Day 4 of Walking and Blogging, getting 10,000 steps on my FitBit and some amount of words on this blog.
Today wasn’t a great day in terms of my mood. I have a pinch of social anxiety, and it manifested this afternoon when the whole extended family, including all four kids, were at my house. There was pandemonium when the pizza arrived for lunch. I just couldn’t take it at that moment, and hid out downstairs, walking around and playing my stupid game. I experience social anxiety in two ways: first, like today, when there is just too much going on, too many people, too much stimulation, I feel overwhelmed. It’s like my brain is trying to absorb too much information at once, and in response it just shuts down. Any communication becomes difficult and a little painful in those moments. I remember one Palm Sunday back when I worked at St. Andrew’s, when I was a Christian Ed. director. I was very busy during the Sunday School hour that day, probably overseeing a special event or something. When it was getting close to worship time, I was later than usual in getting into the nave. When I opened the door to look in, it was packed. (Palm Sunday was a pretty important day there!) There were so many people, I just backed up, and sat down in the empty stairway. I could hear worship, and I quietly spoke the words and sang the hymns I knew. I just didn’t want to be there amidst so many people. But the funny thing is, now that I’m a pastor, I have no problem leading worship with that many people. There’s something about having that role, not being lost in the crowd, that changes it. I have no stagefright at all, but put me in a social situation where I don’t have a leadership role, and I often get very anxious.
The other way I experience social anxiety is after I leave a party or other social event. I always have a layer of guilt sitting just under the surface, and I have so often asked my wife, “Did I do or say anything wrong tonight?” Her answer is usually no. I have begun to realize that in these situations, the guilty feelings are not connected to anything I did. On the contrary, I just get these feelings, and then desperately try to assign them to something specific, give me a reason for feeling guilty. It’s been helpful to realize this: now I just know that I will always have these uncomfortable feelings after leaving a party, and I can just sit with that discomfort until it passes, instead of spending time ruminating over every word I said, every action I performed.
So I learned today that I can get social anxiety even in my own home. And I also learned that I can deal with it by taking myself away from the source, and I can even get a whole bunch of steps in while doing it. Next step: replace that iPad with a book for that walk.