Despite what I appear to be in social situations I suffer from a sense of social anxiety. The anxiety emerges before social situations at many times, but as soon as the social situation begins the anxiety almost completely disappears. Whatever predicted outcomes I fear never emerge and the situation is never nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The situation is usually not bad at all. You would think that after repeated experiences of anxiousness before social situations which turn out fine, I would learn from these experiences not to fear the future. Yet I repeatedly fear what future outcomes will be, possibly fearing them because they are unknown.
The social anxiety is nothing new in my life and is probably not breaking news to anyone out there. Intense anxiety would creep up on me before the accident especially when it came to dealing with women and trying to enter the dating world. I’m almost positive my anxiety has increased since the accident. Nervousness is almost guaranteed when entering a department store, going to church, or in this past weekend’s case, waiting for the party guests to arrive at my house.
I suppose we all suffer from anxiousness in life and it seems that this anxiousness may just be a part of living. Would life be exciting if we did not grow nervous before certain social situations? I wonder what life would be like without fear? What would it be like if I could go up to every girl I found attractive at the moment, strike up conversation and ask for a date without reservation. I think it would be wonderful.
I’m working hard to overcome my fears. Several days last week I went out Christmas shopping. As a kid Christmas was always the best time of the year because I wanted things and would probably get them. Now that I’m older I find that I want very little but I am still yearning for that sense of Christmas spirit, so instead of wanting I am giving. Thanks to the citizens of this wonderful country I have a bit of money which I can freely spend on others. One Christmas shopping trip took place at a certain department store that will not mentioned so that people will not guess their presents. When we arrived I asked my aid if he could give me some space and let me wander about the store on my own. For some reason I was rather nervous about asking this, but of course it turned out okay and I went on my merry way. My heart seemed to actually beat a little faster as I drove up and down the aisles once again being an independent young man immersed within society. I discovered that even though I cannot handle many of the physical tasks of shopping, that there is a surplus of people all around me who are more than willing to help me out. Instead of one set of hands I had 50 spread out all over the store each ready and willing to come to my assistance, some more than others but still willing. I had no qualms about asking for others’ assistance and my aid only helped me check out at the cash register. It was an extraordinary experience and I felt normal in a world that has seemed so separate and distant for such a long time now. The small taste of independence only made me want more and I further realized the possibilities of becoming an individual again.
The next day I went back to the same department store because there was a CD I wanted to buy. I told my aid I wanted to try and do it all on my own. He put my debit card on my lap and I strolled through the front doors. Once again my heart began to beat a little faster as I made my way towards the CD aisle. I could not reach the CD I wanted so I asked a member of the staff to grab it for me. Then while waiting in line I struck up a conversation with a cute blond. The experience went no further than just a conversation but I’ll take it as an accomplishment. From there I went to the cash register, handed him my debit card, punched in my pen number with my pencil, and bought the CD all on my own. The feeling I felt was one of gratification which has not been felt since I can remember. To think that such a simple thing could give me such pleasure.
The following Friday I watched Appalachian State University’s football team win the Division-I double-A national championship. I felt an extreme sense of pride as I watched the students rush onto the field to celebrate the narrow victory. I also once again felt slightly sad as I thought about how in another life I would be out on the field jumping up and down in jubilation. Instead I screamed as loud as I could with a weak diaphragm and no chest muscles, and felt satisfied with that.
The next day was the day my family threw our Christmas party. It was mostly neighbors and some friends. If you weren’t invited and feel like you should have been, I am sorry. Feel free to write me a nasty e-mail. I felt odd from the moment I woke up. For some reason I felt sad but I can’t really remember why. I’m not sure if I knew why at the time. Guests began arriving around 2:30 and I’m pretty sure I talked nonstop from that point on until about 6:30. Everyone wanted to know about my life and all I’m going through. Most hadn’t been keeping up with my blog. I enjoyed talking with everyone but it did get somewhat overwhelming at times. Conversations kept getting interrupted so that really most of my conversations were only on the surface level. But that is what happens when you host parties.
From the moment I broke my neck I entered another dimension, another reality. Right after my injury every thing seemed like a dream, nothing made sense, and I was constantly waiting to wake up. This feeling lingered on over the months but slowly dissipated. Recently I have broken away from this dreamlike state more so than at any time since my injury. This stems mostly from a deeper acceptance of the fact that my injury did actually happen. I seem to reenter this other dimension quite frequently however, especially when I break away for my regular routine such as having a party. The entire time I was talking with people it felt as if none of it was real. It was an enjoyable time but I couldn’t help but feel an odd sense of disconnection from reality. Focusing on my breathing and absorbing myself into the moment helped somewhat but was ultimately unsuccessful.
I have other stories to tell but I’m done for now. Sorry for not writing for so long. I’m trying to release the pressure of blogging off of my shoulders somewhat and write at times I want and not write because I feel pressure to please people.