Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I am frequently late for appointments, and it drives some of my friends mad.
I don’t know the exact reason for sure, but I know one of them is down to my underlying reluctance to leave my flat for anything/anyone, especially if I am going somewhere where I will be out of my comfort zone.
Last night was such an appointment.
As a challenge, and to meet new ‘healthy’ people (as Aunty C, my counsellor, calls non mental folk), I joined a ‘Meet Up’ group and arranged to go and see a gig with them at a pub.
I wanted to see the band, the group looked nice (I’d met the host before and she was fun), but as always, when the time to leave approached, I used all kinds of delay tactics (Facebook, tidying up, sorting out sock drawer, bleaching spoons etc.) and had to fight hard with my inner demons who came out with the usual shit (everyone hates you, you’re ugly, too old to be going to gigs etc.) to make myself leave the flat.
To do this, as advised by Aunty C, I tried to play the ‘Good Parent’ to myself, and reassure the child (that’s me) that it’s OK to be nervous, but to that it would be good for me to socialise, make new friends, and that ‘if the child doesn’t like it, she can always come home’.
That’s easy enough to say, but in real life, things aren’t always that simple.
Leaving when you want or need to isn’t something we tend to allow ourselves the luxury of, as even with good friends, we don’t want to seem aloof, rude or impolite, and whilst a few of my very close friends do sometimes tolerate me legging it mid event, strangers won’t necessarily be quite as understanding.
Take last night; by the time I managed to convince myself to get out of the door, I was already 15 minutes late, and very conscious that this was hardly creating a good impression on the group, but in the end, it was a blessing in disguise, as when I arrived, I found my new buddies in a vast crowd/queue waiting to get into the room where the gig was taking place.
So we spent about 40 minutes standing there in a sweaty, sticky pub being pushed and shoved, and I could feel my anxiety grow minute by minute. Had I known that was going to happen I’d have stayed welded to the sofa.
I don’t like crowds.
I don’t like feeling trapped.
I don’t like people touching me.
Had I been on my own or with close friends, I would have been out of there like greased weasel shit, but because I was there with new people I had just met, not only did I have to stay, deal with my mounting claustrophobia, listen to my inner dialogue….
(it’s hot, i can’t see the door, i wanna get out, don’t touch me, how much longer, i wanna get out, who did that, try to look normal bitch you’re trying to make friends?!!, i wanna get out, touch me again you stinking fucking pseudo hippy twat and I’ll rip your liver out and slap you around the face with it, you’re drifting off again focus on the conversation, what’s her name again, i wanna get out, i’m going to faint, i hate you and your fucking backpack you cretin, i want out of here now, OW! etc.)
….biting down the urge to punch anyone in arms length of me and head for the door, I had to make small talk.
Two simple, seemingly innocuous, one syllable words that without fail or exception fill my soul with a cold, creeping, despairing dread.
It’s not that I’m not capable of it. I am. Well I used to be.
I did it for decades, as it was a requirement of the job and industry that I worked in.
And for most people, it might have been a pleasure because a lot of the people that we schmoozed were nice enough, the events usually took place in very salubrious surroundings and I was being paid well to do it.
It’s just that it took such a super human amount of effort for me to network, that I’d usually need to be shit faced to drum up the energy, and need a day off sick afterwards to recover from it by not speaking to anyone at all.
It’s not that I think I am better than anyone else; quite the contrary. It isn’t that I think I’m better company than anyone else; I just find pointless, social chit chat hard work, soul suckingly boring and a complete waste of life.
I don’t know whether it’s down to my depression/paranoia/nervousness, my being empathic/HSP or both but I honestly don’t get it.
And some people can willingly, nay happily do it for hours.
I suppose putting me in those kinds of scenarios is a bit like someone who’s not keen on kids being locked in a crowded nursery, who’s forced to coo, entertain and sooth them whilst all the while thinking, ‘Fuck, I wonder when I’ll be able to escape from this’.
Only difference being kids are generally pretty amusing.
