I’ve been having trouble figuring out a name to give my closest uni friend for a while now, but I thought I’d settle on Zii. Zii is the name of a character in a webcomic called Ménage à trois (A real cool NSFW comic- loads of lgbt characters because yeah, I like that shit). Keep in mind, my friend isn’t like Zii at all, but I thought the name was nice and it’ll be easy to remember.
So I was watching a video by Kati Morton about how important friends are in recovery. It made me think of Zii. Of course, all my friends are very supportive, but Zii is different because she’s got a lot of anxiety like me.
It’s actually really interesting how our anxieties manifest. We post have some form of social anxiety (and then I’ve got some other anxiety and OCD-like shit) but they present pretty differently.
For me, I don’t mind being around other people. I don’t notice other people much because I don’t have much interest. If someone if talking about me, I won’t notice. I’m more concerned about how I am in interpersonal situations. I worry about what to say and how I’m speaking and what face I’m making. It’s funny because I can talk to people and to groups about work-related stuff and not worry about it so much. It’s only when it turns into a non-work related conversation that I get nervous. I also get nervous whenever I’m speaking to people considerably older than me, especially if I perceive them as an authority figure. I also get pretty nervous with people who make certain facial expressions. I’m not really sure why that is- maybe I view it as a threat so I guess that part is not so much social anxiety… I also am very cautious when it comes to when to interact with people. For example, if I had a nice conversation with someone one day, I wouldn’t talk to them the next day, unless they talk to me. Once I know that they want to talk to me, then I start saying hi to them. These situations can be pretty nerve-wrecking because people aren’t predictable and I don’t want them to think I’m rude. I also feel really bad for ignoring them. Sometimes, when my brain overloads while trying to think of what to do, I just pretend I never saw them and get about my day, and that makes me feel even worse
Otherwise, I’m pretty okay being around people. Being in crowed places makes me uncomfortable, but only because I don’t like people touching me and it also makes the place feel dirtier. But other than those reasons, people don’t make me nervous in a social anxiety sense. I don’t really consider what people think of me unless I’ve done something embarrassing. I’m mostly stuck in my head anyway, so I wouldn’t notice. I don’t mind being loud and a little weird when I’m with friends, because then I feel comfortable. I also don’t mind speaking up in classes or in lectures. In fact, I like answering questions in lectures and I wouldn’t mind being picked on to answer a question.
Zii, on the otherhand is different. She doesn’t seem to be worried about when to talk to people. She seems to have more friends than I do. She does think that people don’t give her a chance to talk to them. She seems able to talk to people fine, though. Her issue is that she’s too focused on other people. She constantly listens in on conversations around her, carefully observes and notes body language and tone of voice to see if people are bitching about her, or if they think she smells, or something like that. She does it with me too, always fine-tuned into my facial expression and tone of voice. This actually pisses me off- I understand why she’s doing it, and I don’t blame her, but it often leads her to say “You’re pissed off.” which I find really annoying for two reasons:
- If someone’s pissed off, telling them that they’re pissed off only serves to piss them off more
- I’ve told her time and time again not to pay attention to my body language, because for some reasons it never portrays how I’m actually feeling. I tell her that she can just ask me how I’m feeling instead and I’ll respond honestly (even when I am pissed at her)
- I don’t like being told what I’m feeling. It’s something that really gets under my skin. I’m so used to my parents making assumptions about how I’m feeling and why I do something, and then refusing to listen to me saying how I really feel and the real reason I did what I did.
But enough about me, this is about Zii. And please know that I love Zii very much, despite what I’ve said above. I can empathise to some degree.
Zii always seems to hear and notice things I don’t- little whispers about her, and body language suggesting she smells. At first I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but when she kept saying it, I just didn’t believe that it was really like that. Not that she was lying- I don’t believe that for a second- but rather she was misunderstanding or literally just ‘hearing things’. I told her that it’s very unlikely that people would spend so much time talking about her, and that her anxiety was giving her a sort of self-centred attitude (I’m not very good with my words…). It seems she took in what I said, and is also currently trying to perceive the world as I do to some degree- by not really noticing what people do or say. That’s the Peanut Method. I wouldn’t say the Peanut Method is that great- it means I have poor mindfulness skills and I worry about a lot more than social situations- but the aspect of not paying attention to people could actually help her. I hope she’ll be able to take it on to some degree. She’s actually made a lot of progress. I’ve gotten her to stop sitting at the back of the lecture hall and now we sit pretty close to the front which is pretty amazing. She doesn’t seem to be that uncomfortable anymore, but then again. I’m not the best at noticing other people’s emotions. I was worried that I was pushing her too much, though she said that her other friend pushes her and she likes that, so I started to be a little (just a little) pushy myself. After a few times sitting near the front, I offered for us to sit closer to the back a couple of times, but now she normally chooses the same place near the front which is just freaking awesome (and not just because I can actually hear the lecture and those seats are never broken 😀 ).
We’ve been pretty helpful to each other, listening to each other and sharing our own issues and insecurities. I’m helping her with her social anxiety, and she’s pushing me with my aversion to dirt and stains and also because being near her generally helps keep negative thoughts at bay. I can even vent to her and she’d be cool with just listening. She’s also been such a great help with helping me look for a new place. I just want Zii to be happy and comfortable, and I know she wants the same for me too. In this case, I’m pretty sure that our friendship will be very integral in our recovery.