November 3, 2015

Rambling Thoughts: Introversion, Food and Anxiety

Gypsy - my cat - the most introverted of our three cats
I've had a conversation with two different friends in recent weeks (both self-identify as at least mildly introverted) - the conversation stemmed from my personal observation and belief that people who are very extroverted/social do not or can not comprehend those of us who are NOT social and prefer to not be in groups of people in a social way.  It's as though they believe something is wrong with us and that if we would just try harder and do more/different/insert-this-particular social thing(s), we would enjoy it.  My personal experience is that this is not the case.

There have also been many, many conversations with my long-suffering (but mostly equally introverted) husband about this sort of thing lately.  I am so very thankful that he shares my love of being at home.

Recently I'm finding that my personal threshold for social things has lowered sharply.  And by lowered sharply I mean plummeted off a cliff to a bottomless cavern of "NOOOOOOO!"

We started attending our church a little over a year ago.  During this first year we have really tried to stretch outside of our comfort zone and do things.  We've attended meetings, functions, pot-lucks, game night, and even managed to have dinner with other families a few times.  Most of these things have been what I would consider a high-level success.  Meaning I didn't hyperventilate or cry or cancel - even when I was stressed out about attending, etc.

In spite of my gut reaction (mostly fear and dread) to an announcement or invitation, I have tried to be brave and go and do.  At this point, I am considering that perhaps that exerted effort was not wise on my part... or that quite possibly I have reached the expiration of my '12 month free trial' of social interaction and there is no 'renewal' button.

The friends we've been making and the people at our church are lovely and wonderful.  They are truly kind and friendly and I honestly do enjoy them  - in limited doses and one-on-one situations.  Really! Coffee visit with one or two?  Absolutely! No stress & no problem.

When it gets more complex than that - my food anxiety begins and my social aversion kicks in.  I don't really like food - well... I like some foods... that I make, that don't involve too many ingredients together, and things touching each other, and absolutely ONLY are things I can identify and have eaten before.  Or things that are only chocolate or ice cream in familiar flavors.
If things combine more than a few people AND food, I am instantly well outside my comfort zone.  This zone feels like it is shrinking daily right now and it is seriously looming as a perfectly valid reason to consider a move to an isolated place and become a hermit.

It is a very difficult thing to try and let people know that I really do want to be friends, but only in very small and controlled situations can I be mildly social & comfortable enough to not put on a mask of 'everything is fine' but I am panicking inside.  I'm struggling to figure out how to obey the command of scripture to put other's needs (to be social, to eat together, etc) ahead of my own need to not have an anxiety attack and cry in public.

I'm sure there is a balance some place, but I haven't quite figured it out yet.  Clearly much more prayer is needed and perhaps a considerable amount of coffee and chocolate as well.

Blessings on the journey~