It’s not that I don’t like people either. I just find it hard work to operate on such a superficial level, because I need some kind of spark or connection on a deeper level in order to invest time in a person.
That’s one of the reasons I don’t have hoards of friends.
Because in reality no one does. What popular people actually have is 70% acquaintances, 20% casual friends, 10% good friends.
And whilst I know I need to have more casual friends to complement my few good mates, I don’t have the energy for a load of acquaintances who I have to fight to feign interest in.
Some people are very good at pretending to give a fuck when talking to someone they have no interest in whatsoever.
But whilst having to do this at various functions in the past, I have had to fight the urge to flick the canapé off the cocktail stick I’m holding so that I can slam the sharp end into my eyeball, then I can escape to A&E/ER where I can sit on a nice uncomfortable plastic chair for 6 hours next to drunks, screaming kids, yobs, disorientated pensioners and people with unusual things stuck up their orifices and not have to talk shite with anymore anymore.
And to be honest? I’d sooner talk to any/all of the above than someone banging on to someone about the frigging weather.
And when I have had to make small talk with someone who is a genuine, card carrying, 18 carat bore?
My tolerance level is zero.
I’m not being a diva here, and I do try and be polite and interactive, but because I am both unconfident and shy, I find it hard to maintain eye contact at the best of times, but if someone is excruciatingly dull, they exhaust me and I have to fight not to hurt anyones feeling or embarrass myself by drifting off in their presence.
I did actually once fall asleep when chatting to one client at a dinner because I couldn’t escape any other way. Luckily he thought I was hammered. I had actually been drinking water all night.
Back to last night.
Somehow I managed to stay put (cursing Aunty C for every minute of my life I was losing to this hell) and eventually the crowd carried me towards the room the act was appearing and I found myself in a seat with the rest of the group, and whilst I did the small talk thing with them as best I could, all I could think was that there was only about 2 inches of space between me and the big long haired beardy in front of me and the woman with halitosis behind me, perspiration was practically dribbling into my eyes and the girl next to me’s thigh was so mashed against mine that I was considering proposing to her.
So I endured….
The band came on.
My face hurt from smiling.
The hairy bastard in front of me flicked his manky mane and the tail end of it landed in my drink.
Oh how my new friends laughed!
Oh how he laughed!
Oh how I laughed!
But I really wanted to scream.
Then, mercifully came the interval, and I made good my escape to the bogs.
You can guess what happened next, can’t you?
Reader, I legged it.
Because I was specifically told that if I didn’t like it ‘the child can always come home’, right?
But I doubt that my host felt the same way when I text her to say I had to leave because I had a headache, the cat had coughed up a fur ball, or whatever lame excuse I gave her.
Because, I suspect that by her complete radio silence that in her eyes what I did was rude.
But there was no way I was going back into that sweaty hellhole to talk about the weather, peoples kids and/or what they ‘did’ whilst drinking warm, hairy vodka and cranberry with a complete strangers thigh pressing enthusiastically against mine.
Welcome to the first chapter of ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ by Sista Sertraline 😦
Maybe I’m just not cut out for ‘healthy friends’….
So what do I do in future?
Not go to these things?
Try and be more normal?
Take double doses of medication and come across as a stoner?
I honestly don’t know.
But even amazing evenings out in the company of like minded souls can feel like a complete anti climax to me, so I guess how I behave in ‘polite society’ on a regular common or garden evening with dull/predictable/normal/well meaning folk is just the nature of this anti social beast….
And I’m done with pretending to be anything other than who and what I am.
You know, little kids and grumpy old aged pensioners are great at this kind of shit, because they just say what they mean, if they don’t like someone or something they say so, if they don’t want to do something they refuse to do it and if someone tries to make them, they kick off, go apeshit and behave in a generally embarrassing fashion until someone drags them out of the building and gives them a telling off, some sweets or a Mogadon.
Maybe there are some things to enjoy about getting old after all 🙂
Come and get me menopause, I’m all over this!