I’m socially tapped out. Three social events in five days may not be much for some, but for me it’s almost unheard of. Saturday there was a party. I met new people. Fun, interesting people but new and frightening all the same. I went home with the Techie after, stayed out too late, stumbled through Sunday on no sleep and not enough breakfast. Monday, dinner party. I enjoyed the company, was relieved when they left. Wednesday, the Techie came for dinner, stayed after midnight sleepily chatting at the table.
Today I woke up and something rebelled. I did not make Spouse breakfast (I did pack his lunch). I felt a buzz of anxiety, but it hadn’t found anything to latch onto yet so I ignored it and focused on caffeinating instead. I’m socially exhausted: a day at home alone should have been the most welcome thing in the world but that buzz was getting louder. The apartment was too quiet, I decided. We were out of carrots. I could walk to the store, work off some energy, see evidence of an outside world.
Anxiety hits hard, and it knows how to keep its victims shamed into silence. An employee asked if I was finding everything ok and I froze. Sudden, inexplicable misery at the prospect of having to interact, however minimally, with another human being. I hurried through my shopping and went home.
Anxiety sets up a feedback loop. It takes the smallest thing and zooms in and blows it up to something mad and insurmountable. Was I terse with the employee? Did she think I was rude? She probably hates me. In fact, everyone probably hates me. Always has.
Rational brain steps in at this point, sniffing a fallacy. Wait a second, you’re married. Spouse clearly doesn’t hate you. You have friends, people you’ve known for years, even if they’re far away. The now-long-distance other half of your poly quad. The Techie. Chef and cook and the rest. Family. This is ridiculous, just chill out.
Fine, says anxiety brain. If you’re so sure they don’t hate you, ask them. Make sure.
That’s insulting. Also crazy. But now rational brain is panicky, uncertain. What if they do hate me, if all these relationships are part of an obligate social dance I’m just too awkward know about? What if it’s an elaborate joke? Oh God, if I tell anyone I think like this they will hate me. They should. This is insane.
This is the point where things can break. Panic attack seems imminent. There are options. I can take benzos. They don’t stop anxiety brain from running its mouth, but they make it impossible to give a fuck what it’s saying for a while. I can clean. It would require making a mess first; this place is spotless. I can try to reach out of the anxiety, just a little, just for a moment, and tell someone I need reassurance.
But I’m socially drained. The idea if talking even to my favorite people seems daunting, especially knowing I have nothing to say except “I need reassurance that the entirety of human social interaction exists, is based on genuine feeling, and includes me.” Everyone I know is working except an autistic friend. She cannot help with this problem.
Option D, then. Text spouse something brief and cheerful, wait for an affectionate reply. Lie on the bed reading until Spouse gets home. Demand hugs. Find that speaking still sticks. Wait for that anxious buzz to die down a little bit. Fail, after five nights of insufficient sleep, to get to bed at a decent hour.
It is dying down–a few hours ago writing this even for strangers on the Internet would have been impossible. I just wish it wouldn’t start up in the first place.