One of the things I’m told I need to do is establish and maintain social contacts with people. This isn’t easy; dealing with people is a major source of anxiety on my part. I always feel like I’ll give myself away or let the mask slip. People need to be kept at arm’s length or else they’ll try to hurt me.
My first hurdle is to manage what happens when I meet people.
It’s not that I hate people. I’ve met so many delightful people over the years. Many people have enriched my life in a way that is humbling and inspiring – if I could focus on just that. However, I’ve also met plenty of awful people. The problem is I don’t know what will happen. So I have this urge to keep people in this nice area marked “Acquaintances.”
Thinking about someone escaping that area is enough to cause my stomach to flip, my heart to beat faster, and my fingers to tingle while typing this. It’s that hardcore. I’m ready to fight or haul ass at an imaginary thing that cannot happen. What happens when it’s the real thing?
It’s also tough knowing people can’t fully empathize. Meeting people means I have to keep them away from the monster in my skull, that walks and talks just like me. No matter the reaction, it’s always something I can regret. Even if I was in a place with people who had similar problems, these things don’t translate perfectly. Most of my time spent in those few situations has been to make sure nobody has an episode around me. If they break, I might break, and then something awful will happen.
There’s also the conditioning I have established over years of running from my personal terrors. The other day, I realize that anytime I’m around someone who yells or makes a loud noise, I immediately get put on edge. Some people communicate via loud noises; I can’t be around those people for longer than a few sentences. It takes me anywhere from ten minutes to an hour to come back down.
In the meantime, I go through avoidance behaviors. It feels like it’s a compulsion at times, like I have to do these things in order to be myself again. The problem is that I stop doing something productive and go through the other activities.
This is a big deal, and I have to find a way to chip away at it.
I have no clue at this point how to manage this. Part of me is thinking I need to figure out how to calm myself down without avoiding the matter entirely. Another part is thinking it’s too complicated and I should give up.
Ironically, all of this has to be done on my own. Nobody can help me fight my urge to isolate myself. Yes, it’s for personal protection, but isolation causes more problems than it solves.