You’re out with friends, sitting, chatting. During a brief lull in conversation, one friend pulls out their cell and sends a quick text. You catch the quickest glance towards your less talkative companion as the cell is put away. You think nothing of it, don’t even register the glance as conversation continues.
Less than a minute later, your friend’s cell buzzes with a text. Not the friend who send the message earlier. Friend 2 checks their phone, sends a short glance to Friend 1, and replies. Conversation didn’t slow, and still doesn’t when Friend 1 gets the reply.
This is the moment when the back of your brain tells you that your two friends are texting each other about you, as you’re sitting there chatting.
It’s nonsense, but already your mind is racing though a record of everything you’ve said and done since sitting down together. Are you talking too much? Is the topic boring? Is the seating arrangement wrong? Your futile attempts to stop your mind short do nothing to prevent the bloom of anxiety in your gut. It doubles as you recall how perceptive your friends are–they’ll notice your fidgeting, the strained smiles that come with the knowledge that people are talking about you.
You refuse to let it build to the point of breaking (yay, good!) You politely mention to Friend 1 that you noticed the texts and that it made you anxious, while feeling absolutely ridiculous and embarrassed because you know you’re being socially paranoid. Sure enough, Friend 1 shows you the texts: a simple check-in with Friend 2. They texted the checkin so they wouldn’t interrupt the flow of conversation.
The scarlet staining your cheeks doesn’t fade for seven minutes.
Folks, I’ve done this. Recently, in fact. I feel less embarrassed by the occurrence knowing that I was sleep dep’d (everything goes to hell when you’re sleep dep’d). That, and it had been a few months since the last time that happened, so I guess my head thought I was due.
So many deeper concerns feed Sudden-Onset Social Paranoia (SOSP). Fear of rejection. Social insecurities. In this most recent scenario, sleep dep, the need for protein, and less daylight were some of the key causes. (I photosynthesize– #wintersucks)
Had I not been sleep dep’d and food crashing, my response might’ve been different. Or at least slightly more comfortable. My suggestions to soothe Sudden Onset Social Paranoid:
–Breathe. No really, take a moment for a deep breath. Remind yourself that not every conversation that happens without your inclusion is thus somehow about you. That is not meant to be insulting. This shit is surprisingly hard. Especially if your head can dig up a reason why maybe you might be right even a little bit.
–Trust. Remember that you trust your friends to talk to you if something is bothering them. I know this can be amazingly difficult with your brain eyeballs-deep in SOSP, but making the statement can help remind the back of your head of what reality actually looks like.
–Speak. You know what killed SOSP? Seeing the texts. I didn’t ask to see them, but getting verbal confirmation from my friends that they weren’t texting judgmental things about me took away what little ammunition SOSP had. If one of my friends asks me seemingly out of the blue, “do you hate me?”, I don’t laugh– I answer them seriously.
–Forgive. Don’t beat yourself up for SOSP episodes. This is without exception easier said than done. Everything is practice, and we’re aiming for the ideal in which SOSP doesn’t get a foothold in situations where it traditionally would have. Ideals are challenging to reach; it takes time to train your brain.
Forgiving yourself is arguably the most important component. The extra anxiety from feeling dumb for overreacting is exactly what we don’t need to deal with when trying to level out after. Or while trying to decrease SOSP occurrences.
SOSP is unpleasant. SOSP happens sometimes. Breathe. Practice. Walk on.
This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on Gifted Self-Care. To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_gifted_self_care.htm.