Nonfiction

Incommunicado

31 May 2013

This time last year, I was having a not-very-fun-time recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). I spent a lot of time declining invites to house-parties and hang-outs because the prescribed treatment for CFS is rest. And lots of it.

When I wasn’t catching Zzzs I was surveying the Internet for everything Henry Rollins (ageing punk rock icon and my hero) has ever created and trying to maintain friendships through Facebook and Twitter. I’d have been the loneliest girl in the world had it not been for social media.

Lately though, I’ve noticed more and more that I’ve been using my phone as a crutch in awkward social situations. Like if there’s a lull in a conversation when I’m having coffee with someone, instead of being chill with the silence, I’ll reach for my phone. Check Facebook. Retweet something from Amanda “I want Drake to murder my vagina” Bynes. Then tell the real life person sitting in front of me what’s happening in the online sphere.

I know I do this due to social anxiety because the minute it feels like there’s going to be dead-air my heart beats faster and I desperately reach for my smart phone.

So, I went one week without Facebook or Twitter, and I forced myself to leave my mobile in my bag when I was hanging with people. I sat with the anxiety and made buddies with the natural ebbs and flows of dialogue.

It wasn’t without some lame and uneasy moments though. I got really, really depressed and anxious like three days in because I felt so disconnected from everyone.

There was one day where I was having coffee with a dear friend, and I swear the standard of conversation I was imparting upon him was along the lines of, “So… hahahahahahah, what’s the deal with cats, huh?!” Followed by me thinking, “Holy hell, how do I have any friends at all? He’s just having coffee with me out of pity.” And then, thinking that made me even more nervous, and so my voice got all shaky and lip got all quivery. And the only thought I could focus on was how nervous I felt and how I must have been coming across as a complete social fucktard.

I tried to remind myself that people with social anxiety tend to overestimate how anxious they appear to other people.

The first time I did group therapy we had to stand at the front of the room and deliver an unprepared speech to the rest of the socially anxious co-hort. I was super nervy (duh). But the psychologists that were running the session, filmed us speaking. When I watched it back and saw myself, I actually didn’t perform as bad as I thought I had. Prior to viewing that speech, I’d have bet on my love for Henry Rollins that I was literally the biggest loser this earth has ever seen.

So what is the deal with cats? Wait, are you filming this yet?


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