This past weekend I went to my 40th high school reunion. This post isn’t really about the reunion really, but being there brought up some “stuff” for me. And the stuff it brought up is not new to me. The stuff this time was dreaded social anxiety, dreaded “I don’t belong” syndrome. I think when these things happen we have an opportunity to look at it and grow from it or at least try to become more accepting of ourselves. and
First off I will mention that this was the first high school reunion I went to in.. well ..40 years. I know we had a number of them over the years. I had friends go and ask me to come and I never felt I could. My severe generalized anxiety just kept me away. Sadly it limited me a lot in my life and I had to push myself to do things that are everyday doings for most people. Like going to the store or picking up your kid from the bus stop or school.
So I was happy that this was not such an issue for me this time around. My anxiety is dialed back some…either because of my age and menopause or maybe because of the meds I take for nerve pain – they are sometimes prescribed to help anxiety. I am not sure but I am able to go and do more these days – and when one of my very best friends- Debbi- who I met in high school said she was up for going I said I was in.
I have this recurring issue with social anxiety. Some people may not see that in me because I don’t present as anxious. I can chat away. But sometimes I just babble on…and this is because I am super nervous and just keep on going. I over compensate for my anxiousness.
I can’t do more than one social interaction in a weekend. I need down-time. I often deal with post event social anxiety – where I awaken at night and worry what dumb thing I might have said to this person or that. Then, I need to decompress for a couple days just to feel “normal’ again. Typically this issue does not include meetings with close friends because I know they get me and love me warts and all so I feel blessed I can spend infinite time -well ok not infinite – that’s a stretch-but the time I spend with them is not in a heightened state of angst.
I did not go into this event without some nerves. Debbi told me we could stay as long as I felt like it. We could leave anytime. That’s a friend who gets you – and accepts you. My husband also agreed to go to this event – God love him. He said “I am in this with you!” He gets it because he experiences the some anxiety issues too. I am glad he decided to go to this with me. It is like you just know your honey and your good friends have your back.
It was awesome seeing Debbi and Rick again and all in all it was a nice event- even with the rain. There was an old beautiful barn – with music being inside played by various members of our class. There was a tent outside and best of all decent porta-potties. I mean for women this is appreciated!
I caught up with some old friends. Some people knew me, some didn’t remember who I was, and vice versa (my memory isn’t great these days). I must admit I did take some liquid courage from a can of sparkling rose’. It helped some but I could not shake the overall and familiar feeling of awkwardness. Later in the day I found myself wandering alone and I walked into the barn and people were engrossed in convo’s or watching the band and I felt all of a sudden like I did back in high school…where do I fit in here? It was an amplified version of the feeling I have had much of my life when it comes to new friendships and social situations.
It was really off-putting for me. Nobody wronged me during this event. People were just catching up with people. I met new people and a cool dog..and a cow or two. This was my thing. My issue. I even saw a few people I thought I might know and I hesitated to go say hello. I appreciated an old neighbor who came over and chatted with me for a while. It was nice catching up. Why did I begin that negative story that I don’t fit in? Why can’t I just flick the switch and feel more comfortable in my own skin? If only it were a simple flick of the switch!
I wonder if I am the only one who felt this way that day – or other times – when I feel like I rather talk to the dogs then have to make small talk with people. I think I am not alone in this- but when you are feeling it you feel like you are standing in a room in your underwear and all are looking at you laughing.
After the event- that night I woke with my normal post social anxiety angst. Did I say the wrong thing? Can I ever fit in with people? It sucks waking with these thoughts popping into my head! Pop pop pop – stop it. Shut up brain – it is 2AM!
Our high school years are a pivotal time so being with old classmates was bound to be kind of intense for me. A little PTSD maybe? My high school years weren’t those one would write about as glory days. Very severe family drama perpetuated much of my life then. A bad divorce between my parents and an alcoholic parent didn’t lay the best backdrop to the rest of what can be a hard time in our growth. So it is probably not shocking that these feelings came up this past weekend.
Why is it so hard to rewrite this narrative? Why do I continue to deal with these issues? Is some of it just past stuff that I have deal with over and over and over again to learn from each time? Is there really the ability to fix this? Will I ever stop questioning my value as a friend, co-worker, or classmate? I am not sure. I can tell you it is hard for me to make friends with new people. And the less you put yourself out there the easier it is to not put yourself out there. Covid hasn’t helped. This for me is an ongoing process I think. A story that won’t end until I end my time here in this world.
I think what I did realize is that we never rid ourselves of the younger versions of us. I have always hoped that my social anxiety and awkwardness would go away. And I will say as I have gotten older I have stopped caring as much of what people think of me (hey that is why I can write about this) and my ability to face social situations is better but that nervous feeling just won’t go away. Some people are more comfortable in their skin I suppose. But we all have something. We all got stuff going on.
On Saturday I saw the young 17 year old Anne make an appearance…well not see but I felt her in there. She came up to the forefront…she was shaking in her boots. She brought me back to a time that had many good things but also many bad. She deserved a hug not a chastising. So I gave that to her, I let her feel her feels. And I gave her the space to just be. She is loved and she has her people. She is love. She is me…I am her. We are one. I accept her.
As for the reunion it was nice. I don’t regret going even though I suffered some. In fact, I am proud of myself for going out of my comfort zone. I think it helps with growth and acceptance. And I got to spend time with my bff of many years. That in itself was worth the experience.
And I got to meet young Anne again and remind her she matters and no matter what stuff we carry we are worthy…she is, I am…you are….