I'm feeling a little frustrated with myself tonight, as I often do after I've attended a function with a lot of other people. I really like socializing. I like joking around, I like talking, I like listening.
As much as I enjoy being around other people (in fact I think I really NEED that interaction), I struggle with social anxiety. My visions of what parties and other gatherings are going to be like, and how I'm going to feel in those situations, never seem to match up with what happens.
Here's what generally hampers my ability to relax in big groups:
1. Noise: If the room is noisy and I can't hear what the other person is saying, or if I can tell that they can't hear me, I get kind of zoned out. Noise gets to me.
2. Dissociation: I dissociate a lot - not when I'm on my own, but definitely a) in stressful moments or b) when I am around a lot of other people. When I dissociate, it's like I float off. I watch myself from a distance. My body is there, but my brain is elsewhere. I start to lose my words and have a hard time focusing. My husband says my eyes glaze over. I try very hard to stay grounded, and I'm definitely getting better at it - but tonight I felt it happening with almost every person I talked to. When I try to pull myself in, I start to feel crushed by the noise, by the gaze of whomever is watching me, etc.
3. Self-consciousness: Even if I start out with confidence, I usually leave the gathering feeling like I said all the wrong things... like I embarrassed myself... like no-one likes me because I'm such an awkward loser. And then I spend the next two days analyzing what happened. It almost makes attending these functions totally not worthwhile.
It was kind of a rough day anyway. A bunch of things happened at school that, while they would probably annoy me on even my best days, made me feel angry and frustrated. And when I feel angry/frustrated, everyone can tell. I wish I could hide those emotions, wipe them off my face. But my expressions make me an open book.