or: Healthy Decision Making Is Fucking Up My Social Life
So when I wrote about silence a few weeks back, it was not my intention to disappear without a word. Oh well, that’s what I get for agreeing to help with a “special project” at work. Meanwhile, all the things I’ve wanted to say since have had to wait until I got a chance to sit at the desk my boss can’t spy on as easily. The things I do for you, internet. The things I do….
The subject of today’s dilemma is that I’ve been invited to two parties on the same day at the same time. This sounds like the beginning of an after-school special. It sort of is. I’m sorry. For a normal person, they’d go to the party which the majority of their friends is attending. But if you’re a regular follower of this blog or my twitter account, you already know how not-normal I am.
As I wrote in the Richmond post, I’ve spent the better part of a year getting a handle on my depression. For me, that means being proactive when I feel the sads coming on by talking about it to friends and family, exercising to keep my endorphin levels up, and avoiding triggers. Dealing with my triggers, I’ve come to realize, is both the most effective thing to do and the hardest.
When it comes to social gatherings, I sometimes have to remind myself that while I’m an introvert who suffers from depression, generalized anxiety and social anxiety, I’m not actually agoraphobic. I can go to parties. I often enjoy those parties. Sometimes, I hold parties myself and everyone has fun. I just have to be judicious about which parties I attend. Because when I’m not and just start accepting all the invitations, I get worn out, extremely depressed, and hide for months on end.
I don’t know if other people have this, but certain personality types and traits can act as triggers for me. It’s not a constant thing, otherwise I’d have no friends at all, but sometimes even the way other people carry and present themselves can spark these emotional bonfires of anger and regret and sadness and self-recrimination. Facebook has been great because I can look at events, see who else is going, and determine from there whether or not it would be healthy for me to go. Otherwise, I risk resembling the Phantom of the Opera; coming to parties, being the talk of the town with my ridiculously bad-ass death mask that’s actually my real face, and then disappearing for long stretches of time to plot my revenge in my subterranean lair.
I don’t talk about this part of my depression often because who wants to tell their friends “hey, I think you’re awesome, but sometimes being in your presence makes me feel like a worthless piece of shit?” That’s not their problem. It’s mine. Which brings me back to being judicious and the two parties I’ve been invited to this weekend.
The first one I was invited to is this yearly cookout. It’s hosted by two guys I know from when I was taking art history classes and helping run the art club. They’ve very cool guys and I always enjoy hanging out with them. I’d also get to see a lot of other associates/friends whom otherwise I never see anymore at this shindig. Also, barbeque. A normal person would just go to this party and have a good time, right? That would be easy…if, like, a fifth of the guest list weren’t going to be there. There are, of course, a few people whom I just really dislike – their personalities are like nails on a chalkboard to the ears of my soul. It would be easy enough to ignore them (no it wouldn’t. some of them insist on trying to be friends with me. no matter how many times I yell at them to die in a fire), but there are a whole bunch of those other people I was talking about. People who, for one reason or another, trigger my depression and a whole slew of emotional waste. And I’m aware enough to know that even though I’m conscious of how these people are going to make me feel, I’m too stupid to stay away from them. I’m going to sit with them and talk and smile and laugh while all the time their body language and voice modulations and topics of discussion and a million other subtle, completely unrelated stimuli are being absorbed by my malfunctioning brain, punching whatever parts of gray matter are responsible for the cataloging of all the ways in which I’m somehow less than they are and thus am unworthy to be there.
I wish it were a simple jealousy thing. That would make sense. That I could explain. I don’t know how to explain how this works yet – though I’m working it – beyond saying ‘this is what I know will happen and this is how I know I’ll likely respond and I need to see if I’m stocked up enough on sanity to take this hit today.’
After a couple years of hanging out with this crowd, I know that the fun I’ll have isn’t worth the impact of the hit. And so I’ll stay home from that party.
But what of the other invitation?
Originally, I had no intention of bothering with the other party. It was hosted by a girl I worked with and edited on the college’s paper years ago, and who has since become fairly successful self-publishing in the local scene. I never had any problems with her (besides, in this case, yeah, some jealousy) but I don’t really know her. Plus, it wasn’t so much a party per se as it was a reading and open mic night. No thank you, I can do disaffected hipster by myself.
But as I turned on my rational thought machine, declining the barbeque invitation, I also landed up thinking more clearly about my other option. Sure, Michelle and I don’t know each other very well, but wouldn’t this be a good opportunity to fix that? I’d always gotten along with her and she was always very supportive of my own writing. Also, this is less a party and more a book reading/open mic/comedy sketch which are things that, once I got over my automatic scorn, I remembered I actually liked. And then lots of other things fell into place.
1) I’m not close friends with anyone at this gathering, so I feel no pressure to make sure I’m “likable”. (Yes, this is a thing I feel sometimes. Stupid gender norms, burrowing inside my head.)
2) I’ve been looking for more writing friends, people with whom to share work, bounce ideas off of, or just hang out with and talk about our craft with more regularity than I do with my Internet-friends. And the event description specifically mentions meeting other writers and poets and making friends…
3) I secretly like open mic nights. I mean, I’m not like an open mic night connoisseur, but once in a blue moon I enjoy pushing my limits to read and speak in front of people.
4) I have the freedom to think of this as a networking opportunity rather than a party. If it isn’t teh bomb, then hey, this just isn’t my crowd. At least I tried and got to get out of the house for a while. Whereas at the party filled with people whom I’m supposed to be friends with, if I start feeling bored or upset or want to go home, I’m filled with the despair of “what’s wrong with me that I can’t function around other people?”
So there it is. Instead of going to the party populated with ‘friends’ I dislike or who make me dislike myself, I’m going to the party with complete strangers, poetry readings, and – oh god – according to the updated events page, a Celine Dion impersonation. Tomorrow will be an interesting night. Wish me luck, readers. Luck that I have not chosen poorly.