The anxiety I face when making new friends
I have some pretty severe anxiety. As a result, I overthink everything. This is made evident in a lot of my relationships—and I'm not talking romantic, but about friendships and relationships with acquaintances. Due to my tendency to overthink, making friends can be quite the process.
When I first meet people, as a rule, I don't like them. I put on all the pleasantries, but it's easiest to not like them because then, if they don't like me, I don't have to sweat it. If I dislike them from the moment I see them, I "win." But as time goes by and I see this person more because we frequent the same places or because we have mutual friends, they begin to grow on me. I go from hating them to secretly hoping they're at every event I attend. I try to find things in common with them and I try really hard to be funny (that's my thing: I'm constantly trying to make people laugh).
So if all goes well, I have made this person chuckle on enough occasions that they find me interesting enough to add me on Facebook. I never add anyone on Facebook first. I can count on one hand the number of friend requests I have actually sent (there's too much at stake to be the requester). After I've accepted a friend request, I spend about two weeks extremely aware of everything I post, how often I post, and what I am posting. Will that article about marriage equality make this new person uncomfortable? Is my nerd showing? How many times have I posted today? How many friends do they have? If I post something else will I be flooding their feed? How many selfies have I posted in the last day—is it more than one? Do I seem daft or narcissistic?
After the new Facebook friend novelty wears off and I can relax, then comes the next part of the relationship. They acquire my phone number (again, they ask for mine unless I concoct a valid reason to ask for theirs). They send the first "friendly" text—something that has to do with an inside joke we share or something that made them think of me. I will respond with something light-hearted or I will say something entirely too joke-y and they won't respond because they have nothing to say, but I will interpret it as they don't understand me or they think I am weird and then I will kick myself until I delete the exchange out of my phone so I don't have to look at it anymore (even though by now I have it committed to memory). I will see them in a day or two and they will tell me something about the exchange we had that reassures me that I didn't make an idiot of myself and I will feel silly for feeling like an idiot in the first place. I will feel more comfortable with this person and therefore I will feel OK texting them.
The next time we text will involve me sending them something that has to do with an inside joke, or something related, and then our relationship will progress normally until they invite me to do an activity. Then my anxiety will fill my entire body and Odin forbid they make the plans with me like a week in advance because I will agonize over everything from what I'll wear to if I have enough money, to what time I will leave my house so that I can arrive at a time that doesn't end up being too early, but isn't late, but is still early enough for me not to be panicking because I didn't get there early enough to familiarize myself with my surroundings (because my driving to a place I've never been is a whole different type of anxiety all together).
We will go on our friend date and the whole time I will be internally panicking and I will make way too many jokes because I will be incredibly uncomfortable and scared that after this person spends time with me, they will never want to spend another minute with me.
After we get the first friend date out of the way I may or may not try to introduce another within a month's time.
If I feel comfortable enough, I will share a bit of personal information with the person—which will hopefully explain why I am so weird. My anxiety makes me second guess everything I do. It fluctuates; sometimes it's really bad and other times it barely affects me. If I share anything somewhat sad-sounding then it generally means I trust you. Especially if I share the things that seem cry-worthy, but I laugh about. Chances are, no matter how great of a relationship I have with a person, I am constantly questioning everything. I get really nervous talking on the phone, but there are some people I prefer to talk to on the phone rather than text.
If I invite you to my home, I trust you a lot and I am probably mid-panic attack when you show up and I am trying a lot of different tactics to calm myself down. When I say panic attack, know I am not exaggerating, I mean I am about to have a melt down. The only thing that is keeping me from doing so is that I would be really embarrassed to cry in front of you. (That's another thing, if I cry in front of you, you should be prepared to be my friend for life because I don't cry in front of anyone I don't feel comfortable around.)
So basically, I am writing this out because I try to explain the way it feels and I can't, but maybe reading through the whole process will provide some insight into how anxiety can affect people. Maybe you don't know me, but you know someone who has anxiety, and this can help you understand their approach to friendship just a little bit better.
Sydney Yalshevec is an Arizona nerd, living and working as a reporter in a small Nebraska town. She likes to craft, paint her nails, and learn about anything and everything. Netflix is her life. She can be found on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr under the name psydvicious.
(Image via Nan Lawson.)