Socializing for your health.

So we all know that socializing is important right?
If you don’t? It is! πŸ˜‰
But what if you suffer with depression, anxiety, have a social phobia, have PTSD (master isolators) or any other issues that make socializing more difficult that it really needs to be? It’s really tough to handle it.

I might as well be blunt here. We just MUST get out of our comfort zone and do at least a bit of socializing on a fairly regular basis. Human being require connections to survive and thrive. It’s easy to say but not so easy to do for many people. This one is really tough for me. I will try to explain why.

When someone calls to ask me to go out somewhere, I feel instant fear. Suddenly every nerve in my body is on fire and every muscle begins to tense up. I start looking for ways out of whatever it is even if I might really enjoy myself. It is not at all intentional. This is just how my mind and my body react.

Years ago I would worry for hours and at times even days before going to an event particularly if it was a bigger one. Going to visit 1 or 2 people was hard, going to a family get-together was harder still and going to a large event like a community fireworks show or a large birthday party was hellish. It would take every fiber in my being to force myself to get ready, leave the house and show up. I would also procrastinate a LOT. If I needed to leave by 2, I’d often be struggling to force myself to have a shower at 1. I have very long hair so this is not at all wise. I just couldn’t manage to do it any other way.

Then I would arrive at my social destination and I would have to collect every single tiny bit of nerve that I could find just to go through the door. It honestly felt as though someone was scrubbing my nerves with a cheese grater. I’d sit and try to play along. I’d try to act normal, look like I was having fun and try to remember to breathe. It was very rarely the fault of the people I was with that I felt this way. It was my own issue. In my life now, I’ve been very blessed to have people around me who bend over backwards to make me feel comfortable and I appreciate each effort they make on my behalf. Sadly it is still an incredibly difficult thing to do.

To make things even more difficult, there are some rather exuberant, fun, loud, super cheerful people who make for a great “life of the party” and while I admire them? That much energy thrown in to the mix on a constant basis feels like torture. I feel terrible for saying this because I use only good words to describe them (except loud *laugh*) and feel only good things towards them but they make my anxiety level shoot to the moon and back. It’s just too much energy in a room for me.

It has gotten a bit better over the past couple of years since getting my C-PTSD and DID diagnoses. People are now very aware that I have a limit to my ability to socialize, feel comfortable and even to recall things. No one makes me feel badly for leaving early, not being “on the ball” at all times and they even understand the rare occasion where I get in to my car to go to an event and just can’t do it. I don’t let myself off the hook very often but sometimes I have no choice.

What might shock many people who know me (more than I already just admitted) is that after these get-togethers, it would take me DAYS to recover my energy and find my balance. Trying to do more than a few things in one week was a recipe for internal disaster. I just couldn’t handle it. I still can’t.

I am very saddened by what I am going to say next but I promised to be open and honest with myself and in turn with each of you so here it goes.
I even find that having my children living at home or my husband home too any days in a row to be VERY stressful. They did not make me feel this way. It was me. I just didn’t know what to say, what to do, how to relax, how to just enjoy the moment… I always felt crowded. I want to jump out of my skin and then run away. Far, far away. This always made me feel just horrible. If it was a bunch of strangers that I was jittery about, I could give myself slack but when it is the people who I love most in the world? It is very hard to understand where that comes from and it is very hard to forgive myself for it.

So what do we do? The hermits. The socially challenged. Those with anxiety or other disorders that inhibit the ability to feel comfortable in some situations. Those with PTSD whom are very hyper-vigilant at all times anyways but socializing is particularly sensitive for us. And lets not forget the introverts. Those amazing people who were just born to exist largely by themselves?
What do we do?

I think it is incredibly important to find a way to make even small connections with others in order to maintain good mental health. I recently took a class in positive psychology and they said these interactions do not have to be huge. They can be speaking to someone in a store or walking down the street. Greeting another dog walker or a baby in a stroller. All these mini connections count. The most important fact is to get out and make them.
You might be happy to hear that being with animals can also be very good for you. So long as there is a feeling of true communication with that pet. And yes… I DO know what my dogs are saying. πŸ˜‰
The only real “rule” is that it must be personal. Getting together for a coffee, taking a walk with a friend and your dog of course, making a phone call, going to visit someone, or any other way to connect. I am very sorry to say though that beneficial social connections can NOT be made through social media, email or through texting. Those are fine for mini messages but to actually do something good for yourself? It needs to be real communication. Not electronic.

I know this is really hard but I think if we are able to be honest with the people around us, they would have more sympathy and understanding for the way we react. Rather than assuming my hesitation to attend their event is personal, they will know that it is my own personal issues are in play and that I need some time to work up to it. In general, people are fairly understanding if you are able to just tell them that you are nervous about such things.

Some of my “rules” for myself are that I get together for a craft day each week with a good friend. I talk to two friends each week for certain and then make regular calls to my outlaws. I know, most people call them in-laws but we are a far more exciting group than that. πŸ˜‰ I also go shopping once a week to get out in public and I attend my therapy sessions weekly/bi-weekly. It might not sound like much to some people but to me, these events and keeping in touch with these really great people is healing for me. I also attend dinners and birthday get-togethers on a fairly regular basis and this is healing as well.

Now… healing doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. It is! Hard but necessary. You just can not heal while keeping yourself isolated.
I am fair to myself too though. I plan to have contact with people 3-5 times a week depending on the week and I plat at least a couple of days to recover from it. In a perfect world, I am busy one day then not the next. That rarely happens but I do aim for it.

So take good care of yourself and make sure that you are being social on a regular basis. Start really small and work your way up. If you like to read, start with a weekly trip to the library and work yourself up to a book club. If exercise is your thing, start with a solo walk and work your way up to busier areas or asking someone to join you. It is all about those little steps. You’ll get there and it won’t kill you. I promise. I was POSITIVE it would kill me but it didn’t. Well not yet anyways. πŸ˜‰


4 responses to “Socializing for your health.

  1. Dancing butterfly

    So important. Not sure what I would do without the friends I have who are truly understanding and allow me to be myself which makes wanting to see then or talk to them effortless. And something I look forward to. And my group. Being among a group of people who get it is incredible. Support groups, social groups, whatever. They have been hugely instrumental in my healing process.
    Thanks Heather for being one if those amazing people!


    • It is a blessing isn’t it D?!!!
      I am so proud of you for always reaching out even when it woudl be far easier to shrink back and avoid the world. The huge amount of healing you have done is testament to how hard you work at getting better. I’m super proud of you!


  2. Excellent post!! I find I have to push myself more and more to socialize, but am always happy when I do…….I try to remember that when I just want to get in my PJ’s and call it a night…….at 6:00 pm πŸ™‚


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