Dear Everyone Who Knows Me,
I’m sorry if we got off on the wrong foot at some stage, if I came across as rude or unsociable. I’m not actually like that, its just I often feel quite anxious and panicky in social situations out of my comfort zone.
When I feel like this, its quite overwhelming and I have to fight hard to stop it taking control of me. Its not that I don’t want to talk to you or I don’t have anything interesting to say, its just that I’m putting all my energy into staying in the room and its the most I can really manage.
And you know, its not that I don’t want to eat your food or have a cup of tea, I can see that you went to a lot of trouble and I appreciate it. Its just that I feel so sick, my heart is racing, my mouth is dry and the idea of eating is completely impossible for me.
I know you aren’t aware of this, you haven’t a clue about the internal battle going on inside my head. You just think I’m a bit weird and impolite, I can tell by your strained attempts to talk to me and how you raise your eyebrows. I know what you think about me, because I think similar things as well.
‘Why is she so weird?’ ‘Why is it such hard work to talk to her?’ Why doesn’t she ever eat anything?’
I’m sorry if I didn’t come to your party or out to dinner with you like I said I would. I really wanted to, its just I couldn’t come because I felt so unwell. I was worried about how many people would be there, what I was supposed to wear. I was worried that people wouldn’t talk to me – I was worried that people would talk to me. I was panicking that I didn’t know where the fire exit was because I’d never been there before. I had convinced myself that I couldn’t get out, that I might feel sick or faint, and that I couldn’t get home quick enough if I needed to.
I know, you don’t know any of this, you just know that I don’t show up when I say I will. All you know is that I’m unreliable and unsociable, you probably think I’m selfish too. Well that’s ok, I’m often pissed off with myself as well.There were a hundred times when I really thought I could do it and I failed and let it beat me.
I’m sorry that I left all my shopping on the check out conveyor belt and walked ran out of the shop. Its just that you took too long with the other customers and I couldn’t force myself to stand there any longer. I’d already had to fight myself and grit my teeth to get the actual shopping done. It was especially difficult to go to the back of the store to the frozen bit because it was so far away from the exit. I had told myself only 5 more minutes, only 5 more minutes but you took longer and I couldn’t manage it. I’m sorry about that.
I’m sorry that we had to walk because I can’t use public transport. Its not that I’m a snob or anything , its just that I can’t be in a vehicle that I’m not in control of. Its not that I don’t feel safe in there its just the panic that I can’t get out. What if I need to get off and there isn’t a stop yet? If I don’t feel well, if I feel sick and I can’t breathe how will I get out of there?
I’m sorry that you never really got this about me. It’s largely my fault because I never talked about it with you. You see half the time, I didn’t actually know what was wrong with me or why I was feeling like that. And when I did eventually figure it out, well its not something you want to broadcast is it?
Now that you’ve read this and you’re thinking back to all the times I behaved strangely and you dismissed me as ‘weird’. I hope you can find a bit of compassion and understand that I was actually going through a pretty shitty time. You see, I was fighting a battle all day, every day for quite a while. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost and sometimes I just gave up and didn’t even try because I was so exhausted by it all.
So if you ever meet or hear about someone like me again. Someone who seems a bit unsociable and a bit uptight. Someone who’s struggling with crowds and public places, try and find some empathy. Rather than dismissing them for being dramatic or thinking they should ‘pull themselves together’, offer up a bit of reassurance. Be considerate and suggest a seat at the back or a table near the front because this can really change their feelings about a situation and help them fight through what’s going on inside their head.
Thank you for your patience,