Friday, 17 July 2009

For All the Good

I see friendships forming around me, at work, other places, and I am deeply resentful of it. Because I am not part of it all. I am in the dark as to why not. Maybe it is my inability to do the smalltalk thing with new people, which means they probably fcind me dour, a silent statue that does not like them. Or something. It is one explanation I can come up with at least. Most of that silent time I spend talking inside my head, trying out different tacks and discarding them all with shame, getting closer to panic and feeling more and more uncomfortable all the while, until in the end so much time has passed that any chance of conversation is gone and I find myself alone again. (Is that what is called shyness? Do other shy people feel like that?)

This does not mean I never speak with people, I do - with people I know or with which topics of conversation that does not die out in one sentence appear. But even with people I know I have a very hard time actually forming friendships. Online I seem socially adept enough (I think, or maybe people just tolerate me better, hah), to the point of most of my RL friends today being people originally encountered online. Which, again, makes me feel safer online and makes it easier to connect there, since it has worked before. Out there in big bad RL getting a tenuous bond, reaching the level where I can call someone and spontaneously and casually go out for a coffee or similar takes years. But even then, there are very few people I think would actually go along if I suggested it. Most of the people I know and like and would like to hang out with for a bit smile politely (sometimes), look surprised (more often), and says "But of course - but I don't know when would be possible, not this week at least, we will have to try some time, of course, but not now" (almost always). And some time rarely comes.

It is painful only when it is happening. When I am alone, secure at home, or walking alone without anyone I know in sight, I am quite content. I seem to like myself (good thing, since I spend so much time around me), even if other people either prefer to keep their distance or misinterpret me grossly and think I would like them to stay away. But oh, how much it hurts when it does happen. Hurts to the point where I will have to go and hide in a restroom to cry a bit. Bites my stomach so I have a hard time sitting up, my body wanting to curl up in foetal position to protect itself. Stuns my mind so I cannot focus on the things I should do (a problem, as most of these situations happens when I am at work). But eventually I will be home again, home and safe and able to hug my cat who will pat my cheek gently and nuzzle my forehead and if that doesn't help, bump my nose so I run the risk of noseblood (I never have noseblood, almost - only twice in my life, but that cat...). And at home I am safe, and tranquil, and very rarely feel lonely. I do not know why this is - it has not always been such with other homes.

At work today I wound up in the unusual for me position of being confided in - of course not as a friend, but as the supervisor of the person in question who needed to talk to someone. Her story is not the important thing here and I will not relate it, although I hope my clumsy advice will be to some help to her. The thing that made me slightly wistful is that this is a person I for a long time wanted to be friends with, tried connecting with, only to have my attempts foiled by my promotion. And while that is not necessarily a complete show-stopper for a friendship, it sure as hell complicates it. (Especially when half the department treats you as persona non grata for half a year to a year.)

I suppose that was what triggered this post, since it got me thinking. However these are no new thoughts or truths, but things that I have always known - I just suppose I have not really expressed them as coherently anywhere. For all the good doing that will do me...


  1. Many of the things you write about in this post apply to me as well. Especially the awkward conversations at work. (I used to work in an office.) The isolation. I often felt like an alien, puzzled by the people around me, thinking "people really enjoy talking about this stuff?". The social interactions felt... disingenuous. And I have a hard time faking interest. My mind goes blank, and I wish the person would just go away. I much preferred talking about work; specific tasks.

    And I also recognize the feeling of relief when coming home. Some days it was like finally being able to breath properly again.

  2. I mean, I can talk about random topics with people - as you know, I am good at coming up with random statements on the fly - but with people I don't know it is harder to just burst out with something that pops up in my head. The people I've worked with for four years I can do that with, but semi-strangers? I need to have some idea of how the person will react before I dare I guess. But yea, work is a safe topic and I think it is one of the reasons I seem such a workaholic.

    In a way it is good to know I am not alone in this (there being two heightens the chance that there are many many more), but it doesn't really help and I am sorry you have to endure the same strain.

  3. So you feel that, when talking to people you don't know very well, you have to process everything through a filter before you say it? I can see how that could be exhausting. Total energy drain.

    Me, I've had social phobia, and though I can function alright today, I still struggle sometimes. I don't always know how to distinguish between what's unhealthy and what I really want.

  4. Can you ever "have had" sociophobia? I feel it is a permanent thing you always have to take care not to drob back into, much like they say alcoholism or smoking is. "I don't want to go out" might always be a seed of fear growing, rather than an honest wish to stay in.

    And to clarify - I am talking about myself as much as anything when it comes to SP. I even went as bad as to drift over into antropophobia - fear of human beings.

    I am fearly functional today but talking with people I don't know tends to paralyse me since I am not sure what is expected of me, how they will react if I am my usual random me, will I be found lacking or offensive, or w/e. And just a bunch of irrational fears. However dealing with customers for a number of years have taught me basic ability to talk about the weather and feigning interest, but it isn't quite enough when it is someone I deal with every day. And especially if I get, horror of horrors, stuck with someone from work or similar on my commute - an entire hour of polite conversation on a bus or the metro!?! At that point I usually feign sleep. Chicken me.

  5. Nice typo-turned-pun.


  6. I am not sure, I suppose it depends on how you define social phobia. When I say I don't have it anymore, I mean that I don't suffer the effects like I used to. I mean, I was crippled. Nowadays I just suffer from moments of shyness and awkwardness in certain situations. Back then I used to worry myself sick about having to take the subway the following week. Today I got a job interview, and I am not particularly worried. I even think/feel it might be interesting.

    It sounds like you might benefit from KBT. (I am doing my own version of it.) Have you tried it?

  7. I feel this discussion should be moved away from my comment fields at this point. You on irc?

  8. I don't usually do chatting. =) But I'll email you one of my email addies.

  9. Pfft. Irc isn't "chatting". >:D


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