Today I had a bunch of ideas about what topic to write about… shame, trauma, sleep… but I am choosing connection/relationships for this week because connecting with others has been…. has always been … rather difficult for me. I recall when I was younger in elementary school feeling like I was uninterested in the majority of things the other kids talked about or did. I hung out with boys mostly and explored in the woods. I don’t think I really felt connected to my parents because I never knew when my Dad would be angry and my Mother often seemed distant and preoccupied so I entertained myself. I used to enjoy my own company more than I do now… but anyway, if you have anxiety/trauma/panic it can make it increasingly difficult to connect with other people, I’ve found that to be the case anyway. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. I have found ways to do it. So here are some in no particular order.
- Be honest. It becomes exhausting in any relationship whether intimate or otherwise if you pretend to be something that you’re not. So I’ve been practicing saying no to things that I genuinely don’t want to do (go out drinking, etc), even if other people say they would like to have my company.
- Share yourself authentically. This does NOT mean spilling your life story the first time you meet someone, but it does mean taking some informed risks at being vulnerable. This is necessary because connection is by definition NOT one-sided. I’ll be the first to admit it is much easier for me to just sit and ask people questions to get them to open up to me … I’m good at it. It’s what I do for a living. But STOP putting up the brick wall, otherwise genuine connection is impossible.
- Take steps to learn to love yourself. If you don’t think well about yourself, it’s likely you believe that other people don’t either. I’ve been noticing this firsthand about myself lately, that usually the things I think I know about myself, negative things, are exactly what I think other people think about me too… which is mind reading. Don’t do it. I try my hardest to think of the possibilities for myself rather than just what I haven’t accomplished yet. It’s hard, believe me I know, when you feel like if you didn’t have such bad anxiety you would be so much farther along in life than you are. But it’s a waste to dwell on that, because you can’t rewind the clock anyway.
- Stop over-analyzing. If you have anxiety, you are acutely aware of many things in your environment, including other people … because your fight or flight response is on overdrive. This is your body’s way of trying to be helpful, but it can cause havoc in your mind. You may perceive slights from other people that just realistically were NOT slights at all if you were to ask anyone else in the room. If you need that reassurance, do so, but do it ONCE. And accept people’s answers. What I mean is that it can be a good exercise to “reality check yourself” with another person, but just make sure that you’re open-minded enough to hear their answer.