I enjoyed the holiday (aside from 2 of my siblings annoying me so much that I almost wanted to strangle them with their own intestines by the end of it) and the sunshine, but I still found my social anxiety weighing me down a lot. Even seemingly simple things like ordering something in a restaurant or just making eye contact with someone can still be very difficult for me.
My mum said during the holiday that she notices that I never look happy when I’m telling a waiter what I’d like to order, or when someone else that I don’t know tries to talk to me. I worry that when I’m anxious, I must look very upset or angry, even when I’m neutral or happy. I’ll probably talk about this in a bit more detail in future because it’s something that I do have a lot of trouble with and I’m guessing it makes me seem unapproachable, rude, or hostile to other people. It’s probably a subconscious thing that stems from years of being bullied. I’m not even sure if I know how to smile, as odd as that may sound. I can obviously laugh and smile if someone says or does something funny but I find it very difficult to smile when I’m anxious. It feels too vulnerable. Again, this probably sounds strange to most people, but I feel like I have almost no control over my facial expressions when I’m anxious, and I’m not even aware of what my facial expressions are doing during those times. For example, I’ll think that I’m smiling when I am in fact looking a bit fed up or sad. Somehow learning to relax my facial muscles and practising smiling would probably help, but I still think it’s impossible to smile when you’re in a highly anxious state. If you don’t have social anxiety disorder, imagine being face-to-face with the thing you’re most terrified of. For example (and for the purposes of an analogy), if you have arachnophobia, imagine suddenly coming across a spider the size of an elephant*. Would you find it easy (or even possible) to smile in that situation? Of course not. That’s kind of what it’s like for me (and probably many other SA sufferers) when I’m very anxious and someone demands that I smile and stop looking so serious.
* I don’t know if this is of any comfort to arachnophobia sufferers, but it’s generally agreed that it would be physiologically impossible for spiders to be anywhere even remotely near that size.
We went to a Chinese restaurant on the last night of the holiday, and one of the waiters would not stop commenting (both to me and my family members) on how shy I was and how I needed to “Smile! Why are you so serious? Are you tired?” He asked me to give him a big smile at one point but I’m sure it looked very forced and not at all genuine. To make matters worse, as we were leaving, he kissed all the women in my family on the cheeks, including me. I get anxious enough just shaking hands with strangers so it was a bit of an ordeal for me and I probably did not look happy at all. He then said to my mum as she was leaving: “Tell her to stop being so serious. She needs to lighten up a bit!” Yes, I probably do need to lighten up a bit but having someone comment on things I can’t (at least not without great effort) change about myself, and having them force me to do things I’m uncomfortable with, is not going to help with that. I know he’s probably just very outgoing and upbeat himself and can’t understand why someone wouldn’t be (a bit like how I don’t really understand how other people AREN’T socially anxious in certain situations) but it is quite annoying when someone keeps pointing out weaknesses or things that are “wrong” with you. Even seemingly small things like that can lead me to feel like there’s no point in going on with life because I’m clearly not making any progress in interacting with other people. It makes me feel utterly pathetic and immature. And because no one else in my family has social anxiety disorder, they don’t understand how something like that could upset me so much, and if I mention it to them, they generally just tell me to stop being silly or to stop thinking about it. I can’t not ruminate over things like that. Thankfully, on this occasion, the worst feelings only lasted about a day.
Earlier on in the holiday, we all went go-karting and made use of the free transport being offered by the people who ran the go-kart track. When the driver asked everyone if we were all raring to go, I looked down shyly instead of answering “Yeah!” like most of the other people in the minivan. I did that in most of the restaurants we ate in on holiday as well. I know I shouldn’t but it just seems to be my automatic reaction in most social situations. The driver then suddenly turned to me and said, in a rude way, “Do you speak at all?” I wanted to answer that yes, I do in fact speak, and that I was sorry that my shyness was clearly unacceptable to him, but I just said “yes” very quietly and timidly. I don’t know why his response angered me so much. I’m just sick of my shyness being seen as some sort of horrible and inexcusable thing by some people. It annoys me when some people can’t understand that not everyone is as confident and outgoing as they are. It also reminded me of high school bullying, because people there would make fun of the fact that I never spoke.
I did manage to ask a waiter something about the menu on one occasion (my mum wanted to know as well, and she was originally going to ask but I volunteered to do so as a small way of challenging my anxiety) but I didn’t really have any SA-related victories aside from this. I really need to up the effort on fighting my anxiety now that I’m back home. I’d like to get better at being in supermarkets, have less anxiety when talking to men, and continue to practise making small talk.
When we were out at a show one night, the alcohol was free and unlimited so I had a little bit. It seemed to take the edge off my anxiety slightly and I was actually able to make eye contact with strangers, which was nice. It didn’t last for very long though, and I’m still cautious about alcohol because I would be too afraid to ever get drunk in front of other people, and I’m aware that many SA sufferers become reliant on alcohol in order to function in certain social situations.
So yeah…the holiday was mostly enjoyable, except for the things I’ve mentioned. One of the highlights for me was that the sea water was so clear there that you could see all the fish that swam past if you wore goggles. I saw both a swordfish and a skate (as well as thousands of much smaller fish) while there. I’m very grateful that I (mostly) get on with my close family members and I’m able to go to different places and enjoy things like that with them. I have about 465, 678, 124, 659 things I want to write about on this blog, including updates from months ago, so I’ll try and get the bulk of those written before going back to uni.