Stop it, social anxiety

So I don’t know to what degree everyone else does this, but I often see amusing and all too true graphics on Facebook and Twitter about agonizing over every. single. conversation. you have with someone.

This is why I worked in food. You don’t have to talk to the food. You don’t wonder what the food thinks of you. You don’t go home and wonder if the food thought you were weird or if it’s just pretending to like you because it has to.

And you might laugh and think, how do you expect to have a degree in Psychology and not talk to people? And my thinking is, that’s future Me. Future Me won’t have this problem because I intend to get over it. Realizing an awful lot of people have the same problem makes me feel better. Realizing the people who come to me to talk might have this problem also helps.

Past Me didn’t have this problem either. It’s so easy when you’re a kid in school, you know what kids are into by what groups you meet them in. You go to Math Club, you know they like math. You go to Drama, you know they are theater geeks. You find your crowd pretty easily.

All that changes when you become an adult. You encounter people every day–at work, at your kid’s school, at the gym–but who knows what the hell they like? So then you have to engage in small talk, which is just about the most painful thing ever. Or you have to be that type of outgoing person who can ask a stranger questions like, “If you were a ghost who would you haunt, and what would you do?” Which is something I would totally ask someone I know, but not someone I want to meet.

So this morning, I dropped off my son at camp. This involves, you might guess, talking to people. A teacher I’m pretty familiar with was there. He was in a beekeeper’s suit, which made me feel a little less awkward about how I look.

So what do I do when I’m looking for something to say? I bring up things I don’t actually need to know, just to make conversation. I pretended I wasn’t sure if my son needs a doctor’s note for his medication he has to take during the camp sleepover tomorrow. I know he needs a note. I was actually kind of hoping he’d say no, you don’t really need a note…just so I could get out of calling the doctor for the note.

Yes, I was talking to someone, in hopes that I could avoid talking to someone else. Figure that out.

To the guy in the beekeeper’s suit, this was probably just a blip in his day. Probably forgot about it by now. Unless he’s like me, and then he will think about it all day and probably tonight when he’s trying to sleep. (He’ll probably wonder if I thought he was weird for wearing a beekeeper’s suit, which I totally don’t, because if you’re playing with bees, by all means, wear the suit.)

Why do I keep thinking about it? It was a perfectly legit question. Why do I have to agonize over it all day?

So now that I actually had to call the doctor for the note, I bit the bullet and did it as soon as I got home. I actually thought about what I want to say, and then I tried not to forget it all when I’m on hold. I took a breath when the person came on and I just tried to tell it like a short story. I know they will ask for my son’s info, so I wait to say that. I keep it simple and they will fill in the blanks.

The thing is, I’ve had this issue since I was a kid. For some reason, talking to people on the phone freaks me out. My mother used to make me call and make my own appointments once I got into my teens, and I hated it. I always thought the person on the other end was going to yell at me for some reason or other. It’s irrational, I know. That’s the thing with anxiety; most of the time it is completely unwarranted. I also was anxious as a kid because my mother was always super prepared, and I usually wasn’t, and I felt like it would be the end of the world if I forgot my insurance card, which my mother also let me carry once I was a little older. Like nobody ever forgets their insurance card? I look back now and realize it was a lot of worry for nothing.

Most people probably have the ability to compartmentalize their encounters, realize which ones are important to remember and which aren’t. I can remember conflicts and awkward moments from decades ago.

So, what kinds of memories pain you to this day?

 

 

How are you?

I just watched a quick video about approaching the conversation on mental health. You can find it here.

When you interact with someone, whether it’s a friend, family or stranger, you usually have an exchange of “How are you, good thanks, you?” etc. that varies slightly but that’s the general gist.

“How are you?” is one of the most important but most ignored questions. It bothers me so much when cashiers and other employees ask it and then don’t answer when you ask them back. This is only one of the communication gaps we have today.

When someone asks you, how are you? Here’s the thing. They don’t really want an answer. They want to look polite for asking, but you give them an answer any longer than “Good thanks”, and their eyes start to glaze over.

I used to volunteer for a couple different text-based crisis chat sites, and some people who would come there, specifically to talk to someone, would be concerned that the volunteers don’t actually care. They were convinced we got paid, or just did it to kill time, or they had heard that the place tries to recruit people to some religion or other. Some were impossible to convince otherwise. This is because they’ve had person after person ask them how they are, but not really care to listen to the answer.

So next time you have the opportunity to ask someone you care about “How are you?”, mean it. Look them in the eye. Sit down with them. And if they say, “Actually, not so good,” ask them if they want to talk about it. You don’t have to have the answers, you just have to actually care about their answers.

The wrath of young children

My son finished school two weeks ago. (I had to double check the date–I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks.)

