Who I am is problematic

I got a fortune cookie recently with the “fortune” that said, “Always accept yourself the way you are.” While I can get behind the sentiment of that, part of the “way I am” can often times be problematic.

I have always had a desire to connect with people, but for as long as I can remember that has also been exhausting to me. Small talk is so difficult for me, but I understand that its use and I know not every conversation can be deep. But as an empath who picks up on subtle things going on all around me, this bugs me to my very core. I don’t do well at parties or in large groups because there’s so much going on that my empath self is picking up that focusing on anything right in front of me is nearly impossible. This is why if I’m at a concert if I’m around a bunch of people who are listening and drawing off the music, I don’t notice the crowd. I can lose myself in the music. But if there are a bunch of people that are there to socialize, it stresses me out. I want to focus on the music, but instead I’m involved in and analyzing a conversation going on somewhere around me that I don’t want to be.

A few years ago, I was going through some stress and having a hard time with a few things. With that, it caused my already heightened intuition to go haywire. I started over analyzing everything to the extreme. Normal anxiety I have when I’m in big crowds started becoming full fledged panic attacks. This came to a head when I forced myself to go to a party with a pretty good sized crowd. Anytime that I would get into the middle of the crowd, I started to panic. At one point I tried to talk to someone and tried to say the same thing four different times. It came out four different incoherent ways. I spent most of the night against a wall trying to gather myself and watching everyone else have a great time.

At this point I hated myself for being that way. The last thing I wanted was to be accepting of the way that I am. I hated that I could pick up on things about people that I couldn’t articulate. I hated that I couldn’t just join into the small talk, and I hated that people exhausted me. I no longer could see the good of who I was to people close to me. I couldn’t accept that people accepted me. I was broken, and I didn’t have anything to offer. I remember one night I was driving home, and I caught a glimpse of my eyes in the review mirror. I’m pretty sure I audibly said “I hate you;” I know for sure I at least thought it. At that point I broke down sobbing. I was driving 70 mph down the highway bawling my eyes out. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t close enough to home to just hurry up and get there, but I also didn’t want to pull over to the side of the road. I remember I kept asking God why. I don’t know what I was asking Him why about.

I finally called a friend of mine who convinced me to pull off the highway and into a parking lot until I could gain some semblance of control. He talked me down through my sobbing. He prayed for me and I was able to get back on the road. After that I called my brother and told him what had happened. I felt so bad about making those calls. I didn’t want to put my breakdown on anyone. I just didn’t know what else to do. After that night, I started looking for a therapist; and I was able to find an amazing one. I remember the first few sessions I didn’t know what to expect or say. But as the sessions went on, I began to see how beneficial it was to talk to someone. That the things that were stressing me out that I kept bottled up because I didn’t want anyone to think I couldn’t do the things expected of me. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I wanted to avoid confrontation and so I would let things that hurt me happen without speaking up. Who I was was problematic and it nearly destroyed me. I sought help because I was on my way to becoming a statistic.

A little over two years of talking through the anxiety inducing situations has made a night and day change in me. Sure I’m still the same awkward person with the same awkward quirks, but I see the value in my empath tendencies. People still wear me out, but I make the effort to connect even when I fail spectacularly. I still have mini panic attacks, but I recognize the causes and find a place to breathe. If we meet and I fumble over my words, you have permission to laugh at me; but I also ask you to feel special that I push out of my comfort zone to talk to you. Because I see something in you that I’ve connected with that is special. If you are struggling and barely hanging on, seek help. If it can help me, I know it can help you. God is good, and He gave us the ability to recognize when things are wrong in ourselves. He also has given people the ability to listen and talk us through it.

2 Responses to “Who I am is problematic”

  1. Jenna says:

    I relate to this. Parties and crowds are HARD and trying often means failing for me; but, I think it’s important to recognize your own small victories. I went to Austin by myself last week (which was totally of character) to go to a conference with 600 strangers(this not so much). That in and of itself was a step, but I took it a bit further and stayed in a hostel – something I swore off years ago. Something told me to push my comfort zone though and while it was awkward at times, it’s a good memory. I dormed with 6 other girls also there for the same reason and I got lucky because one of them was super extroverted and kind of adopted me for the next few days! Haha. Anyway, my social skills weren’t a grand success but I’m proud of myself for getting out there even a little. Baby steps are still steps.

    • philip says:

      That’s awesome! Yes, I learned a long time ago that traveling by myself wasn’t weird and I love the freedom of operating on my own schedule when I go places. I’ve accepted that I’ll never not be awkward around others, but I’ve also learned that people think I’m funny. So like you, I have my swings and misses; but people don’t generally dwell on it like I do. I made some awesome friends when I was at Moon River Festival and stepped even further out of my comfort zone when even though I was peopled out I visited with the person next to me on the plane on the way back. Here’s to the continued small victories.
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