I am sure that this will be one of the hardest blog posts I write, mainly because I wouldn’t want to offend anyone close to me. You see- that right there- worrying about offending someone- is what can make social lives difficult for those suffering from anxiety.
I am lucky, I have some decent, amazing friends around me. Some closer than others. But each one as important and serving a unique purpose in my life. But this doesn’t mean that having a social life comes easy, I am sure anyone else suffering from anxiety knows what I mean.
I constantly over analyse my social experiences.
Even with people that aren’t friends, be it a fellow Mum in the park or someone in the queue at the School gates. I come home and I am questioning what I should have said and shouldn’t have. I know many people do this- but still…. it can be exhausting. Because at the end of the day, it’s all been said and done and if someone didn’t like me or what I had to say then they aren’t worth my worries. Any friend, any true friend would see past any blunders or embarrassments. And any random person I spoke to, probably didn’t think twice about what I said. Most wouldn’t even notice or think much about certain things said or done. But that still doesn’t stop my mind from thinking about it.
You question whether you’ve offended anyone, come across as embarrassing, hurt someones feelings or just looked like an idiot in front of them. You then worry that they may not even want to see you again. And then you don’t want to come across as needy, you just don’t like to displease.
Making new friends.
If someone with anxiety has made new friends, this is an achievement, because it is hard to open up to new people, to be confident and forward enough to engage and ask to meet up. So when I have made friends and they’ve become a part of my life, and I’ve let them in, I wouldn’t want to risk loosing them. So I am constantly striving to please those around me, to make sure I am present and keeping in contact and making the effort to see them. Once I’ve opened myself up, I don’t need a person, but this person has privilege. Because I don’t open up to many and I don’t let many in.
Mindfulness and anxiety books have taught me in the past that once your brain is hooked on one way of thinking, future thoughts tend to be steered in that direction- so if you are worried about a friend and whether they still want to hang out with you or if you have anything negative going on- you will then start to question all of your other friends and situations too. This is horrible and most of the worries are unfounded. Luckily, most of the time I try to remain level headed. But I also have to trust my gut. And when my worries are unfounded, I should not feel ashamed of the anxious thoughts and feelings, but rather recognise that I am human, we all make mistakes and we are not mind readers. And if we aren’t feeling confident enough to ask or be bold in a situation, that’s all we’re left with. I have some lovely and understanding friends who are patient with me, but in return I know that I also raise them up in the areas of life they feel down about.
I try to believe that what is meant to be, will be. And that anything that isn’t, I need to learn to let go.
I try harder now, to trust the freedom of friendships. As we’ve gotten older, friendships are far harder to maintain due to all of the different lifestyles we have, the different journey of life we are all taking. Some people work full time, others are stay at home mums, some people are single, others are married. Some people move away, others go travelling. Everyone goes off to be an adult and do their own thing. Sometimes it feels like we can be ‘left behind’ but this really isn’t the case. It is just the natural ebb and flow of life. Instead, I trust now that the true friends that are meant to be in my life, will be, no matter how often we go without talking or seeing each other. Ok, at times I may worry, but I try to remind myself that it will do no good. All I can be is myself. The right ones for me, that suit me will always stay.
We can’t remain friends with every single friend we’ve ever had- imagine how exhausting and draining that would be. But I believe that quality is better than quantity.
When you suffer with something like anxiety too, quality is definitely needed.
If you have a quality friendship with someone, then when you are in an anxious mood or feeling overwhelmed and you have plans, your friend will understand if you seem ‘off’ or most of the time for me- just by being in their presence helps me to snap out of it and escape the prisons of my mind that anxiety puts me in. Ok, at times I get nervous going out, but I push myself to do it still. To help me to conquer this anxiety. To help make me even stronger.
My friends have helped me to become stronger. They have believed in me, even when I didn’t. They have been there for me in more ways than they will ever realise. I appreciate every park trip with a fellow Mum, every coffee out, every dinner out, every drink out and I appreciate every single time someone takes time to see me. Life is busy and we all have to prioritise. So when a friend chooses to spend some of their precious time, which we all know goes too quickly, with me- I feel lucky. Lucky to have people around me that make me smile everyday, laugh, have someone to turn to and I also love to be there for them too. To cheer them up and to show them how great they are. I love to make things for my friends, I love to help where I can. I think friendship has to be a two way thing, and as much as my friends make an effort with me, I make it back. I will always be there for those that need me.
Sometimes I wonder if my friends find my anxiety off-putting.
To be quite honest, I don’t bring it up much- that’s just another trick anxiety likes to play with our minds. Plus, in today’s world- where suicide rates are increasing at an alarming rate- I would be saddened to find if a friend did let it bother them rather than them be more empathetic as this is something I personally have to battle with. I certainly would never judge anybody for having anxiety– whether they get nervous about going to a certain place, or whether they like to check in and have some reassurance from me. Too many people hide away their anxiety- this is something that needs to stop and I think true friends are the exact people you should open up to. Real friends would never judge.
Friendships can be difficult when you suffer with anxiety.
Sometimes you feel like you just want to put on a brave face and hide it away. Somedays that’s the right thing, other days, don’t be afraid to turn to someone you trust for help. Any decent person would not turn their back on you.
A golden rule too- is never to compare your social life to others. We have all walked different paths in life- and continue to do so. Some have had more opportunities than others. Popularity as an adult is meaningless. Kindness, love and compassion in a person are far better qualities. Remember that social media is a highlight reel of someone’s life and not an accurate representation. There are no rules to having a social life. You can have as many or as little friends as you want. And you can see them and be social as much or as little as you want.
Although at times I find having a social life difficult- from feeling anxious about certain plans to worrying about upsetting friends or losing them- it’s important to keep trying. Because my friends have pushed me into situations that I never thought I’d be in (not in a horrible bossy way) but they’ve shown me my strengths, they’ve metaphorically held my hand and been so supportive. If it wasn’t for an old friend of mine, whom I’ve recently become close with again, I would never have started this blog and I am so glad I have because mental health isn’t discussed enough and now I realise it’s nothing to be ashamed of. My friends have given me so many memories and good times and they continue to do so. Recently, I went to a Drive In Movies with a friend- I was so nervous but she made it one of the best evenings because I was comfortable with her, she made me feel at ease. Now I am striving so hard to trust friendships more and the freedom in life. I will always be open to old, new or present friends to have a spot in my life and to be there for them- for the good and the bad times. I know that the right friends for me- the ones that raise me up, boost my happiness, give me strength and a shoulder to cry on- will always be there. Even when friends come and go, what’s meant to be will be.
To my friends that make this journey in life more joyful- thank you. I love you all.
What are your greatest challenges when it comes to having a social life? Get in touch, I would love to hear your experiences.
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