I Don’t Like Feeling Socially Awkward

By April 11, 2018Blog

Is it isolating when you don’t talk at a group outing? Somehow, spending forty minutes alone in the company of others when the point of going out together was to be together, well…I guess I’ve answered my own question. I went to brunch with four other people and found myself dining without uttering a word. There was plenty of time to engage in conversation, too, including before and after our meals were served. It wasn’t that the topics which arose were uninteresting, I just felt like my voice didn’t matter.

Lately something feels off. My sense of self-worth fluctuates. Same for my levels of confidence. I get anxious, worrying about what others think of me, especially if they know about my diagnosis of schizophrenia. I’m prepared to answer questions, but none come up. Is this because they accept me as I am and don’t concern themselves with the stigma, or are they ignoring me because without my advocacy or hospitalizations to talk about, I don’t have much to say?

Since my last medication adjustment, friends have noted that I’m more focused and less disjointed, which should, for all practical purposes, produce a plucky conversationalist. So what’s holding me back from communicating when I’m in a social setting? I feel like I did in middle school—self-conscious and overly sensitive. Weary of slipping into a tongue-tied morass, I clam up and keep my head down. Maybe no one will notice that I’m vocally absent, nevermind that this is all counterintuitive to what I really want. Internally, I long to be part of the group, chatting away gaily on a host of subjects; externally, I’m presenting a façade of detachment, in direct conflict with my real emotions.

 

I’m anxious about how I’ll be perceived. Am I just “that schizophrenic guy” lost in his thoughts, or am I seen as an intellectual equal, capable of holding his own in any discussion? I know what I hope for, but I don’t know the answer. It’s hard to shake these feelings of inadequacy. I want to be involved in social activities, but I feel I lack the self-confidence required to pull it off.

So what can I do about feeling socially awkward? Focus on the root cause? Loneliness is probably at the core of it. That and being shy. So I did what I’ve learned to do when faced with a confusing emotional problem: I opened up to my therapist.

We talked about the challenges I’ve been facing recently, and how that experience is keeping me off my game. Last autumn I lost three months to a medication breakdown, effectively putting me into the worst psychotic episode since schizophrenia first appeared in my life. I received a concussion after falling into a rockery while in that fugue state. I’ve been struggling to come to grips with the resultant amnesia, trying to piece together the images I have of events that remain irretrievable. I’m dealing with a lot. No wonder I’m withdrawn. Given the circumstances, I should cut myself some slack.

I can’t imagine anyone wanting to talk with me, since all I have to talk about is mental health. Yet I know that’s not true. I have many interests that could lend themselves to discussion. I like movies, books, music, gaming, art, comics, and graphic novels. I’m a writer. I love city life and a long walk. I enjoy nature. I’m learning to cook. There’s plenty to talk about. I just need to find a way in.

 

A solution is within my grasp. I can continue working on this process in therapy, a safe place to talk about my needs and ways to fulfill them. I can make this an ongoing thing. As my self-confidence builds, my feelings of awkwardness may subside to the point where I’m open to initiating conversation with others. I need to be forgiving of myself in the interim. Not everyone is “on” all the time. I’m being realistic when I accept that this won’t happen overnight. In a culture where we’re expected to suck it up and “Just Do It,” the braver tack might be one of adherence to the slow and steady.

One thing is for certain—I don’t like feeling socially awkward. That can’t last forever, though, no matter how it may seem in the moment. I want to confront my situation because I don’t like being lonely. General anxiety has me second guessing myself, and social anxiety keeps me outside looking in. As uncomfortable as it might be, I’m ready for a change.

10 Comments

  • Carly says:

    I’ve been reading you blog posts and have yet to thank you for the incredible insight and vulnerability you display in your writing. Your writing has inspired me and given me courage in the lonely lands of agoraphobia and psychosis. While I’m thankful for what you share, I’m so sorry you’ve had those experiences. I know you touch many people through your blog posts, and the impact to leave is truly amazing. Thanks for doing what you do.

    • Henry Boy says:

      Thank you for your comment, Carly—it’s encouraging to read such kind words. I always hope that my posts can help someone who reads them. Agoraphobia and psychosis are very challenging to deal with, and I’m sorry that you have those diagnoses. My current medication regimen helps me deal with that lonely landscape you speak of. Sometimes it helps to know that others share a similar path. Thanks again for your comment.

  • smileandrelax says:

    I’m interested in the whole person that you are. Can you suggest some graphic novels? My son likes them and his birthday is approaching and some ideas would be helpful. By writing about topics you enjoy beyond mental health, you educate people about recovery, since it is person-centered (not disease-centered). It takes more than med management (in my opinion) to promote sustained well-being. It takes knowingly embracing and nurturing everything we are (body, mind, and spirit).

    I’m finally going to a fitness class again. I devote so much of myself willingly to nourishing my mind. Hard to believe it takes such effort to extend the same care and dedication to my physical being since without it I would not have any mind at all. Hang in there.

    • Henry Boy says:

      Thanks for the comment, s&r. Here a few graphic novels that I’ve enjoyed: “The Stuff of Legend” by Mike Raicht & Brian Smith, illustrated by Charles Paul Wilson III, a tale of toys come to life to fight the monsters in the closet (a little dark in content, but a worthwhile adventure spanning a few books); “Mouse Guard” written and illustrated by David Petersen, a story set in a medieval world populated with mice (dramatic and romantic in a highly stylized way, again spanning a few books in a series); “The Rocketeer” written and illustrated by Dave Stevens, a 1940’s-era account of a nerdy guy who becomes a superhero when he dons a rocket pack (the story that launched a movie of the same name); and “Psychiatric Tales” written and illustrated by Darryl Cunningham, a former psychiatric nurse who writes about mental illness from his years caring for patients (he describes various disorders in a way that makes them a bit more tangible). You might like to read a sampling of each of these on Amazon or at the library to help you make an informed choice. Happy reading!

  • smileandrelax says:

    PS – I’m also listening to Bruce Springsteen narrate his autobiography “Born to Run” on audible (dot com). Now there’s a man who has delved deep into his family history to unearth the origins of his recurrent dark depression. I managed to get two tickets to see him performing on Broadway on my birthday later this year.

    PPS – I’m taking a low dose of Abilify now to prevent relapses.

  • Monica says:

    Yet another great read like always!!!!! It certainly seems you are on the same wave length as my son as I read your posts…it’s as if you two have been chatting about it with each other—he too is ready for a change and to branch out more!!! I’ll be praying your change comes in as a wonderful thing!!!! Thank you once again and as I always say “your words–our gift”
    Be blessed

    • Henry Boy says:

      Thanks, Monica! It’s intriguing how certain events seem to parallel one another. Maybe your son and I *are* on the same wavelength! I hope that he is doing well. It’s good to hear that he’s looking forward to branching out. Regarding this blog’s conundrum, a friend suggested to me that I try to meet another shy person and see where that goes. Pretty good advice. I’ll take it! Thanks again for writing in. Always nice to hear from you.

  • Richard F says:

    Hi Henry. I completely relate to how you feel. While I don’t have Schizophrenia, I have Asperger’s syndrome, and I also feel
    socially awkward. I have alot of social anxiety, especially around girls. I’ve also had trouble extending my social circle, as I feel like I need more friends.
    I am 32 years old, and my life has not progressed like I had hoped it would. My though process is slower, and am unable to think on my feet consistently. You are definitely not alone.

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