Do you ever 25% want to do something and 75% not want to do it? This happens to me a lot with social engagements. Oh, not when I make them. When I make them it is always 75-100% that I want to go, but when the day arrives, I inevitably wake up thinking about the evening ahead and the dread sets in. By mid-day I am praying for an illness to strike me down so I can have an honest excuse to cancel. What is going on here?
I suppose I should clarify that it quite often depends on with whom I make the plans. This evening they are with two individuals who I am fairly close to and five to six others who I do not know or with whom I am only acquaintances. I think therein lies the problem. The OTHERS. When I was first invited and said yes, I thought it was to be just me and my two closer friends. The others have since been added.
I have social anxiety, and I just don’t feel like risking the extra energy it may take sitting through dinner with a bunch of people I do not know. It’s rainy and dreary, and I’d just rather stay home. In my yoga pants and t-shirt. And eat take-out. And watch a movie with the husband.
I know I sound like a whiny baby. I am a whiny baby. Oh my gosh, there goes my negative thinking again, which my doctor has challenged me to change. Here is how I am going to change this conversation:
I would feel guilty for canceling on my friends because we are going out for one of their birthdays, however, this would not make me a “bad” friend anymore than going tonight would make me a “good” friend. I have been there for this friend in her times of need and advice and many other celebrations. I have strong values when it comes to friendship. I have a right to change my mind. I am not so important that my absence there will ruin anyone’s night. I can tell her I am not feeling well enough to go and it will not be a lie. Mentally not feeling well enough is just as valid a reason not to do something as physically not feeling well enough.
To put it in terms people understand, however, I don’t have a problem with telling people I have a bad “headache.” I find that people without mental illness can’t understand what we go through. It’s not their fault; they’ve just never experienced those levels of depression and anxiety.
Many will take your word on how debilitating it is for you, and have compassion and understanding when you cancel plans because of your symptoms. On the other hand, some may roll their eyes behind your back or inside their mind or take it personally when you cancel plans on them because of your symptoms.
When I am not sure what a person’s view is or know that they don’t really “get it” I just tell them I have a really horrible headache, because after all, it is in our head and it definitely hurts. (Yeah, I’m a bit of a word manipulator. Oops! There I go, negatively judging myself again. Oh well…another time, another post.)