This is not unique these days, but I feel like I’ve lost my ability to socialize. It was never my forte. I was sick a lot as a child, so I didn’t learn to socialize as a young child and just had to wing it. I’m still winging it many years later after therapy, study, and medication for social anxiety.
About three years ago I made a go of pushing myself to do more exposure therapy in the hopes it would lessen my anxiety. It did for awhile, sort of like the more you do public speaking, the easier it gets. Unless of course your anxiety is just THAT BIG. Personally, I’m much more comfortable with public speaking than casual socializing. With public speaking, there’s a defined role and a script. Those are things that give me a feeling of safety.
My grand exposure therapy experiment culminated in the worst depression of my life. There were other things going on too, like getting diagnosed with cancer and some major setbacks with my degenerative back issues. At the root was the cause of pretty much all suffering: my expectations for myself and others weren’t met. For awhile it seemed my socializing experiment was working. I tried new things, opened up to new people, practiced emotional vulnerability in a way I hadn’t tried in a very long time, and people responded the way I wanted them to. Or so I thought. That’s the way delusion works: the story seems real until you can’t convince yourself anymore. Hello, rock bottom.
“It’s just that sometimes we try to make whatever we’re doing into whatever we imagine its ideal state to be. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. But in real action we transcend any notion of an idealized state. Even if we carry that idealized idea in our heads, it doesn’t matter. We just do what we do.”-Brad Warner
Anyway, I’m back to working on my attachment and abandonment issues and anxiety in different ways. I’ll keep working on all that until I die, but no more throwing myself out there so flagrantly. I didn’t need a pandemic to bring me the insight my methodology was flawed.
The pandemic presents its own unique challenge. Social distancing and isolation means any social muscles I’d been able to maintain have atrophied to the point I’m finding it difficult to even talk to my friends. Part of me misses people and wants to talk to them even if forced to use Google Hangouts or whatever. Another part of me is on the verge of a panic attack just thinking about those situations enough to write this post. The panic ebbs and flows with each impending contact, but the flowing is starting to border on drowning more and more. Even messaging someone is becoming difficult. I find myself withdrawing into the place I’ve lived much of my life and daydreaming about becoming a recluse again. That is perhaps the most enduring thing I want to be when I grow up.
So I keep doing what I am doing, and if that means I socialize less, then so be it. Someday, maybe I will become a recluse cloistered away somewhere or maybe I will start socializing again with less anxiety. Or maybe something entirely different will happen. In the past, I’d be beating myself up about this. I’m learning to let it go and just be. Who I am right now is a person struggling to socialize. Who knows what I’ll be in the next moment.