When Social Anxiety Makes the Friends Suffer

Except for a few close friends in environments where I’m comfortable and feel safe, I’ve been mostly keeping to myself for the past year. This is why going to the friend’s birthday party on Sunday was such a big deal to me.

This is also why, until last night, I was the only person who had yet to meet the new beau of one of my girlfriends.

She had reassured me countless times that he is incredibly easy to be with and I had nothing to worry about. I couldn’t figure out how to explain that my nervousness had absolutely nothing to do with him.

He could be the most wonderful person on the planet and it would still be hard for me to meet him.

The Narcissist is in my head almost constantly. Nothing drowns him out. No logic, no mantra, no soothing voice of reason.

 

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From “After Narcissistic Abuse – But They Didn’t Hit Me

 

The only thing that helps is quiet meditation and mindfulness; taking a deep breath and focusing the present.

I’m not well practiced at this yet, and doing it while in the midst of a situation I find stressful is not easy.

My friend says the evening went well, and in truth, she was right in saying her new man-friend is quite easy to be around.

She also says she couldn’t tell that I was struggling at all and that I’m far too hard on myself.

I agree with both these statements. She’s correct; others usually can’t tell when I’m struggling. I’m well-versed in keeping my face cheery and maintaining a facade of normalcy.

She’s also correct in that I’m far too hard on myself. This, in fact, is the cause of the issue at its root.

It’s why I always believed the Narcissist when he would point out everything I did wrong during social interactions. He would whisper in my ear that I’d made someone uncomfortable, that they thought ill of me for what I’d said or done, and he would reprimand me for having performed poorly after the event was over.

He was sure he was psychic, so any argument about whether or not someone actually had been offended by me or didn’t like me was rendered moot. According to him, he knew what others thought and felt, and I didn’t, and that was that. And what others thought and felt was invariably uncomplimentary towards me and my social skills.

 

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A Narcissist who thinks he’s a psychic. There really was no point in trying.

Had my self-esteem been stronger I’m sure I would have walked away from him far sooner than I did, but it wasn’t. On some level, I believed the things he said to me.

 

I talked in my post regarding my ability to flirt now being nil about what I think of as Old Self (OS) and New Self (NS).

OS was quite socially confident. She’d been complemented through the years on her ability to work a room. Her family had assumed, from the time she was young, that she would ultimately either go into sales or become a politician. [Insert snide remark about whether the two are all that different here.]

Prior to meeting the Narcissist, OS used to run singles events with over 300 attendees without batting an eye (unless an interaction called for eyelash batting, which was different).

OS loved going out socially and mingling with large groups of people.

It was one of the things about OS that the Narcissist was envious of. He lacked those skills and he didn’t like the negative feelings he had about himself while with someone who was better at socializing than he. Thus, those traits in OS needed to be quashed.

 

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Still working on this one.

I realize that now, in hindsight, but it doesn’t make it any easier to get over.

 

During any social interaction, NS remembers all the criticisms and complaints. She questions the appropriateness of every word that comes out of her mouth, every facial expression, the timing and size of every bite of food.

NS gets nervous around people, particularly new people. Then gets mad at herself for being nervous, and starts to sweat and shake. 

Last night, there was a moment when the three of us were sharing the various food dishes we had ordered with each other. When I reached for a spoon, I fumbled and it skittered further away from me, requiring that my friend and her man grab it.

I can’t explain to her today how that moment made my stomach drop and how hard I needed to focus on my mindfulness and breathing exercises in order to not fall into a full-blown anxiety spiral. I blinked my eyes so they wouldn’t fill with tears. I held my hands under the table for a moment so nobody would notice if they were shaking. I felt the chill of a layer of sweat emerging from my pores.

The reason, of course, was because I was suddenly reliving many similar moments with the Narcissist. In my head, he had appeared beside me, and he was reacting to my clumsiness.

“I can’t take you anywhere.”

“Seriously. Why can’t you just pay attention.”

He looked at me with disgust and sighed at how revolting and humiliating I was, and I knew that I would be spoken to about it afterward, and likely rebuked for days. And then I took a few deep breaths and he was gone, but I was still shaken.

There were a couple more small incidents like this last night, and I survived each of them in turn without anyone knowing how badly I was struggling.

Today, though, I needed to write about it and get the feelings out of me. They stay with me, even a day later while at home alone. My heart is still racing and I’m still on the verge of tears.

I’m glad I went. I’m glad I met her new beau and I’m so glad he’s a lovely man who is clearly smitten with my friend (as any man should be, because she’s an utter delight). And yet, I wish getting me out to meet him hadn’t been such a huge request, one with which it took me an utter era to comply.

I blame NS. And I miss OS.

One thought on “When Social Anxiety Makes the Friends Suffer

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