Despite being a proud introvert, I’m not shy. In that classic, misunderstood introvert sort of way, new friends are always surprised to hear that I am one (probably because I’m a bit loud…). There’s just no arguing with the fact that I deeply crave alone time and am easily exhausted by even the most lovely of socializing.
What I am finally starting to accept about myself, though, is my social anxiety. In addition to enjoying being alone, I also find that people just stress me out. They’re unpredictable. They can be rude and less than pleasant. They can ruin my day in a way that just about nothing else can. I half-jokingly pointed out to a friend the other day that the reason I always prefer to be alone is that then no one else can ever hurt me.
I’ve been in some pretty upsetting social interactions a few times in the last week. Without going into too much detail, I had a really uncomfortable conversation with one of our dog trainers, who yelled at me about a technique I was employing in front of the rest of the class – it was soooo embarrassing, and I was utterly flummoxed on how to respond. A few days later, Ru misbehaved around a very young child right after I assured her father she was great with kids… it worked out okay, but I left feeling so, so bad about how the whole thing went down. Finally, a woman aggressively chewed Reg and I out for letting Ru walk off-leash about a hundred yards before the “off-leash” sign, something we’ve done 10,000 times along with every other dog owner at this park, and it left the two of us feeling pretty rattled. (Notice how all these things involve Ru? I love the kid, but man, are dogs a source of stress or what.)
I’m normally a pretty care-free and optimistic person, and even when I’m going through a funk, I have some pretty good tools built up to help me get out of it. I don’t normally let emotions linger and plague me. Yet, for some reason, when I have these incredibly terrible interactions with other people, I just cannot get over them. They replay over and over and over again my head on repeat, and I wonder what I could have done differently or how I can avoid getting in that situation again.
I think that wondering those things is pretty healthy and a fine reaction, but by day three of the same scene playing over again in my head, I’m emotionally exhausted. It occurred to me that if I was a drinking sort of person, I’d probably be taking shots of whiskey by this point. I just can’t shake the uncomfortable feeling these situations gave me, and they gnaw on my insides and make me sick with worry.
I guess you could say that I have problems with obsessive thoughts. This comes as no surprise, given that my grandmother and mother have the same. Sometimes those obsessive thoughts are about decisions or purchases. For example, sometimes I’ll decide it’s time to get a new TV and it’s hard not to go out and get it RIGHT THAT SECOND. I’m learning to control that one, to put the purchase on a list and wait a few days or weeks, since impulse control is a good skill.
But at this point, I really don’t have many good skills to control my mind when it is obsessively playing repeats of a strained social interaction. Podcasts and books help a bit, since I can get my head focused on something else. Exercise, of course, helps my mood, so I’ve been going to yoga and on lots of hikes.
I’d love to hear your suggestions – Do any of you guys have ideas on how to handle obsessive thoughts? How do you manage your social anxiety after negative interactions with other people?