Stephen Fry Is My Spirit Animal: The Panic Of Social Anxiety

I am the rock. You'll need to know that for later.

Social anxiety is very difficult, especially as a mother with kids who need to spend time with other people —  and those people are part of a group or a crowd. Social anxiety is just part of who I am — and I like who I am. Warts and all.

My text to my husband was: 

“Help. Socializing.”

This little rock in the picture is me.

Or it was me the other day. Just wishing I was the only rock on the beach, as the waves of socialization kicked my ass at a park day that I was quickly regretting.

About 10 years ago, I decided I had had enough of this social anxiety nonsense.

No more panic attacks in the middle of Costco! No more feeling like the walls are caving in on me in Office Max! All my fears of big crowds: BE GONE!

I was going to go see a psychologist through Kaiser and be done with this. Because that is what rational people do.

The official diagnosis that is on my permanent medical record: “You do have social anxiety. You also have good coping techniques. Good job. Now, go out there and get ‘em, Tiger!”

Great.

So, here is what happened this week:

Dear Diary,

Long day yesterday. Church women had a thing at the park today that I drug myself and the kids to, since I am trying to act normal around adults, and 30 other women. It was adult circle time: "Hi, my name is x, I have x kids. We live on x and our favorite thing is x." It's just group therapy at this point. And +30 kids were being supervised by two (maybe three) older kids in the park . . . which meant I was at the park, neurotically watching my kids, and acting like a spaz around the adults and trying to behave like a normal, chill, suburban mom in a totally chill crowd  and also keeping an eye on my kids in the midst of an insane amount of 2-8 year olds who all look the same.

And then library night with the kids . . .

But enough cynicism and getting lost in the library! Back to life.

Maybe it isn’t a big deal for some women. Hell, maybe it isn’t a big deal for most women. But it is a big deal for me.

I can act like a well-adjusted, sarcastic, witty adult if it is just me and a few others.

But once the "group" is more than five, and starts breeching into the “crowd” territory, I don’t do well.

I may get spazzy.

OK, I do get spazzy.

My reality has to include social anxiety, because I have had social anxiety for as long as I can remember. School programs, football stadiums, parades, large parties — hell, even small parties. I would rather not. To the point that I will simply not attend. Not because I can’t handle it — I can. I just don’t enjoy the crowds, and I don’t enjoy my reaction to the crowds. I get bitchy and impatient, mostly with myself, and I actually don’t like being bitchy and impatient.

But one-on-one coffee dates? Going to the movies together? Playdates at someone’s house, with only that one person and their kids? I love it. And I love going.

Social anxiety is very difficult, especially as a mother with kids who need to spend time with other people — other people that are part of a group or a crowd. Social anxiety is just part of who I am — and I like who I am. Warts and all.

Stephen Fry said it best in his book, Moab Is My Washpot: “It's not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing — they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” 

Maybe Stephen Fry is just my spirit animal, and I just have to take him to the circle-time picnics with me. I'm sure he would love that.

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