Stages. By: Social Anxiety

I’d like to take you on a journey — the stages of a social event, brought to you by social anxiety. 

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Dear Journal, 

In my last post, I mentioned how I hate social situations.  The more weight I gained the worse my social anxiety became. My husband has a hard time understanding my struggle with this and sometimes my friends do as well.  So, I’d like to take you on a journey — the stages of a social event, brought to you by social anxiety.

Stage #1 – Sunday – The invite: My husband gets a phone call from his friend, Josh*. Josh would like us to come over to his house Saturday night for dinner and a small gathering to introduce his new girlfriend to all of his friends. (‘Wow, she must not have social anxiety,’ I think.)  It is a week away, I like to be invited, and I think ‘I can do this and I will enjoy it.’ Before I “got bad” as I say, I liked Josh and considered him one of my good friends, too.  In fact I miss him, it will be nice to see him, I think.

Stage #2 – Tuesday – The “I can do this” thinking:  I can do this, I can go.  I have a positive attitude about it at this point.  I’m looking forward to going.  I look through my closet at things I could probably wear, and I tell my husband I’m going to go and smile.  I’m actually maybe a little excited.

Stage #3 – Thursday – The “I probably can’t do this” thinking: What…. was… I…. thinking?  Why did I commit to this?  How mad will my husband be when I tell him I might not be able to do this?  No, I can do this, I think one more time. I’m back looking in my closet.  I pull out some outfits.  But, then the original reason for my anxiety starts creeping in: how dang fat I’ve gotten. I’m too fat to be in public, I think.  No, it is what it is.  I’m still fat no matter if I go or not, and I don’t care what people think.  This process continues on for much of the evening, until I go to bed. I still lay in bed and think about it.

Stage #4 – Friday – The complete meltdown: I think about Josh’s event all day at work.  I have a hard time even focusing on work.  I get home.  I tell my husband I can’t do it through tears.  He will once again need to go to a social event on his own.  Here, people will ask where I am.  He will make up yet another excuse as to why I am there, and people will think we are having relationship problems.  Ah, shoot.  Well now people are going to talk about me either way — I’m either fat or a bad wife (cue paranoia, my other old friend).  Ok, I’m going to make one last attempt at going.  I pick out an outfit.  I’m look at myself.  I go through my usual “f-ck PCOS, f-ck depression, f-ck fat, f-anxiety” skit as I look at myself in the mirror.  I then check my clinic account to see if my appointment for gastric bypass consultation has been moved up.  Cue more anxiety about that. But, I find an outfit.  I go to bed.  I can do this.  I get up five times because I have diarrhea from the stress of it.

Stage #5: Saturday (Event Day) – The Ol’ Change-up: It’s 2:00 PM, I’ve been thinking of this all day, but the nausea starts to set it thinking about going.  My husband asked me at 10 AM if I was still planning to go.  I said I was, and he let Josh know. (Josh asked again this morning because I have a history of bailing out on these sorts of things.) I think deep down my husband knows I won’t be able to do it, but he riddles me any way.  He tells me we need to leave by 5 PM.  I proceed to shower and cry the whole time ramping myself up for this.  I sit on the bed with my towel for the next hour.  My husband comes in to ask if I’m ok.  Yup, I am, I say.  I go into my vanity and attempt to put on makeup.  My eyes are too puffy and watery to really do this successfully.  I’m downright pissed at myself at this moment.  No 26 year old should feel this way about going to a dinner and gathering with a few people, mostly people I know.  But, I do.

I walk out into the living room where my husband is with my hair half done and my makeup half done and say ‘I can’t go.” He says, “figures”.  I go and cry in the bedroom.  Some time passes, he comes in to give me a kiss and say goodbye.

Stage #6: (Saturday, part II) – The Regret: Once my husband leaves, I come out of the bedroom and sit on the couch.  My cat curls up in my lap and my dog is next to me.  I feel safe here, but I can’t shut down the overwhelming sadness and regret that overcomes me.  My husband is at the event by himself where I should be, and I want nothing more than to be able to be there too.  But, I can’t my body won’t let me.  I sit in quietness most of the time my husband is gone.  He comes home, I ask him how it was, he says fine, and he goes to bed.

This is my life.  This is the cycle.  This is what happens any time we are invited anywhere.  It isn’t fair to my husband and it isn’t fair to me.  But, it is what it is.  I go to bed too and close my eyes.  Enough for the day.  The next day I wake up.  My husband has a ceremony and dinner for work coming up in a couple weeks, he tells me.  Time to restart the cycle.

*Names were changed to protect the anonymity of the author and others.