Why can’t I participate in group settings? Why did I go from seeming like the most social butterfly to actually walking into a group and being frozen? Why can I chat just fine one on one but as soon as there are three of us the anxiety is so loud I can’t speak?
I found one of many areas that being vulnerable is a struggle. I’m petrified of messing up in a situation where someone is there to witness it. Even typing about this is one of the harder things I’ve spoken up about.
It’s one thing if I’m having a conversation one on one with someone. They are less likely to notice my slip ups, my lack of knowledge, I can steer the conversation to things I know and understand and I can cover up the words that medications have taken from me. I can cover up my lack of a memory. I can cover up all of my million weaknesses that I constantly feel like I have to hide.
But put me in a group of three people or more, and suddenly my insecurities become much louder and I have to fade into the background because that third person can focus on what I say wrong, or worse, both of them can. There is an audience for my failures and those can and will be used against me at some future time. They can gang up against me. The tables can turn at any minute and my closest ally can become my enemy.
This isn’t just anxiety talking, it is from personal history.
“It’s pick on Tina day”
“It’s easy to pick on you cause you give the reactions that everyone wants”
“There’s so much of you to pick on”
And I KNOW it’s all in good fun. But it only takes one social slip up. Or God Forbid, one noticeable thing when I’m standing in some public space. Or a typo maybe, something that people can pick up on that have people talking about how horribly I spell or write.
How many years was it not all in good fun. How many years was I petrified that I’d trip in school or screw something up, or slip and say the wrong thing and the other kids would use it against me for months and months.
How many years did I get made fun of for an elementary school speech that people still remember almost 30 years later. Something half the adults thought was great because it was memorable but I STILL haven’t lived down completely. Now, those that joke about it with me think it’s funny, but they don’t remember what it was actually like for me after that speech. They don’t really know how bad things were for me after that speech. They just remember it as a funny thing to joke about.
I was THAT kid in school, the one they make sitcoms about. And now, being vulnerable in that way, talking in front of other people, even two other people, is petrifying unless I am almost certain I know what I’m talking about, and mostly I feel like I have such a limited field of knowledge.
People tend to be mean without even realizing it. We talk behind each others backs. Even those of us with the best intentions do it and all it takes is one little slip before you’re the butt of a joke.
And something that’s meant in fun has me becoming that little girl stuck in the corner of Ms. Wilson’s chorus room again, avoiding the rest of the school by being teacher’s pet and cutting up 6 pack rings from the lunch room.
At least now in most situations I know that putting in a pair of headphones makes it possible for me to at least leave the house still. Because it used to be that when things got bad again, I was stuck in the house for months at a time.
The problem is, I had overcome all of this for a long time and now it’s back so badly and I’m not really sure what to do with it. I’m ready to walk away from doing something that I thought I loved because I’m afraid of people doing what they’re going to do anyway.
The fucked up part is, I mostly don’t care, but my anxiety makes me care too damn much.