I went to a party the other day. It had been a while since I’d gone out and although I felt anxious about going, I’d convinced myself to go no matter what. The first hurdle came with the dress code. The theme was American Frat party, which sounds easy enough, right? Except it wouldn’t have mattered what the dress code is because I worry about whether I get it right. It’s silly because once I finally have my outfit sorted it’s actually fun to dress up. If only anxiety wouldn’t get in the way of that.
Anxiety gets in the way of things that could have been fun. For the actual party, once the initial anxiety has gone it can be fun but I get really anxious just by the thought of being around a lot of people in a party environment. I feel anxious about what to talk about, I feel anxious about being unable to dance, I feel anxious about the way I look (still, even after sorting my outfit) and I even feel anxious because I know I will be anxious. (Yeah, it’s probably my own fault I feel anxious). The whole process of anxiety feels like a rollercoaster or waves that come and go but still crash every time they hit the shore. I have a surge of panic on my way to a party, which then gradually calms down as I reach my destination. I have another surge of panic upon meeting the first person at the party, after which I feel lightheaded, but then it calms down again once everyone has arrived and they’re occupied with each other. But then this surge and the eventual calm is repeated over the next two hours for every new person that starts to talk to me.
The way it works is that I feel slightly paralysed when I’m anxious. I only manage to do anything by telling myself ‘walk over there now’ and ‘smile at whatever she said’ and ‘just stay where you are it’s okay, no need to run’. Then on top of that, I worry about making conversation, which I can’t when I feel anxious, and I don’t want people to think I dislike them because I’m not talking. So then because of that, I worry about being anxious (again) because there’s no need to be, which is when I want to beat myself up because I’m being stupid.
However, because of my state of anxiety, I am hyper-aware of everything around me, and myself, which means that with every conversation I have I start to feel a little bit more insecure. I say insecure, but what I really mean is that I start to feel like I am weird, different and don’t fit in. This is a bit disastrous because I feel like I know I am weird anyway, but I usually manage to ignore this and just go on with my life. I don’t manage to ignore these thoughts during a party. I judge the sound of my voice, I judge whatever I talk about, I judge the way I stand, I judge the way my fingers fiddle with each other, I judge the way I smile, I judge the way I probably look like a lost and scared puppy, I judge myself for not being like the rest. In those moments, I wish to have an invisibility cloak so I could stand in the middle of the room without being there. I don’t want to be there because I don’t want to bother anyone with being weird or needing to be looked after.
I know all of this is in my head. I’m a quiet person and in my head that’s wrong, but for other people, it simply means that I’m quiet. Other people don’t care, they are fine with me as I am. I don’t feel weird because other people make me feel insecure, I feel weird because of myself. In fact, everyone always tries to ensure I feel okay and have a good time. Based on the people in my life I should have no problem feeling confident, but I struggle anyway.
I always struggled with feeling different. It’s the reason why I wanted to be straight so badly. It’s the reason why I hid my depression and it’s the reason why I didn’t openly like the things I like. I have come a long way, but I still struggle with going out. That evening (that also turned out to be a little bit of fun) caused me to stay in a state of insecurity and hyper-awareness, which then led to feelings of depression that stayed for days. I’m not quite there yet, but I now know and have for a long time, that it’s liberating to be exactly who you are. All I have to do now is accept myself the way other people do. I need to look in the mirror and like what I see 10 out of 10 days instead of 7 out of 10.