I sit in corners or on the edges of the crowd. Often I take medication, which makes me tired, to calm me if I anticipate the gathering to be stressful. If I am shopping or running errands I wear earplugs to cut out the people noise and screaming children, opting instead to listen to my favorite music or podcasts.
I didn’t know I had social anxiety until, ironically, the symptoms of my Complex PTSD began to be treated. As some of the more affective symptoms, such as depression and dissociation, began to come under control, other symptoms became clearer. One of those is people anxiety.
I began to notice a pattern of symptoms. When I am in stores my stomach churns and becomes so upset that I seldom make it through one visit without visiting a restroom. When I am in a group setting the same thing happens, and often I become so exhausted from dealing with managing my emotions and symptoms that I am worn out for the rest of day and sometimes affected for days to follow. This includes social gatherings, church, and concerts or events for my children.
Traveling can become especially problematic as airports, trains and buses are filled with noise and unanticipated interaction and restrooms can be hard to find and far between. I take medication to pre-treat my stomach and nerves before I travel, causing the aforementioned tiredness.
I am often frustrated by all these accommodations and long to be like ‘normal people’ while in public. However, as I have become aware of my adaptations I have become aware that many people have these same symptoms. There is a reason there are public restrooms everywhere and its not just for potty training children! I see many people wearing ear plugs and earphones, which discourages unwanted interactions and diffuses unexpected noises.
By being open about my life I have discovered how many people make adjustments to their daily lives to function well. Being open has given me new perspective on how to live well within my capabilities. I now know that I’m not alone and maybe not even as weird as I think I am. Sharing my life with others has given me freedom to be myself, even in a public space.