The fear factor – a guest post about social anxiety by Katy

We have been invited to a wedding do. Just the evening, but it’s a lovely thought from a cousin I don’t see very often. My mum is one of 5 and her mum was one of 6.  She spent about 5 years of her childhood in the same city as this batch of cousins and stayed close to some of them. So when I was a child I grew up with them and their offspring in my life. These are the people who will be at the wedding do.  They are lovely, loving, warm and funny people and it will be lovely to see them. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

It’s a no brainer.

Unless you have my brain.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhh how lovely of X to think of me”, I said to my mum.  “Are O, P and Q going to get there? That’s great, I haven’t seen them for a while. Except O who we saw last year when we popped in for a coffee on our way to that exhibition. But I haven’t seen P or Q to talk to for 3 years so that’ll be nice.”

Mum leaves the dining room and walks the 10 paces to the hallway and in that time …

Shit fuck bollocks crap. But I haven’t seen these people for ages. They don’t know me. Not really. What the hell am I going to say to them? Why on earth would they want to see me? I’ll be that scared of having absolutely NOTHING to say that I’ll probably drink too much and thereby guarantee that I’ll make a tit of myself.  Why on earth would they want to hear anything I have to say? I’m not funny, they aren’t going to be interested in the things I’m interested in.  Christ I’ve put on weight since I saw them. And gotten old.  I’ll look wrong. I’ll feel stressed so I’ll want to smoke even though I don’t smoke and oh fucks sake Katy as IF you’ll smoke, why would you do that then when you don’t otherwise. Jesus woman get a grip THIS IS A GOOD THING. The man has my back. I will be with him. He gets it. He will support me, look after me if you will. I know this!

A few days later and I’m being pressed for a response by my mum because she is being pressed for a response by Q and now she has X’s mobile number and she could just text him yes or no. So I sit in Starbucks one lunchtime weighing up my reply. Drafting it and editing it like an assignment to be handed in and assessed.  All the while my heart is beating faster and faster and I realise I’m sitting there crying. I text the man to try and explain how hard it is for me just to say that yes I will go to the wedding do thank you SO much for inviting us. He already knows this because he knows me so well but  then he worries and offers to talk me down, pretty much, but I say no you can’t this is my mess, my head and he knows that and just wants to reassure me. I try and put into words in my text to my mum how utterly terrifying decisions like this are for me. At the same time talking myself out of a panic attack because that would be bad – it’s my lunch hour. I say I don’t think you quite get how hard this is for me, how hard I find these social gatherings that are second nature and so pleasurable for you. I must have become the most excellent of fakers over the years. Which is a bit of a worry.

Only a limited few know this about me.  I don’t even attempt to explain it to the majority of people because I’m scared they won’t get it.  I am a lawyer.  I am required to be confident and assertive for a living.  How then to marry up that person with the other me? The one gripped by fear; by social anxiety, which lets face it, is what this is.

The argument I have with myself is ultimately that I cannot carry on in life like this. I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to be known as the one who accepts an invitation, but is more likely to cancel with a plausible excuse.  I want to see these people and I want to not feel like this.  If I don’t go I will regret it. If I do go the chances are that it will be fine.

So I booked the room and paid the non-refundable deposit. I’m a Glaswegian Yorkshire woman. I’m not going to lose my £50.

Am I?

One comment on The fear factor – a guest post about social anxiety by Katy

  • Ziggy Mondus

    I know you Katy, and you know me, except perhaps that sometimes I go through these feelings too. Oh, I’m not trying to ‘better’ you, we are different people and the biggest difference is that I’m 20 years older than you. I’ve had time to work out ways not to panic… which I used to get close to many long years ago.
    I feel quite alone about these feelings, though. Unable, until now, to admit that I’m like that too.
    My best method of getting through ‘these’ things is to think, “It’ll be over soon”, “I’ll get past this and it will be gone, and I’ll never have to do this particular event again.”
    My second best, and in this, since I already know what ails You, I do not include you, is to remember that I am human and so is everyone else who will be there, and amongst them will be, probably (big probably, but it is MY faith), 5-10% of all those present who have the same problem, subtly different effects. perhaps, but with enough similarity that they are human too.
    I get there and I don’t notice anyone else ‘being like me’, and I have every faith that they don’t notice anyone else either, because I fight not to let it show.
    There are other fears that plague me on these occasions, too. least said about them, the more chance I’ll get through by appearing to ignore ‘them’.
    Inside I’m dancing, funnily enough, it’s often the fact that at these types of events, that Outside I’m Dancing, too. I enjoy that side of me, but I am also hiding in plain sight. While I’m out on the dance floor I don’t have to watch what I say because (almost) nobody expects me to talk while I’m dancing.
    If I look like a tit, at least, so I am told, I don’t dance like a tit. More to the point, I don’t mind if I dance like a tit because, to reiterate, I don’t have to watch what I say because (almost) nobody expects me to talk while I’m dancing.
    Have the best night you can with your man x

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