Last year, for the #Holdontothelight campaign, I talked about bullying and the impact it had on me while I was growing up.
It was a rough time to remember yet, while I was unpacking all that, I came to realize that I’m still dealing with the effects, even decades later.
You see, this was back before anyone started taking a real serious look at what I’m going to call “Social Abuse.” Back then, the prevailing thought was: “Once you’re out of that situation, it’s over. Done.”
But it isn’t done. Even after being out of that situation for just over 30 years, I am still dealing with things that I can lay directly at the feet of the social abuse back then.
I have a problem with self-confidence.
Some days are better than others, depending on what I’m doing (Yesterday was an easy day. Right now…not so much). I have problems making decisions because I don’t want to do the wrong thing.
Of course, nobody “Wants” to do the wrong thing, but for most folks, the equation looks something like this:
Question + (little bit of thought) = Action
For me, sometimes it looks like this:
Question x (What’s the best that could happen + (-what’s the worst that could happen) = Action
Depending on the situation – usually when someone or something I care about is involved – there’s a chance for that equation to go to Zero. When that happens, I get so focused on trying not to do the “Wrong” thing, that I stop. I’ve gotten stuck, standing in the middle of my kitchen, while trying to figure out what to do about something.
Now, I’ve never had it happen where I didn’t recognize what was going on and give myself a little shake to get myself going again, but that’s me when it’s at its worst.
I don’t like drawing attention to myself.
Back then, there was usually a cost to standing out. That isn’t happening now, but I’m still uncomfortable – especially when it comes to making noise. When I’m anyplace where I could be overheard, I’m usually wearing earbuds, or my volume is turned waaayyyy down.
It gets kind of ridiculous. I live on damn near 11 acres, my closest neighbors…aren’t, and I have had moment’s of hesitation about the noise before firing up a power tool. You try being quiet with a circular saw – it doesn’t happen.
Meeting new people is hard.
That’s not to say that I can’t be introduced to random someone. I’ll shake hands (if necessary) and then I’ll usually be pretty quiet until I get comfortable with them.
When it’s someone that I want to meet, the stakes go up. And a lot of it goes back to not wanting to do the wrong thing.
Now-a-days, this kind of thing is called social anxiety and it goes hand in hand with the degree of self-confidence one has, and it can range from mild unease to full-out panic attacks.
I don’t have it that bad. Still, joining a group of people without an invitation is very difficult. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I ask them if I can join them and they say, “No?”
It’s something that I really have to work myself up to doing and, sometimes, opportunities pass by.
The thing is, I know how ridiculous I’m being, and it doesn’t make a damned bit of difference. I’ll play out conversations in my head. Try and figure out how I might best open a conversation with folk…which inevitably shifts to how it can all go to hell. Best and worst case scenarios cycling through my mind.
What am I doing about it?
This blog helps. It’s helped me more than I thought it would, just to get things out there. Maybe someone is reading it, maybe not, but this blog is as much for me as it is for you.
I am learning to recognize when I’m starting to get bogged down in a nebulous “Right” vs “Wrong” scenario. Sure, there are bound to be some pretty weighty decisions to make out there, but those are going to be few and far between.
I’m trying to get more comfortable with expressing opinions and making decisions by, well…doing it more often.
I know that sounds like the stories you hear of folks that are afraid of heights going skydiving, but I think it’s working for me. It’s hard to tell, because some days are easier (or harder) than others, but I think it’s working.
I’m going to more cons, places where I have to be “On”. I’m meeting new people, and while I’m pretty sure that it won’t ever be effortless, I do think that it is making a difference…sometimes.
But there’s a cost. Usually after a con, or a large “People” event, I need to be alone for a day or two. I get physically and mentally drained, and it takes me a day or two to recover.
I don’t know that I’ll ever reach the point where it’ll be comfortable for me. That would be an additional benefit, and it’s not something that I’m working toward.
What I am working toward is a time where I can make a non-routine decision without worry. Where I can walk up to someone that I really want to associate with, and introduce myself without working myself up to it.
I’m not there yet. I might not ever get there. But I can look back on the folk that I’ve met, on the friends that I’ve made, and I can say that it’s worth the struggle.
About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight