywhere. It seems that I will never belong or be accepted anywhere.

I don’t know if I could even fully explain what it was about the things that happened today that made me feel so awful. I felt like self harming again earlier (I didn’t) but I feel a bit less miserable now. There are times like this when I just feel like the biggest piece of crap on the planet. I’m convinced that that’s what other people would think of me if they knew that I have no friends and have never held hands with anyone; If they knew how socially awkward I am and that the wheelie bin goes out far more than I do. I will not be going shopping with them again, unless it’s just with my sister, or both of my sisters. I always seem to get left out otherwise, and end up feeling even worse.

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5 Responses to The Outsider

  1. solcolasoda says:

    I started my first relationship at the age of 20. I thought I’d have a lonely, isolated life too, but actually lots of people with mental disorders are in relationships.

    I felt the same way, like I was missing out on the prime of my life because of SA, but then life experiences happen while we’re struggling to stay afloat. I suppose we don’t really have to go out looking for them. I was randomly thrown into my first internship, somehow got into a relationship when I least expected it, then I started my first job. I would never have seen any of these happening when I was younger and stuck in a rut.

    I know what you meant by having problems connecting with people. Maybe it will work for you if you talk to people online via fb/email etc, before you get to know them in person? For me at least, I’ve forced myself to chat with a few people in my class via social media, before gradually starting to make face-to-face conversations with them. It’s easier to reveal your true personality online, so maybe it will work for you to start opening up to others? It was pretty unnatural and awkward for me at first, but after a few times, I got used to it. Made a few close friends in this way. Open up to others and they may open up to you, maybe this is a good platform to start?

    Have you practiced going out alone? I don’t know how SA is like for you, but I tend to feel less anxious when I go out alone. This is because I won’t have to explain to my friend/partner when I feel an urgent need to leave a place. 🙂 Also, my mind will be more focused on CBT and I can control my fears from running wild. It seems like your sister is a constant trigger for rumination, maybe you will feel better to practice shopping alone? I used to be terrified of going out by myself, then it became easier and easier when I started doing it more.

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks for your comment, Solcolasoda. Sorry for the late reply.

      I still find it very hard to believe that I will ever be in a relationship or have any real friendships because of my issues with actually connecting to people/ opening myself up to others and making myself vulnerable to ridicule and rejection in that way. I’d certainly have A LOT to work on before I got to that stage.

      I suppose certain things have happened lately that I’d never have thought myself capable of a year or so ago though. I don’t know about learning things from my negative experiences…perhaps greater empathy/ compassion for others…but I still feel very limited in worldly knowledge compared to most people my age.

      In my last year of high school, I did manage to have some brief conversations with a few people on facebook but it obviously didn’t amount to friendship. A few days ago, I finally plucked up the courage to join the facebook group for biological science route students at my university (I’d avoided doing so for 2 years because I was too scared). I haven’t been accepted into the group yet and I’m convinced that everyone on there will think I’m a freak, but we’ll see. I’ve also managed to talk to someone from the SA meetup group on there a little bit. Even if I was ‘friends’ with people from uni on fb (I only have 2 people from uni on there), I’d probably still be too scared to just start talking to them on there because I’m convinced that they’d reject/ hate me. It’s nice to at least have online friends (even if things with them haven’t been so great lately), but I’d like to have friends ‘in real life’ as well. Or maybe I just think I would. I love the idea of having friends, but the reality scares the hell out of me. I’m just stuck in that way.

      I have gone out shopping on my own quite a lot lately and I’ve gotten/ am getting better at it. 🙂 I’ve usually feel considerably more anxious when I go out alone but it’s nice being able to focus on the task of facing my anxiety and it’s good to know that I could get out of a situation quickly if I needed to. My sister does trigger me quite a lot – sometimes through snide comments, and sometimes only because I’m comparing myself to her and realising that I fall very short in a lot of areas. I am going to concentrate on continuing with the exposure therapy and building it up to more and more difficult things.

  2. I have to agree with socolasoda. Both about the comparisons you make to your sister and the expectations you have of what’s supposed to have happened by certain ages, and how that bodes your entire future. I didn’t get touched by another person until I was 20. That was an abusive relationship, because I had such a low opinion of myself. Then I got into another abusive relationship. That lasted 4+ years. So I didn’t have a healthy relationship until I was in my mid-20s. That was/is with someone else who has social anxiety and depression, so it’s very hard at times (and probably some would say unhealthy). The point is: work on yourself and let the other stuff happen on its own schedule. If you don’t like yourself then you’re probably going to attract people who will reinforce that.

    Your posts have so much self-hatred woven through them lately. You’re so, so hard on yourself and so convinced of your worthlessness. I don’t know why. But I do know why. You have no self-esteem. Without that, you have nothing to build from. But, paradoxically, you need external reinforcement to help you with that, the little “wins” that help you see that you’re not a freak. That is the challenge: figuring out how to get out there so you can feed that part of yourself that needs validation and encouragement, without getting completely crushed in the process. It’s a fine balance.

