I have been shy my entire life. It was hard to make friends in school, but I did have a few. I was at least likable for the most part, for those who took a chance on a strange quiet girl and got to really know me. And I think I was a fairly good friend to have. I was a good listener, didn’t backstab or gossip, and I genuinely cared about the people I hung out with. If nothing else, I provided a few laughs what with my silliness and ability to look at things in a unique way. I maintained friendships through college and even my early years as a mother. I remained likable, though still quiet. I was able to hide the parts of me that were less…sane.
It became harder to keep and make friends as my mind started to unravel. I lost a good portion of people I hung out with (mainly church friends) when I went through the whole “crazy spell” and divorce. I lost most of the rest during my second marriage because that’s the lovely thing about abusers: they like to seclude their victims and make it impossible to reach out for help. At this point, it wasn’t just friends I lost contact with. It was most of my family as well.
After all those storms, you would think I would feel a little calmer. But I don’t. You’d think I’d be busting at the seams to make social contact with others, but quite the contrary. I find it harder than ever to talk to anyone, even my best friend that I have had since middle school. She has always been a friend to me no matter what. Even when I didn’t speak to her for two years (thanks to the abuser). She was still willing to be my friend, despite my inability to be a friend back.
She and I try to meet for lunch a few times a year. This is difficult for me because a) I don’t drive anymore and b) I am very prone to panic attacks, especially in social situations. For these reasons, the only way I can spend time with her is for my fiance to drive me there and then he stays with me to help me feel more comfortable in whatever restaurant we go to. We go as early as the place opens, both for the fact that there is less of a crowd and my fiance works nights and consequently goes to bed pretty early in the day. The meetings are brief, and I struggle to even make small talk. It’s pretty dysfunctional, and I am grateful that my friend and my fiance continue to make the effort for my benefit.
But it’s embarrassing, ya know. And with other friends who ask to get together with me, I keep making excuses why I can’t. Just so I don’t have to explain to them that the only way I can see them is to follow “the rules” to keep my panic at bay. It’s not a normal set up, I know. And I miss those days when I could just hop in the car and go see a friend. Just the two of us (or with kids in tow) having a girls’ day out like real friends do. I miss looking forward to these meetings instead of dreading them.
I realize my anxiety and panic have grown into a matter of agoraphobia. I avoid leaving the house as much as possible. I will occasionally accompany my fiance to the grocery store or library, but I’m stuck like glue to his side the whole time, and that is still not a surefire way to avoid a panic attack. I hate how much I have to depend on him, all while I am so very grateful that he puts up with me. More than that, he encourages me but he’s respectful of my limits at the same time. I know most people would not be this understanding. I still feel bad for him. I want to be “normal” for him. And God forbid if something happened to him, I would have absolutely no one in this world that could do even part of what he does for me. That’s really the only “unhealthy” part of our relationship, how much I depend on him and how much he acts like he doesn’t mind it.
I am beginning to feel more and more stuck in this little hole I’ve burrowed myself into. I am still making efforts to climb out, but I seem to be going further down instead. I don’t even have a doctor or therapist to go to for help now. Everything in life is becoming so terrifying, so suffocating, so disorienting. I’m not really sure how to get the help I need, but I know it’s urgent that I figure it out. If not for myself, then for my kids, my fiance. For friends that would actually still like to see me in person rather than our whole measly relationship being based around timid emails.
I have been shy my entire life, but I used to be braver. I miss that spark of determination, that gumption of “have to” instead of just “should”. I miss who I was, and who I could have been without all these fears and limitations. But I want to stop missing her and start being her again. I must work a little harder at this, or die trying. Which may actually happen, considering my panic attacks are pushing my blood pressure higher and higher.
Sigh. So stuck.