Sunday, 19 June 2011

Social anxiety and fear of being touched

This evening, in an attempt to be a good colleague, good friend and a normal person, I attended two social events. The first was a work barbecue, the second a house party at Pou's. I only go to things like this because I feel I 'should' and there's always a part of me that hopes I might enjoy myself, but invariably I don't. Why are social situations so difficult?

It doesn't help is that I think I look like a freak and so am constantly paranoid that other people are judging me in this way. I try to tell myself that I don't look any worse than a lot of other people and that if I just had confidence in my appearance I would blend in but I don't really believe this. I feel so so so so ugly and fat and conspicuous. So if the occasion requires any kind of dressing up, that's a sure way to send me into a state of anxiety in itself. Today was a barbecue so we went for the tartan shirt, skinny jeans and heels combo. Shan likes it when I wear the tartan shirt, especially if I dress it up with a necklace. It's like lesbo meets princess and she gets a kick out of that somehow. Anyway, given that it was more of a casual affair for me I felt slightly less anxious in that respect.

Despite this minor advantage, I still hated almost every minute of it. I think I am the kind of person who people like to talk to if there is no one more interesting around. This works well for me in the office because I can chat to people every now and then when there is no one more interesting about for them and it means there's not a lot of pressure on me to converse (which I often don't feel like doing). However, when involved in a group of more than a few, I have no hope of being listened to or engaged with. This makes me feel like an inferior human being, which I believe I am anyway, so it just confirms it to me... hating self so much just now.

Thirdly I have some stupid hearing problem where I can't hear what people are saying if there is any background noise which means it can be almost impossible to join in a group chat in a noisy setting.

Fourthly, and probably most importantly, I feel like an alien. I feel like even if I looked stunning and people were interested in me and I could hear them... I'd still be hating every minute of it and wanting to run away home and hide. I just don't feel like I am on the same planet as anyone else. I can hold a conversation for a few minutes, but it's all fake. It's not me talking; it's the part that acts in this social manner in order to blend in. Inside I am panicking that any second they are going to realise I am a fraud; a freak, crazy... that I don't belong here.

I want to be able to be myself, but who am I? I want to have friends but I will never be able to make friends with anyone normal because all I have to give is this facade of normality which can't maintain for more than a few minutes. So I am trying to look like I am enjoying myself; wanting to enjoy myself; wanting to be able to engage meaningfully with another human being but also wanting to run away and be alone; feeling so far from the lives these people around me seem to be living.

I think part of all of this is growing up so separate from normal life; because of the church/cult (whatever you want to call it) I grew up in. You are physically and emotionally separate from others in the world. You are taught to be in the world but not of it... and that's just how I feel. I'm here, but I don't belong here. At least when I was in that church I felt like I did belong somewhere else. Now I don't have any other setting in which I do feel I belong. I am an alien altogether.

I sometimes resign myself to the silence. I sink back into myself and watch the world around me: smiles... laughter... bonds of friendship... I see people enjoying life. I wonder if I will ever smile genuinely or laugh truly, not just out of politeness. Will I ever feel the bond of friendship grow? Will I ever feel that life is something enjoyable? I see people enjoying a joke and it contrasts with the dark images in my mind of things that haunt me constantly and I wonder how there can be any hope for me to feel happy when I can barely imagine what that might be like.

My main feelings throughout the evening were those aforementioned, with a few moments of less discomfort/mild positivity when engaging one colleague who seems to talk more to me than others do (but I fear this is more to do with her own insecurities socially as she's always quick to drop me when someone else shows an interest in her) and then a few interjected moments, when I was aware of my feelings of physical attraction to the same girl and a slight moment of panic that Shan would try to act on those feelings and then guilt that she (Shan) was thinking about what she wanted to do with the girl who was so innocently sitting with her leg pressed against mine.

Pou's house party was posibly even more uncomfortable and when I was leaving, Pou tried to get me in a group hug with her new boyfriend (who I only met today for the first time) and her. There were arms around me before I could think of a way out and I freaked out and told her I couldn't and that I had only just met BF and that she should know that I don't give hugs. I don't often hug her and have more than once asked her to please stop trying to hug me/touch me. I feel angry with her because I have explained that I find physical touch so horrible (Yes, I am aware of the complete contradiction between this and the last paragraph: but my mind is full of contradictions) and she knows that I have DID, so why then does she feel it OK to force me into a hug with a man I have never even met before? Afterwards I felt guilty for refusing and that I had made a scene and should have just done the fucking ritual, but then, on the other hand... it's my body and I don't want to be touched so why should I have to do it just to please someone else? Better late than never.


JustEliza said...

Good on you for actually going out and trying, though.

I'm a bit weirded out how similar we are -- I have hearing issues too. During migraines my hearing is very sensitive. Noises seem louder; they stress me out and I can't process them very well. Sometimes my hearing goes funny (I lose hearing in my ear for a second and then it goes howley). And it's been ringing more and more. ALL THE TIME. I'm sure it must be related to the non-stop migraines I've had for the last three months.

I have a hard time picking voices out of background noise. When my ears are stuffed with wax or swollen from allergies, everything is more muffled. But I reckon it has more to do with paying attention. I find it hard to pay attention to voices/language.

I did this a lot growing up -- I would be totally engrossed in my thoughts and not realise people were talking to me. A lot of the abuse towards me was verbal. I just stopped listening to people. There would be crowds around me, shouting abuse, but I wouldn't hear them. When I got older, my aunts would complain to my mother that I would disappear during conversations. It's still a problem for me to pay attention when people talk to me. I thought I was just getting stupid or deaf, but now I wonder if I am habitually dissociating my hearing.

Is it something similar for you? Hearing words but just not processing them?

Candycan said...

I can certainly relate to disappearing during conversations. I do this A LOT and it is definitely dissociation. I will just suddenly realise I haven't heard anything that's been said. I think I've learnt to hide this quite well although my husband does get annoyed with me sometimes when I do it. At least now he knows it to do with DID and not just a lack of interest.

The thing about crowds, I'm not sure what it is. I was referred to ENT and my hearing tests came out perfect but they don't do anything to test hearing when there is background noise so I wasn't surprised at the result. I've heard this problem can be more psychologically caused than physically but I don't know in what way.

I know what you mean about noises being louder during a migraine. A warning sign for me that a migraine might be on its way is if all sounds start getting really loud. I wouldn't be able to tolerate any electrical appliances on standby because the almost silent electrical noise becomes painful to my ears.

"There would be crowds around me, shouting abuse, but I wouldn't hear them." I'm sorry you ever had to go through something like that. It was surely very useful for you not to hear at those times, but part of you must have been listening... or you wouldn't know it had happened. I don't know if it helps or not, but I know how it feels to have a crowd of people shouting abuse at you. I don't blame you for not wanting to hear it.