Working from home while struggling with mental health is both a blessing and a challenge. I’m very privileged because I’m able to take mental health days when I need them, but I’m also very challenged to motivate myself, manage my own time, and push myself to get out of the house. Occasionally, I get into an anxious funk of not wanting to go anywhere. If I don’t leave the house for a few days in a row, I start wanting to just stay inside in my safe place. But losing that motivation to get out of the house and interact with others (yes, even if it’s just a barista) can actually make my anxiety worse. As introverted as I am, I still need some human interaction.
BUT on the flip side of this…..social interaction that exceeds five miniatures + with people I don’t know very well causes me anxiety. Small talk is painful for me. I have this fear of running out of things to talk about with new people, awkward silences, and talking about myself too much. I tend to feel lonely in large groups of people. I feel like everyone is having fun and socializing except for me…..struggling to just stay in the room. Large groups of people and loud noises tend to make me want to shut down. In loud large gatherings I tend to enter a daze where my mind shuts down and while I may be physically present I’m far from mentally present. My mind feels cloudy & my thoughts are foggy. It makes keeping conversations alive even more difficult.
Last night I pushed myself to get out of the house and attend a social event. I’d met a few of the people before, but didn’t know them well. It was a casual social + dinner event, but I felt like I was struggling to find things in common and relate. After those four hours I was anxious, my lips were chapped, the hang nails on my fingers were picked, and I was exhausted. I felt like I’d just run a marathon….but no it was just a simple social interaction. And it didn’t end there. That night I laid in my bed replaying conversations in my head…Could I have contributed to the conversation more? Why did I say that? Did I sound dumb? They probably think I’m a failure. Instead I tried to remind myself, you did it. You went. You survived. But the anxious thoughts kept winning.
So I’m in this weird place of trying to balance wanting to be around people, but not? For me, a lot of balancing my social anxiety has to do with being around the right people. And that’s tricky because we moved less than a year ago and don’t know a lot of people yet. In Nashville & Dallas I had my people who I felt safe and comfortable with. Who would engage in deep conversation and not surface level blah. Who preferred smaller groups and nights in. Who knew I struggled with anxiety. Who I could cry with and not feel pressured to smile and act like my shit is in order. And I know that will take time and patience to find here in Seattle. But it’s another battle I have to fight with my anxiety. Pushing through those social barriers and overcoming those feelings of self doubt.
I’m writing all this for a few reasons. 1) If you feel lonely and struggle with social interactions from anxiety. You’re not alone. A lot of us anxious souls do. 2) I’m writing this conscious stream of thoughts trying to convince myself that last night was a win because I went. I didn’t cancel my plans. I didn’t leave early. I went and I survived. And that is an accomplishment. Celebrating the little victories and winning little daily wars against my anxious minds is something I’ve been trying to recognize. So take that and celebrate the small victories today!
For more posts on mental health check out the Anxiety page. Be sure to follow along on social media too!