One big assumption that people often make about introverts is that we hate going to parties. More often than not, as an introvert with anxiety, this assumption is correct for me. But as I have grown older, the definition of a party has changed. A few years ago, an invite to a party would conjure images of drunken revelling late into the night surrounded by strangers -things that I actively avoided even in my early twenties. Nowadays, I find that my friends and family will hold a party to celebrate a life event such as an engagement, a baby shower or career progression and these usually take place during the day, or at the very least finish long before the stroke of midnight. Much more my speed. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t find it challenging!
A social gathering of this magnitude always carries with it several questions. Who is going to be there? How many people will be there? Will I know anyone? Will there be forced participation in activities? It’s not that I don’t enjoy talking to people. In fact, the problem arises in the days leading up to the event. I imagine endless scenarios where I embarrass myself or at the very least draw attention to the fact that I’m feeling extremely awkward. Thoughts spiral and I find that, no matter how hard I try, I do not look forward to taking part in parties. And I feel quite sad about that.
Of course, the party is never as awful as I build it up to be. However, after several days of a tight chest and sleepless nights, things are never as pleasant as they could be. Milestones that are a cause for celebration are instead cause for concern or are skipped altogether. This is anxiety in its rawest form. The loneliness, the fear of missing out, the overanalysing every word that is said after the fact that drives us crazy. This series of thoughts is agonising, but in this list there is one ray of hope worth pointing out… that fear of missing out.
My method to combat this set of circumstances, overcoming the dread of a party or social event, comes straight from the series of thoughts concerning missing out. In my experience, this is the biggest downside that comes with anxiety; not being a part of something fantastic or missing the opportunity to create some great memories. But what if I focused on what I may miss rather than what can go wrong? On what I could gain from the experience rather than what I may avoid? Anxiety does seem to feed off of obsession after all and so by obsessing over another factor –something more positive- I have found attending such events is made all the more easier. I feel that I have forced these anxious feelings in my favour. Now I fixate on what I would lose if I didn’t go, and the effect that it will have on my life going forward.
It may not be the healthiest of solutions but it sure beats the alternative. I can take part in life events, parties and social gatherings and it is strangely because of a helping hand from anxiety.
Dave is a lively person; one you may not associate with social anxiety. Having lived with anxiety and depression for most of his life, he has learned to channel his experiences into his creative work, including story writing and playing guitar. Understanding the sensitive disposition that comes with mental health challenges, Dave feels it is important to talk and share with other individuals that share similar experiences to keep things in perspective and enjoy life.