Sunday, 10 April 2016

Dear Social Awkwardness

Dear Social Awkwardness,

My, that's a bit of a mouthful, eh? But you, yes you. The part of me that makes me completely incompetent when it comes to many, many social interactions. The part of me that makes my cheeks flare red, a warning sign to those around me that I'm attempting to operate in the real world and currently failing. The part of me that makes my eyes well up as I stress over maneuvering round the simplest of everyday obstacles. The part of me that has resulted in far too many 'Yeses' when I should have said 'no' than I can count on both hands and feet combined. I'm writing to you to ask you, politely, ever so nicely, to stop.

To stop forcing me to buy a hot chocolate from the cafe I went to because I wanted some cake simply because I couldn't see where they were, and no cakes were on the menu, and the man behind the counter was waiting, and I didn't want to hold things up, and I didn't want to embarrass myself and I could see him standing there, and I'd been pretending to look at the menu for long enough and.........

I mean, it was a good hot chocolate. Not as good as the cake I had walked through the door for though. Cake that was sitting less than a metre from where I'd been staring absentmindedly at beverages I didn't want or need.

I want you to stop causing me to make snap decisions just because I can't make up my mind and then something happens to put pressure on me and I'm too awkward to carry on with my own business. Buying things I don't need, not buying things I do need just because I'm too awkward to ask where they are...the other day I went to the corner shop to grab some milk...milk, that's all I needed but I did 3 laps of the shop floor and couldn't see any. Did I go up to the lady behind the counter and ask? Pffft, Me? Make a logical decision like that? Of course not. I just picked up several other items that I didn't need and then when making conversation with the cashier at the till, dropped into conversation my need for milk so she would direct me to it. She did, and I added it to my 4 other unnecessary items. Well done Ellie. Pat on the back.

I already had that tea and yet still bought more...
I need you to stop so I don't end up going out with someone just because I felt too awkward to say no. Because when faced with a question and a boy standing directly in front of 15 year old me, I didn't know what to say so I just said yes. Even though in my head I was hitting myself. So socially awkward that I ended up, 20 minutes later, coming up with some horribly embarrassing "I think we're better as friends" type statement to retract my answer before it went too far. A story I'll never live down.

You need to stop because when I enter a room full of people talking in groups, I don't know what to do. I want to stop feeling fluttery and flustered as I attempt to casually sidle up to a group of chattering friends and slip into their conversation - something that normally ends with me not even being noticed. A moment where I end up looking even more awkward as I stand just outside their circle of conversation...until the time comes when it's too much and I have to pretend to spot something on the other side of the room and disappear.

It's more than that though. More than face-to-face communication. You affect me over the phone too. When I have to call someone up to make an appointment or cancel something. The other day I ended up cancelling two hairdressers appointments. Why? I'll tell you.

I wanted a haircut and I had a date ahead. I wanted to get it done and when I get it in my head to do something I don't like that to change. Change is not my friend. So I woke up one morning and decided: "I'm going to book a haircut". It was on my to do list. There was no going back. Not the best at making appointments as it is, I was already pretty stressed but I picked up the phone, determined to do it. To be able to tell mum when she woke up that I'd booked something. By myself. No problem.

"Hello, Hairdressers speaking [not the real name but I think you get the drift] how can I help"
", was wondering if I could book mean...cut...and blow-dry please.....*silence*.........................for today"
"For today, of course. What sort of time? Is morning good for you?"
"Morning is great. I'm...not around...later"
"How about 10:30? We have space then?"
"Great. 10:30 would be that with a...junior stylist?" [always book with a junior stylist because they're cheapest I've been taught]
"No, that would be with of our top stylists. The appointment costs £99."
Screaming in my head because I know I need to back out somehow!
"Um...are there any others...with junior stylist?"
"I'll have to have a look, can you hold?"
"Um...yeah, no worries"
"We do have an appointment at 1:45 with our junior stylist BlahBlah."
"Um...I'm not around this afternoon...hang on, can I just think"
"I'll just put you on hold..........*2 minutes later*.....thought about it?"
"Actually, you know, maybe I will take that 10:30 appointment........."
"Great. We'll see you then"

I hang up the phone and........F***! What do I do? I mean, I have money in my bank account. I'm earning but do I really want to spend that amount on a haircut? Oh well, nothing I can do now. It's done. Mum wakes from her slumber and I tell her I've got a haircut booked. It's £99 but it's fine.

Price List.......Cheaper to just chop my own hair off
"You're crazy! There's no need for you to be spending that amount on a haircut! There are so many cheaper options and it's not urgent"

My brain is whirring. I'm already crying...crying! Because I'd made a plan in my head. I'd awkwarded my way through the phone call and now mum was saying I should cancel. What do I do!?

I ask mum to cancel for me. She's going to the same salon later anyway for an eyelash tint so she'll tell them it's all a mistake. Meanwhile, I'll find somewhere else. Somewhere cheaper. 1 hour later and I've booked and cancelled another appointment. Not because of the price this time but because I said yes to the time I was given despite the fact it would make catching my train near on impossible to get to my sister's and the afternoon pick up for my nieces and nephew at 3:30. I came up with an excuse and awkwardly cancelled. An hour later and I've managed to call up the first salon again, spoken to the lovely, understanding receptionist and booked a new appointment with a junior stylist for two days time. A day when I have no work, no time restraints and I'm not using up a months pay on a couple of inches of hair.

All that happened in one morning. Why? Because of you. Because I'm socially awkward. I can't say yes or no when I need to. Because before I even picked up the phone the first time, I had to google the phrase I needed to describe what I wanted just to prevent me getting it wrong.

Cut and blow-dry.
Cut and blow-dry.
Cut and blow-dry.

It was ok though...I mean at least the haircut wasn't too awkward, right?
You'd think it was simple right? Not for me. For me, the world is full of obstacles. It's a course covered in hurdles I need to leave a huge run up to so I can prepare, time to research phrases. vocabulary, locations. Tunnels where I can't see the end so I have to shine some light on the situation before I can enter it. Ask my parents questions. How do I do this? What do I need to say? What does this mean?

We live in a world where we learn everything we need to about the parts of the eye, the capital cities of hundreds of countries, trigonometry and how to spell Photosynthesis but where providing us with the directions and instructions for life are ignored. Where I reached the age of 18 terrified of booking a doctors appointment because I didn't know what to say. Not knowing half the terms my mum gave me to speak to the insurers before I started CBT and where, when I go to the bank, I feel like I need to take a dictionary.

For some, this may all seem like a load of rubbish. The ramblings of an incompetent but 4 months ago I was told by a psychologist that I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. A name for the butterflies I've suffered from my entire life. It's in my nature that I'm quite shy as it is. It's in my genes that I'm anxious. Throw me out into the big wide world with nothing but some letters next to some subjects on a sheet of paper that tell the world I'm supposedly smart, and I'm flailing. Drowning in an ocean of scenarios that the classroom didn't prepare me for.

So, social anxiety, and all your anxiety buddies besides, I'd appreciate if you backed off. If you could pack your bags, open the door, walk outside and never look back.

I need to navigate this world without you and at the moment, you're blocking my path.

Move aside,

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