As someone who has worked in retail and fundraising for years and was out somewhere after work all the time, I am not the first person to be suspected of feeling unwell amidst other people. This weekend showed me that it costs lots of energy when there are too many human beings around, especially when I can’t just leave like when there are guests in my home. A few years ago I didn’t even feel that, now that I care for myself better I see just what I used to do to myself back then.
The ideal amount of people in a room for me are two to three, myself included. If there are more, I start getting nervous. It confuses me when there are several conversations going on at once as I feel as if everything slips away and I can listen to everything and nothing at the same time.
It’s easiest for me to just block other people out, for example I never take a bus or train without a book. When I’m reading I can pretend that I’m on my own and therefore am able to avoid the exhaustion that comes quickly when I have to pay attention to all the people around me. Not to mention that I always feel like I’m being watched which doesn’t exactly help.
In restaurants the ideal place for me to sit is the one where I can survey everything, nobody can stand behind me and I don’t have to listen to conversations that take place on other tables. Most of the time that’s the corner seat although that one can lead to a feeling of being caged, depending on my neighbour. Also not good.
At parties I often catch myself thinking how it would be so much nicer to be in a quiet cafe with the person I’m talking to and I often leave early as I feel that people and impressions just float past me (except for when I’m dancing, everything’s fine then). Alcohol makes it easier to relax in groups but it forces me to pay even more attention to keeping my emotions under control than usual so it’s not really useful at the end of the day.
All in all I have to admit that I avoid the kind of encounters where I know I would be stressed out (big parties, especially in my own flat, markets, museums, busy, cramped restaurants, full trains,….). I don’t like feeling the panic long before it actually gets too much, I don’t see any reason for doing things other people like if the best I can achieve is an “it was okay”.
And this is not a specific panic disorder-, BPD- or depression symptom. I think many people feel that way, with or without a diagnosis. It’s just that I notice my symptoms getting worse when I’m with too many people. This doesn’t mean I want to avoid these situations completely – locking myself away is not a solution but in contrast to the past I don’t think I have to stay at parties because everyone else is having fun. Maybe I’m just a seventy-year-old caught in a mid-twenty’s body, I don’t know.
But it would be wonderful if large groups of people could tidily be paying attention to one thing only like in cinemas or concerts as those things work just fine for me 😀
What is that like for you people with different diagnoses? Everyone with social anxiety can certainly write a book about it. I know people with BPD who like to intoxicate themselves with other people, who enjoy others and forget themselves. And people with depression who always find others to be tiring, also in small doses.
I think this is very interesting – how different disorders have an impact on one’s social behaviour…and vice versa, so thanks for all the comments I might find here 🙂