    I don’t know you, but you come across as intelligent, thoughtful and perceptive in your posts. I agree that getting to know people online is a good way to lay a foundation for eventual friendship. That has worked for me. I don’t know what to say to encourage you other than to say that there’s a person in you that people would find likable and valuable if she weren’t so trapped in a cage of self-loathing and insecurity. People are pretty forgiving of social foibles, I’m finding. I make a joke of my awkwardness at this point. Some people respond, either with the news that they feel the same way, or their boyfriend is “shy” or whatever. Being open about your problem can actually encourage people to look past your awkwardness. I’ve had people tell me that I’m approachable because I have what seems like a social vulnerability. I’m non-threatening and I am careful with other people’s feelings. People like us can be quite lovely and attractive to others because of the very thing we feel worst about. That has been the biggest discovery for me. You are not always perceived by others in the same way that you perceive yourself.

    Something is holding you back — and continually sending you backward — I don’t know if it’s being around your family, or your town, or the people who bullied you, or the wrong kind of help. But something is keeping you down. Maybe it’s time to look through your posts and try to identify patterns in progress vs. setbacks. You need to get unstuck and find your path.

    I did a lot of work on myself using two books (“The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook” and “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook”). That got me to work on both the behavior and the cognitive elements. I was doing things in little steps, but with a plan and a way of preparing/analyzing/observing/learning. Without that objectivity and structure I’d have just continued torturing myself with “failed” social encounters. That was a little over three years ago, when I was practically mute around other people, couldn’t deal with cashiers in shops, making a phone appointment was torture, etc. Today I have friends. It’s work and it’s difficult and terrifying at times, and I still have big setbacks, but overcoming this can be done. It is harder than running a single marathon — it’s running a marathon over and over and over again, step by arduous step, under the worst conditions. But when you get a little success, it’s like a drug. You see what’s possible. This sounds like a cliché — and it is — but you have your whole life ahead of you. I didn’t start dealing with this until I was 45 years old. I would kill to have all those decades back, but it doesn’t matter. It’s never too late to start solving this mystery.

    • Gemma says:

      Hi J. Sorry that it’s taken me so long to reply.

      I’m really sorry to hear that you had to suffer 2 abusive relationships. 😦 It does unfortunately seem very common for people with SA to end up in abusive relationships, judging by what I read/ have read on forums and on the SA facebook group I’m on. I agree with you on attracting people who reinforce my low self esteem. I’ve had a couple of ‘friendships’ that were like that, as i’ve partly mentioned before. The priority is to work on my confidence and self esteem though I’m not entirely sure how to go about doing that. It’s still hard for me to believe that i have any chance of not ending up alone though. The good news, however, is that I have made a fair bit of progress in some areas lately.

      Thank you. It’s often quite difficult for me to believe that I am any of those things. Sometimes I think that people might like me if i could just be the same way around them as I am around my family…but of course, I can never get anywhere near that stage with people. And yet, at the same time, I’m convinced that no one would like me if I revealed my true self to them. I wouldn’t really know how to be open with people about my anxiety/ awkwardness without looking like even more of a freak to them. When other people do something a bit socially awkward, they don’t seem that bothered by it so perhaps it’s not as big a deal as I think it is…I don’t know. I feel like I turn almost every social interaction that I’m involved in into an awkward one. Everything I do socially (unless it’s with my immediate family) is done awkwardly.

      I don’t know if I can identify any patterns to doing well vs doing badly…I think it is mostly to do with the comparison to other people my age. I know I really shouldn’t compare myself to them but it’s very difficult sometimes when I notice how much better or more skilled other people are in many ways. I do tend to come to the worst possible conclusions about myself or my future from relatively minor events, which is what usually sends me into a spiral.

      I own ‘The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook’ myself, though I haven’t read past the first couple of chapters yet. I also have another CBT book called ‘Mind Over Mood’, which did help a little bit (though sometimes doing the thought records actually made me feel worse) but I haven’t done any CBT in quite a while now. I’ll hopefully start doing it regularly again when I go back to uni, if I can find the time. I also got a CBT book called ‘Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness’ by Gillian Butler, from my university library a while ago. I’d hoped to read it over the remainder of the summer but have only skim read the first chapter so far.

      It must have been horrendous to have suffered with SA for that long, but I’m glad that you’ve improved so much. Thanks once again for your encouraging comments.

  3. You’re welcome, Gemma. I wish only the best for you. My advice to you: find the time for CBT, whether on your own or with guided help. Soon. Seriously. You can’t fix this otherwise. I thought of you the other day when I was sitting at a stoplight. I was remembering a time, just a couple of years ago, during which I was so socially anxious that I would even feel panicky at stoplights, because of the pressure, feeling like all the other drivers were watching me, judging me, worried that I’d offend someone if I didn’t move fast enough when the light turned. I’d forgotten what that felt like, how oppressive that is. It’s so freeing not to feel that way, at stoplights or in most other places. You can get there.

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