The thing is, I can’t put my finger exactly on when it happened. Was it after we lost the twins? Or was it starting even before that?
If you’ve ever experienced a tragedy, you know that there’s often a very defining moment. Your life is split into two: Before and after. But then, later on, the edges start to blur a little. The fuzziness takes over and you can’t quite remember what you were like before compared to after.
Before the twins died, I don’t think I was anti-social. I don’t remember preferring to stay home than see my friends. I can’t recall feeling as awkward socially as I do now, or as worried about what people think of me.
Being funny has always kinda been my “thing.” It’s how I cope, how I’ve always coped. Growing up, I had a father who was always yelling at me. Calling me names until I cried, and when I cried, new names followed. I was always on edge, waiting to accidentally do whatever the thing would be that would set him off. I hid in my room a lot when I was little, and I read books. So when I was around other people, I put on this act that I was the happiest person around. I smiled and laughed and joked.
But then, as soon as I got my driver’s license, and a job, I was off. I couldn’t wait to see my friends. To get out and away! I’ve never been a drinker-I’m still not-and my friends and I, we just watched movies and played mini-golf. But I loved being with them. There were 6 of us in high school, and we did everything together.
College was even more social for me. My parents were going through a nasty divorce, and I was being threatened and guilt-tripped and so I did what I knew best-I became the funny, spontaneous girl who would laugh at anything and act silly and do whatever anyone wanted to do. I had a friend, D, who was pretty much the most fun friend I’ve ever had, and he pushed me to do all sorts of random stuff (he kidnapped me once, blindfolded me, and drove me to St. Louis to Six Flags, lol.) that made me love life, even when I hurt.
I’ve always been really lucky in the friend area. With a few exceptions, I’ve had a lot of loyal friends, always sticking by me when the shitty stuff happens, and helping me celebrate when the good stuff happens.
Even so, I’m totally anti-social now. I make plans because they honestly sound fun, and then when the time comes to go, I panic. I make excuses as to why I can’t go. A few days before, I start trying to figure out how I can get out of the plans without looking like a bad friend or feeling like a liar. My closest friends know that I have anxiety and that sometimes I just can’t do it. It’s the in-between friends, the ones I want to get to know better, or the ones I’m hoping to show that I really do love them, that I worry about. Do they think I’m a flake? Do they think I just had something better come along?
I’m such an open book in my life, because I find so much value in knowing that I am not alone, and so I figure someone else wants to know this, too. That I’m not the only one who experiences these issues and that I’m going to be ok. But, for some reason, this one is hard for me to admit. I feel like I’m….I don’t know, lazy, maybe? Like I don’t want to be compared to someone who is afraid to leave their house to even go to the grocery store, but as I get older, I can totally see how easily that may happen to someone.
My husband is leaving the country next week and will be gone for 3 weeks. My friends are all, “Tell us what you need! We’ll help! Let’s hang out!” But once the time is actually here, I totally retreat. I hide. I do everything by myself because I don’t know how to do it any other way.
But, like I was saying before, I don’t exactly know when or how this happened. Was it slow, or was it sudden? Did I lose the twins and just decide I didn’t want to have social engagements again? Everyone in my life knows not to call me-I won’t answer. I’ll text you back, but I won’t answer the phone. I used to spend hours on the phone, talking and laughing and sharing stories. Now, when I feel it vibrate, I tense up, and stress out. I mean, seriously. Stressed out because my phone is ringing?
I’m working on it, though. One thing I have learned about myself in the past few years is that I need time to myself. I need time when no one, not even my lovely kids and amazing husband is talking to me or needing something from me. For me, self care comes in the form of absolute quiet. I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore when this started, or why, it just is.
My husband is great, and we have what I consider to be a pretty phenomenal relationship. But, it took him a while to understand that I needed alone time and that it had nothing to do with him at all. I’m sure it sounded bad, like, “Oh, hey, what I mostly need right now is for you to stay away from me.” And even though you can say, “It’s not YOU I need to be away from, it’s that I need to ONLY be with me,” it’s a hard pill to swallow if you’re not familiar with anxiety. Thankfully, he understands now and supports me.
The thing about before and after, is that you don’t get a choice. I can’t just wiggle my nose and be back to who I used to be. And, honestly, I don’t think I’d want to be that person anymore, even if I had the choice. But, I also don’t have to accept everything about my “after.” Life is all about change, and adapting to change. Right now, I’m still figuring this all out. How can I honor my needs and practice self-care, but not be a terrible friend/daughter/sister/mother? It’s a balance, that’s for sure.
Have you changed in certain ways in your life? What are you working on? Whatever it is, you’ve got this, yo!