This week, he starts a day camp that runs all day. You’d think I’d get things done, but all I’ve done in the hour since I came home is play on my phone, eat something, and try to write a blog entry. Somehow, just doing all that in peace and quiet is satisfying.

Anyway, when I dropped off my son, there was a family walking in with a small child who was having a meltdown. I didn’t get the gist of the situation; he seemed too young for camp, so maybe he was upset that one of his siblings was going, or something. It doesn’t matter.

I got home and just a few minutes ago I read one of those heartwarming stories about someone who helped a parent with a crying child on a plane. And I wondered how many people try to do that, and if the family is always grateful, or if people try to help and get told to mind their own business (those are the stories that don’t go viral).

I always struggle with what to do when I see a parent who is struggling. I want to mind my own business because it’s embarrassing enough to be in public with a child who can’t be consoled. You don’t want to admit that people notice, even though it’s obvious that they do, and from experience, it can make it more embarrassing when someone acknowledges that struggle. How many people would actually let a stranger hold their baby, or get close to an older child who was maybe having some sensory trouble? If I ask a family if they need help, does that make the parents feel bad, that someone noticed they were not handling things well?

I don’t remember a lot of people trying to help when my son was little. I think a couple times I got an encouraging smile and “They’re so stubborn at this age” or some other comment to empathize with me. But nobody offered to hold him or comfort him, and I’m not sure I would have accepted if they did. (And nobody told me you’re not supposed to put the baby carseat on top of a shopping cart! I mean, looking back, it does look a bit precarious.)

People shouldn’t feel obligated to help people with upset children. Many people don’t like kids, aren’t good with them, don’t wanna touch them–so any help may not even really help. If you feel like encouraging a little bit, maybe a smile and a “Kids are brats, am I right?” shrug will put a little smile on the parent’s face.

 

Sigh.

When I got up this morning and checked my Twitter, I saw Chris Hardwick’s name trending and my stomach dropped. At the time of my writing this, we have not heard anything official from Chris or his team so all this is speculation. I’m not in the habit of doubting people who come out about these things happening to them, so right now I’m on the side of Chloe Dykstra, the woman who wrote a post talking about emotional and sexual abuse in a relationship she had, and apparently enough lines have been drawn (and she hasn’t denied it) to assume that it’s about Chris Hardwick.

Chloe is a cosplayer and I originally became aware of her a few years ago on Heroes of Cosplay, a reality show that followed cosplayers through their processes of designing and making costumes and wearing them to cosplay competitions at conventions. The show didn’t do well but I liked her and a few other people on the show, so I followed them on Twitter.

I’ve been aware of Chris for much longer than that. He was co-host with Jenny McCarthy on Singled Out, an MTV game show in the 90’s. I lost track of him after that, but since he resurfaces as founder of the Nerdist network, comedian and host of @midnight (and The Wall, which we don’t watch), my husband and I both became fans of his recent work.

Anyway, I struggle with this concept every time an entertainer I like, or a person who creates things that I like, is outed for doing abusive things. I feel robbed of enjoyment of their products, whatever the thing is they make, whether it’s music, movies, tv shows. vlogs, etc. because I now know this awful thing that they’ve done. It becomes hard for me to see past it. And I believe nobody is all good or all evil. But it’s really hard for me to wrap my head around the personal flaws of people I thought I could admire, and I suppose that says something about admiring celebrities.

It’s true, most people haven’t heard of Chloe or Chris. I just happened to be fans of both of them, and while I enjoy my fandoms colliding, this is not what I had in mind. Plus, as with celebrity suicides, it doesn’t matter if you know of the person. It highlights another serious, tough issue that also goes on amongst us everyday people and often goes unspoken.

A lot of people don’t understand why women don’t speak up right away. They say she should have called the police when it happened, why didn’t she tell anyone when there was proof, etc. etc. I’ve tried to verbally explain my thoughts on this before, but I feel more eloquent on paper, so here it goes.

It’s because, when you’re in a relationship like that, it’s not dire right away. You go into it feeling like the issue is small, you can deal with this. You hope it’s a misunderstanding, probably on your part, because you’ve been told you’re too sensitive, so maybe you’re being hard on them. It happens again and again and eventually, it becomes your normal and you don’t realize not everyone lives like this. You think everyone has problems. Mental illness and abuse are similar in this way because you learn to think it’s normal, you learn to live with it, you feel like people will blame you if you tell them. You feel like the process to get out of it will be harder than just living with it. Also, most of the time I bet, there is no proof. It’s not always physical abuse.

So, those are my thoughts, but by the time you read this, it won’t be trending anymore. We’re on to the next spectacle.

