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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Apr 16, 2015 12:32 pm

So today I'm going to hang out in a cafe with a new friend who I've never spent time with before. We're the same class, but it's a lecture class, so there's a whole bunch of people and I don't know anyone. Anyway, she approached me at the bus stop (we take the same bus back to town) and immediately started a super intense and passionate conversation about our favorite comics, Middle East politics, best falafel in town, ect... Like we didn't even ask each other's names until we had been talking for 30 mins. I haven't seen her since that Monday of last week--we've exchanged a couple texts, but I'm meeting up with her this afternoon at 4 at a cafe for an hour.

Which I should be totally psyched about, but the thing is I'm home alone today, which means that my anxiety disorder, always bad, is spiraling out of control--I can't think straight, my heart is pounding, hands shaking, and I just want to curl up in the fetal position and cry. This is all par for the course for me, but the thing is I really, really don't want to show up like this. I don't want to be like "here are my mental health issues, let me tell you about them!" because that generally really isn't cool for people you've just met (unless it's in the context of a therapeutic setting, like a partial program, or it's a friend of a friend who you also know has struggled with psych stuff) and she's someone who I'm just approaching cold, you might say. I don't have a problem gradually opening up to her if we do hit it off as friends, but as I said, gradually.

The thing is, because I can feel that I'm super anxious right now (not about this, I just get like this when left alone in my thoughts) that it's going to bleed through, and I don't want her feeling like she has to comfort me or make me feel better--I just want to casually hang out. But I also don't know how to pull myself out of this in time, so I don't come off that way.

Help?

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Post by PintsizeBro on Thu Apr 16, 2015 12:52 pm

Remember to breathe! Somehow I always forget that when I'm anxious. Oxygen is good.

Is there anything you can rely on to distract you? Re-reading old favorite books or watching reruns of a favorite TV show is very soothing. It's been studied, too.

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Apr 16, 2015 12:56 pm

I don't know. It's hard to think of anything or let myself get lost in anything when I'm so anxious--my mind just can't focus on anything. I guess it also doesn't help that I'm worrying about this big school project that I haven't been working on and I've been really overwhelmed with--I feel like I need to be working on it on this day off, but I can't seem to get started. I know I should let it go, but even if I try to tell myself that I'm in no place to get anything done, it's still lingering in my mind. I'll try to find something mindless to do though. Which I guess helps in the short term, but then it often just floods me again when I finish.

So yeah, I don't know.

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Post by Enail on Thu Apr 16, 2015 1:03 pm

Are there any scents or textures you find comforting or relaxing? Maybe you could bring something that you can touch in your pocket or put a scent on your wrist that you could smell inobtrusively?

I think you could probably let her know what's going on and that she doesn't need to worry about it in a low key, casual way without making it over-personal or putting it on her to handle, something like "by the way, if I seem really nervous (or however you display anxiety), don't worry about it, it's just I have an anxiety disorder and sometimes it pops up like this. Anyway, have you read X?"
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Post by Guest on Thu Apr 16, 2015 1:11 pm

Hmmmm... Unfortunately I don't have much in terms of helping your mind relax, but i usually recommend people breathe deeply (from the diaphragm), hold it, release the air and do it again. Helps also if you're in a relaxing position or a comfy-ass chair.

If you're also trembling a lot, I suggest loosening up your body, as in force yourself to not tremble like when you're cold.

But the biggest thing I recommend, again, is breathing.

Maybe do a little basic yoga if you're into that. Or maybe some simple stretches like lying on your tummy, and using your forearms you lift yourself up with (palms down) leaving your legs on the floor (so only your torso is going off the ground) breathe, hold and release your breathe and go back down. Yeah, that's a stretch for your your spine but, damn, it's relaxing.

Or you can also tell yourself in the mirror, "Prajna, it's all good. You're all right, everything is gonna be fine. Everyone suffers from some sort of mental illness."

