Using Social Anxiety as a Shield

Hi, everyone!

Yet another unproductive week. Only about 1400 words typed. I polished off a chapter, and started another. I have the rest of that one written out (just not typed yet), which officially brings Salt and Silver to a close.

Which is pretty exciting.

I began the scene that will connect it to the next novella in the series as well, and made it halfway through that (also handwritten). The format of this series is odd, though. I get the feeling that finding a publisher or agent willing to look at it will be difficult…Most places don’t want novellas, let alone novellas connected by single scenes…

It may have to be another self-published work.

At any rate, I still have a long way to go on the rest of the series, and have to decide now which series to give my writing time to, as I’m just about done editing Awakening, Book one of the Regonia Chronicles.

Now, then.

The reason I typed so little this week…

I was social.

That’s a rare thing for me. I went out with friends twice last week, in addition to going to the gym with my husband and one of our friends.

(Don’t worry, I’m not going to start talking health stuff, and talking your ear off about meal prepping. I’m only doing this gym stuff because I’m tired of the crease in my side. The top of my hourglass is holding hands with the bottom half, and I don’t like that. Lol. Some women can pull off that look, but I’m not one of them.)

But I digress. Back to the socializing thing.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m…not a people person. I never have been. And I mean NEVER. I found out recently from my mom that the reason I was in preschool for two years (started a year early) was to help me socialize. Even then, I apparently didn’t talk to the teachers for the first year and a half. Then, when it came time for kindergarten placement testing, I refused to talk to them, and they thought I needed special ed. Mom asked me the questions, I passed, and went on to standard kindergarten…where I refused to talk to the teacher for the first 3/4 of the year. Lmao.

I did fine with my school work. I just…wouldn’t talk.

And then, I just kinda…stayed that way. Sort of.

I’m better about it, now, at the ripe old age of 28. I talk to people when they ask me questions. But I still don’t start conversations with strangers. People I’m comfortable with, sure, I’ll talk to them somewhat easily, so long as no one else is present. Though, it takes a while for me to get comfortable, and usually that puts people off, chasing them away before I actually open up.

Social anxiety has been a plague for most of my life, as have a few other anxiety disorders, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, though that one was triggered by trauma.

You see, being blatantly unsocial as a child made me an easy target. For a lot of things, really. Bullying being one of them. The people who did that are completely different people, now though, as am I, and we actually get along. Which is not something I ever, ever expected.

But the thing that brought on crippling (yes, I mean crippling) OCD is that I was molested as a child. It feels a bit weird to just lay that out there like this, but I mention being sexually abused in the afterword of my novella, Annabelle. So…it’s kinda already out there for the world to see.

After it happened, I didn’t tell anyone for years. Because I couldn’t. I couldn’t talk to people about normal stuff without feeling like a disappointment, let alone something so…disastrous. I couldn’t explain why I couldn’t stomach being touched, or why I immediately had to wash. I couldn’t explain why I spiraled into a fit of incoherent, rage-fueled tears if I couldn’t get to a sink or get my hands on some antibacterial wipes or lotion or whatever.

I couldn’t explain why my hands were so dry that the knuckles cracked open, and bled, or why I couldn’t stop washing them, knowing it would make it worse. I couldn’t explain why I opened doors with my wrists, or refused to touch remotes (which is why I never watched tv or movies, or played video games until college/after college).

I couldn’t explain why I was so tired, because no one knew I laid awake in bed, waiting for everyone else to fall asleep so I could get up, wash my bed clothes because the cat or dog brushed the blanket with their tail, get a shower, step onto a clean towel, put on socks before stepping off said towel, sanitize the tv remotes, wait for the sheets and blankets to be dry while curled up in a ball on a clean towel in the living room floor (with the socks removed as I stepped onto this new clean towel) watching reruns of The Nanny and (ironically) The Cosby Show, until I could finally make my bed, and get some sleep. The fact that my hands would have been washed at least once after or during each step of that process also went unnoticed.

Sadly enough, the part of it all that makes it so terrible (my young age), also helped me. Had I been older, had I needed to hold down a job, I wouldn’t have been able to. No one wants a cashier who can’t touch money, or who screams/cries when she can’t wash her hands.

But I could be a good student. No one else touched my pencils, or my paper, or my books.

And since people assume that good grades are an indicator of good coping abilities, my straight A’s joined forces with my previously established anti-social nature to keep me under the radar for years. No one ever suspects that straight A’s might mean that a person who finds school to be easy is using that very misconception of good coping mechanisms to hide, or that maybe they’re just terrified of getting a B because they’d feel like a horrific disappointment if they did get one, even if they know, rationally, that B’s aren’t bad grades.

But OCD and social anxiety don’t give a damn about rational.

So, I kept my grades up, kept my head down, and drifted along, secretly drowning.

Eventually, I got tired of the OCD, and got tired of being miserable and wanting to die every day for years, and did something drastic. There’s this technique for dealing with OCD and phobias called flooding. I didn’t know what I was doing back then, but I put myself through it. It’s definitely not a best case scenario. Essentially, I touched a bunch of things my OCD determined to be dirty, and then touched everything in my room, effectively ruining my sanctuary.

This, obviously, has the potential to backfire, and result in panic and massive anxiety, followed by hysterical cleaning.

But I got through it, and started dealing with the OCD. A while later (a couple years) I actually started telling people (after someone else confessed to me that they’d been abused, which told me that I wasn’t alone), and I got into counselling.

It’s been an unbelievably long journey to get to where I am, and there’s still so far left to go…

But I’m trying.

So, this past week, I was social.

I didn’t do as much typing as I probably should have. But it was for the best.

Sometimes, you just have to step away from the computer, get out of your sanctuary, and be with people. Even if it’s difficult.

And sometimes, you have to talk. Typing this up has been….difficult. The internet provides a nice little barrier, though. A bit of anonymity, if you will, even if this is on my website, with my name clearly printed atop it. Because I’m not saying all of this to someone in person, I’m not staring into someone’s eyes while I lay everything out there. I don’t know who will read this, or how many people will see it. It could be no one, it could be one person, maybe hundreds of people.

But if one person sees this, and thinks, “I’m not alone…”

If one person finds strength in these words…

Then, it’s worth the lump in my throat, the butterflies in my stomach, and the knots in my shoulders as I pour my heart out, or, rather, type it out.

*sigh*

Anyway, I don’t know how productive I’ll be this coming week, given that some of my family is visiting from Texas, and of course, I have work and overtime. But, I’ll keep you guys posted.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. It’s been a much more revealing post than usual…I just hope someone comes away from it with that little bit of strength that they need.

Because, it doesn’t stay terrible forever.

Even if it feels that way sometimes.

For now, though, I’ll be signing off.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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