 

Exceeding Expectations

When I wrote and published my previous post, I didn’t realize until later that the title was “Things to feel good about today”. I was going to do a quick and simple countdown of things one should feel happy about, like nature, and the laughter of a child. Then I realized, that’s not my style. And I recounted the experience I had at my son’s pediatrician.

Sometimes, I really want to see the beauty in the world. I thought about sunsets, and the way the light looks when it’s cloudy but the sun is shining from the other direction. These are things I enjoy but feel less inspired by when I’m run down by the stressors I encounter. It all feels cliche.

I thought about changing the title, but I thought I’d just follow up by retelling what my son said about the whole receptionist encounter.

I recently returned to college. I maintained a 4.0 GPA for 2 semesters, but my average dropped to a 3.8 last semester when I had to have surgery in March and I missed some assignments in Computers and got a B in Math, which has always been a struggle for me.

After I ranted on the way home about the experience at the doctor’s office, my son said, “For the whole time you’ve been at college, which is the highest level of education, the lowest overall grade you’ve gotten is a B, in a class you thought you were going to fail. And you feel dumb sometimes. B is above average, so you’ve been exceeding your expectations. So just think, when you feel dumb, you’re not really, because you always exceed your expectations.”

Yes, this is really how my 11-year-old talks.

Things to feel good about today

Sometimes I really hate dealing with people. I feel like sometimes people don’t understand simple requests. This can happen frequently when you live with a man and a pre-teen boy. (Sorry, guys.)

Usually, though, it’s other people who don’t quite understand or have double standards, and that’s something that really bothers me. I think that sometimes retail and admin employees, in particular, being generally disgruntled people who don’t want to be there, offer useless, passive-aggressive advice.

Part of dealing with people is talking on the phone, unfortunately. Whenever possible, I email or even prefer to talk to people in person when I need something.  I had to get my son’s medical info from my son’s doctor for camp, and I was going to be out and about anyway, so I decided to stop by.

There’s a row of receptionists, one for each doctor in the office, and the cubicle that has our doctor’s name on it is vacant, so I stand back in front of the other receptionists and wait for one to notice me. “Can I help you?”

“Yeah, I just need my son’s physical and vaccination info for summer camp.”

“Oh, do you have the forms?”

“No, I need the forms that you give out to bring to the camp.”

I had to essentially reword this in three different ways before she understood. Usually, they print out the forms with his basic physical info and list of vaccinations for the family, which you then bring to camp. I didn’t think I had to explain this to someone who worked there.

“This can take 24 hours to do…usually people just call in and come pick it up the next day,” she informs me, like I had no idea I could use a phone to contact them.

“Oh, I know, that’s fine, I was just in the area so I thought I’d stop by and let you know I need them.”

So she takes my son’s info…and prints out the papers in about three minutes.

I said, “Oh, I wouldn’t have minded coming back tomorrow.” She replied, “Oh that’s fine, it’s just that if I was busy or if there was a line, it would have taken longer.”

Well, duh.

So basically I felt stupid and uninformed for no reason. Stuff like that ruins my day…is that just me?

 

Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.

Confession time: Sometimes I lie on my personal food log.

Sometimes I’ll put in that I had a whole serving of something but I won’t eat the whole thing. That way I can eat a little more than the tracker says I can, and still come out on target. In hindsight, I think this will become confusing when I look back on it…

I have weird ways of negotiating my food, and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I’ll have a bigger breakfast in hopes that I’ll be less hungry during the day, but that usually doesn’t help. Sometimes I eat light all day only to sabotage myself by having a big snack at night. I find what helps is to stay on target all day so I don’t have calories left for a big snack. I also allow myself to splurge once a week or so. Tomorrow’s another day to get right.

The only diet that really helped me cut calories was the no-carb diet, which a trainer put me on a few years back. I lost a lot of weight, and fast, but I craved carbs so badly, that when I hit my goal, I relapsed and went back to burgers, sandwiches and other carb-heavy food, and gained it all back.

I really believe that if you want to get in shape, you have to pick something that you can stick with long-term, or it will just come back to haunt you. But it’s just so hard to eat right when restaurants give you five times the serving size you should have, you can’t easily track nutrition when you’re not sure exactly what goes into restaurant items, and you realize how hard you have to work just to burn off a little splurge.

My husband ordered a “side order” of cheese fries from a local pizza place. It came in a small pizza box and took all three of us 5 days to get through it, snacking on reasonable serving sizes of 3-5 ounces. I couldn’t find the exact item in my food log database, so I had to estimate how many calories it was. I could be overestimating, I could be underestimating.

If society and media want us to look a certain way, why are they guiding us towards the opposite with giant portions of low quality, high-fat foods? So then they can sell us beauty and diet products that don’t really work. It’s no wonder so many American women are in this endless cycle of ups and downs with food and exercise!