I guess what I'm trying to say is, you're gonna be okay. You'll be fine, remember to breathe or talk to an already established friend beforehand to rid some of that tension. :3 I send you warm sunsoaked Mikey hugs from San Diego. Grin

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Post by kleenestar on Thu Apr 16, 2015 1:40 pm

Other people have given you good advice about how to calm down, but I am going to take a different approach. Let's say you still feel this anxious when you go to see her - here is a script you can use that acknowledges your anxiety without doing a feelingsdump.

"Great to see you! Just so you know, I'm super anxious about a big school project. I'm glad to have some time to get away from it - want to distract me with awesome talk about [topic]?"
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Apr 16, 2015 1:47 pm

Yeah, I guess the challenge for me is that when I get anxious, I don't get wound up or frantic, the way that others do--I actually slow down. It's hard to process things around me, conversation is difficult, and it usually takes someone who knows me well slowly and carefully engaging me in small tasks until I sort of get unfrozen and can engage with the world around me again. I don't think I'm going to be hyperventilating, that isn't really my thing, but just somewhat... Off. My sense of humor and charm, which are the capacities that help me relate to others even if things are hard, can't really be accessed in that state, because everything is just shut down. So I'm sort of trying to find ways to draw myself back out again all on my own, which is something I've never really learned to do. Left to my own devices, I'll just curl up silently in a fetal position and not move for hours on end.

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Post by Guest on Thu Apr 16, 2015 2:02 pm

Have you tried just moving? When I get super anxious, I pick a repetitive, low effort physical task and just dive into it. My go-to is usually something like washing walls or counters or windows or floors -- something that doesn't require thought or skill, but gets my body moving. That sometimes helps with the physical part of the anxiety.

I will also blast music too loud, or cook something, which tends to give me a sense of competence and accomplishment, since I'm a good cook.

I'd also say, give yourself permission now to leave early if you're just really not doing well.

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Apr 16, 2015 2:11 pm

ElizaJane wrote:Have you tried just moving?  When I get super anxious, I pick a repetitive, low effort physical task and just dive into it.  My go-to is usually something like washing walls or counters or windows or floors -- something that doesn't require thought or skill, but gets my body moving.  That sometimes helps with the physical part of the anxiety.

I will also blast music too loud

Doing this now, blasting the MLP soundtrack (what?! it makes me happy!) and trying to put my bag together way ahead of time, so I have to move around gathering my stuff, and hopefully I'll also feel prepared and less anxious. Another thing to keep in mind is that about an hour before meeting up with her, I have to attend the official Cutting of the Strings (i.e. six week checkup to make sure my IUD is still in place) and as much my mother tells me that visualizing them clamping my cervix to the table with thumb screws will only make it hurt more (that's what they do, right? nothing else could cause it to hurt that much), putting it in was awful, and I have to bike downtown to meet her afterwards. So I might be subconsciously panicking about things really hurting...

Well actually, it felt really good to get that out.

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Apr 16, 2015 3:54 pm

Ahhh person just texted to say she has a change of plans, she wants to go boating. Not only is this change of plans freaking me out (I don't do well with them when anxious) the thought of canoeing with a near stranger doesn't sound fun--not only is it kinda difficult, I'm stuck in a boat with her for an hour. Plus, the boathouse is at my old college, a place fraught with emotional pain for me, as I had to leave it thought I loved it there due to my depression, and then had to watch all my friends graduate without me (it's better now but still really hard) the boathouse does free rentals to students, so that's why she suggested it, and of course I said yes. And now I'm freaking out. Great one.

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Post by Werel on Thu Apr 16, 2015 4:00 pm

Seconding movement and loud music-- dancing can help sometimes. (Also not a bad idea to prep for an unpleasant medical procedure.)

I also think it's possible to let new potential friends know what's up, without dumping Mental Health Baggage on them prematurely-- e.g. I have a buddy who, early on when we were becoming friends, let me know that there would be times he would be bad company. No pressure for me to do anything about it, just a heads up; it was very useful to me as a potential friend, because I didn't misinterpret his bad spells as disliking me or my company. Think you could try a low-stakes bit of honesty with this person? When I need to go be social with folks I don't know well and I'm in a downswing, a jokey disclaimer in response to "how are you?" like "eh, slightly less fun than usual, but we're still going to have a good time. What have you been up to?" can provide 1) a basic in to followup questions if they want to go there, 2) an easy brushoff if they don't want to go there, and 3) a nice pep talk for yourself.

