Socializing is not my forte. Never has been. Especially in professional settings. And on bad mental health days? Forget about it. However, I do understand how important it is to learn to connect with others in this field. I had only been to a few meetups, and miraculously, forcing myself to converse with people I didn’t know didn’t kill me, so I figured I should try to make it a regular thing. The last one I went to, I decided I was going to do the dang thing even if it was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever put myself through.
The morning of, I woke up from the absolute worst dream I’ve ever had in my entire 26 years of being a person. Let me preface this by saying that I’ve been binging a paranormal and true crime podcast called And That’s Why We Drink, because the content of the dream is definitely a direct result of that fact.
I’m going to spare the gruesome details but in the dream, I was cleaning my house and came across plastic garbage bags with dismembered body parts in them. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the person in the bags was another me. I didn’t know what to do, because what the hell, so I hid the bags until there was an opportunity to get rid of them (in hindsight not the best idea, dream me). Over the course of the dream it became apparent that everyone already knew about them and kept trying to trick me into admitting it. Basically it kept getting worse, my dad tried to take the blame, and I ended up turning myself in. When I told my mom about the dream she told me “That’s you trying to hide your ‘stuff’ even though everyone already knows about it,” which by “stuff” she was referring to my disastrous mental health.
Luckily I had an appointment to see a doctor that morning and we got some things sorted out, including finding someone who’s actually capable of helping me with PTSD things. At this point I’ve only done talk therapy for anxiety and depression, but I had to do some research to find out that talk therapy isn’t that effective when dealing with PTSD. So while I thought I was getting help in that area, I was very much still just as much of a mess about it as I had been from the beginning.
So here’s where the day got messy: that evening I didn’t need to look up directions to where the meetup was, because according to the address, it was two blocks from a place I used to visit pretty often: The home of the former partner who caused my PTSD.
About 45 minutes into my drive, And That’s Why We Drink was no longer a successful distraction and I started thinking too much. Then the nausea began. I have avoided a lot of places I used to go to all the time because the mere thought of this person makes me sick to my stomach, and running into them is the last thing I want. I started trying to think up solutions to every situation that I could see happening. No lie, I seriously considered hiding in my trunk as a possibility. More than once I considered turning around and just going home. But for one: I really wanted to see my friends. And two: I refused to let my fear of this person control how I lived my life any longer.
As I turned into the neighborhood I couldn’t relax. What if they were in one of the cars around me? I took my hair out from behind my ears in an attempt to hide my face and focused on looking forward. What if they were walking down the street and recognized my car? I immediately took down my rear view mirror decoration and stuck it in the center console.
Not knowing which side of the building the parking garage was on, I turned a street too early. In my panicked state of making sure none of the pedestrians on the corner where I needed to turn were the person, I missed the turn, and pulled into another street to turn around. Then I realized what street I was on. I made sure to avert my eyes so as not to catch even the smallest glimpse of the house, made a U-turn and found my way to the garage.
I walked around the block trying to figure out where the entrance was. What if they drove by and saw me? I looked at the ground and shielded my face from the street as I walked (not suspicious looking at all). What if they were walking to or from the store and had to walk past me? I walked faster, getting startled whenever I noticed someone walking my way.
When I found where I was supposed to be and saw familiar faces I felt somewhat better, but was still nervous. My friend asked me how things were going. I don’t always know how to answer that question because I’m not sure if I should lie, or say something like “I currently am on the verge of a huge public meltdown,” because (understandably) that makes most people uncomfortable. My dream crossed my mind and I thought “They know you’re not doing great, and they will be supportive, just tell them,” but I said something super watered down and the time in between then and when the talk started is honestly just a blur because when I sat down I started thinking again. What if they were in the courtyard and saw me through the window? What if one of these people knows them and told them I was here? What if they were coming to this event? What if they showed up to the next one?
I was finally able to relax when the three people I recognized sat directly in front of me as the talk started, and I assured myself that if anything happened, all I had to do was tell one of those people and they would make sure that I was safe. Then I wasn’t scared anymore, but I could not let go of the awkward. I was so weird that it hurt me and I could not stop. I told them that I knew I was being weird and that I didn’t know how to stop. Everyone was very kind about it, and the people I talked with still wanted to connect with me. Successful night despite everything that I was feeling before.
I remember looking at myself in the mirror when I got home that night thinking “Girl, you DID that!”
I’ve never felt more proud of myself.
(note: if the person mentioned here tries to contact me about this or anything else at all, legal action will be taken)