Friday, October 06, 2006

Social phobia sucks

[I wish the council would come along and do an emotional rubbish collection]

Does anybody else ever get those attacks where you are so convinced you have done something incredibly stupid that you can't even think? Your whole body is just convulsed with shame and you walk along the street just absolutely cringing with embarrassment? To try and stop the flood of self talk shouting at me, I do things like hum loudly and tunelessly, which attracts startled glances, as to all intents and purposes I appear basically normal. Sometimes I'll skip a few steps, or kind of bounce and jiggle about, trying to shake the excruciatingly embarrassing moment that is playing over and over in my head like some hellish perpetual video loop.

Lovergirl calls them 'shame spirals' which is fairly descriptive. The spiralling is all down. The only things I can do to combat it involve flooding my body with some alternative sensation, driving all other thoughts from my head. Like singing really loudly, or reading and watching TV at the same time, or eating and reading. Oh, and of course I have to immediately leave the environment in which I have done aforementioned completely stupid thing (which may or may not be completely stupid, from an objective point of view). So today I had to leave the training session I was attending at lunchtime

This is, I realise, evidence of an anxiety disorder. The problem with familiarity with the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, the international manual of psychiatric diagnoses, is that every fleeting uncomfortable emotional state has an associated label (and course of pharmacological treatment). An anxiety disorder is a response that is out of porportion to the threat. But I work on the theory that a level of disproportionate anxiety is normal and everyone has moments where they walk down the main street of their capital city in their business clothes humming loudly and tunelessly while bouncing up and down on the balls of their feet to rid themselves of waves of debilitating humiliation.

So you can put this in context, the embarrassing thing I did was I went up to the trainer at lunchtime. She's here from America. Clearly a dyke. (I could tell by the big sign on her forehead) Anyway chatted briefly about the training so far then invited her to come down to Byron for the weekend. Then I heard myself sounding like some sycophant breathlessly sucking up to the trainer and asking strangers to come and visit. She'll think I have no friends and just accost people in the street! She'll think I'm one of those losers who desperately wants people to like me! When actually I have a rich and vibrant social circle, many dear people who will attest to my social skills....

Then I had to leave.


Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you're talking about. I sometimes relive catastrophically embarrassing moments from decades past just for something to do. I'll find myself analyzing something I said at a party in 1991. I have an amazing memory for the stupid things I've done, but forget to switch my laundry from the washer to the dryer.

One trick I do when the negative self-talk starts up is to say out loud: "STOP IT RIGHT NOW!" I then proceed to make a list in my head of things I have to do that day. Usually works, never for long.


Mikhela said...

I saw this great Judy Horacek cartoon, where she called her dreads 'Kevin', which I adopted. There's something ludicrous about saying 'Back off Kev!' when overwelmed by feelings of doom and self-doubt.

I'm glad other people experience it though!