Good luck. Sending you calm-and-composure rays.

edit: Oh lord, BOATING? That sucks. Headsmack Maybe plead a legit medical excuse, i.e. "I'm going to be coming straight from the gyn and am NOT going to be up for anything sporty, catch you next time"?
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Apr 16, 2015 4:07 pm

Eeehhhh, I feel really weird super enthusiastically confirming and then being like "oh yeah painful gyno appointment, no can do"

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Post by Guest on Thu Apr 16, 2015 4:13 pm

I think if you're straightforward about it, it shouldn't be an issue. Just call and say, "Hey, boating sounds like it could be fun, but on second thought, I've got some medical stuff this afternoon that could leave me uncomfy. Maybe something less physical, or a raincheck for another time?"

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Post by Werel on Thu Apr 16, 2015 4:16 pm

Oh, that "WHY DID I SAY YES" feeling-- I know it well. Sympathy all the way. But since she's pulling the last-minute-change-of-plans card, could you absolve yourself of guilt for doing the same? You're allowed to make up an excuse like "oh shit, [I forgot grandma's birthday/my brother needs me to bail him out of jail/I just had a bike accident]" and enthusiastically reschedule for a hard date and activity that's amenable to you. Most potential new friends will make allowances for one flakeout before they start to suspect your level of interest in friendship. And better a delayed but good first hangout than a prompt one where you're uncomfortable and miserable, right?
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Apr 16, 2015 4:21 pm

Yeah. Gyno is running 30 mins late (lovely) so I'm still stuck here and it's at least a 30 min ride to where she is across town (I said I'd meet her at 4) so who knows if I have to bow out or reschedule.

A canoe trip on a first hang out... She's Israeli, maybe she's never had a chance to do it before and doesn't really that attempting coordinated paddling is the kind of thing that causes decades of intergenerational feuds?

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Apr 16, 2015 4:22 pm

I really, really don't want to though. This is the only thing I've been looking forward to for awhile.

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Apr 16, 2015 6:44 pm

Okay, that... Actually went really, really well I think. I can understand why I was really anxious, because there were so many triggering factors in play, but it actually turned out surprisingly well. First off, the boating actually wasn't a disaster--because first of all, it actually turns out that she went to canoeing camp (I guess that's a thing?) every summer from age 8-16, so I could have spent the entire time splashing my hand in the water and we would have been fine. Secondly, it gave us something to do together as an icebreaker of sorts, so I didn't have to flail around looking for conversation topics to start us out with. Also, I felt it helped get over the preliminaries of small talk ("So how has your week been?" "Honestly, not so great--OH LOOK A ROCK UP AHEAD") and it was clearly something that she loves and really enjoys. And after that we had a super passionate and intense conversation about the portrayal of Ishvallans in the original FMA anime versus Brotherhood/original manga and discussions of the Holocaust and Roma and fictional stories of genocide. After we returned to the boathouse I followed her to Starbucks where she parked down to do homework and I headed home.

Honestly though, being on campus again was really hard, harder than I realized--it's the first really beautiful day of spring, and it was like there was a giant block party going on at the Quad that we had to walk though while she talked about how much she'll miss the place when she graduates this semester. She definitely couldn't tell how much I was hurting at this point (I made a point to just listen, and affirm what she was saying)--which is a good thing, because I really didn't want to make this about deepfeels, at least not yet, and once we got off campus I was feeling much better.  

Anyway, she's super busy at the moment, and doesn't seem to text/talk on the phone much, so I'm not going to see her until next week at least. But it's nice to have one more person in my life, especially when I don't have that much just plain fun social outings.

Thank you guys for all your kind words, help and encouragement!

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Post by Enail on Fri Apr 17, 2015 11:18 am

Woo! Good job!
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Post by PintsizeBro on Fri Apr 17, 2015 12:04 pm

Good end! Yay! I think you handled the situation really well.

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