I’m at as low a point as I have been in months, and I don’t know WHAT to do…
Great way to start a LJ post, eh?
Social anxiety. Always been an issue for me in my life…It comes and goes with human interactions…But lately, the stars and planets were aligned just perfectly enough to send me into a tailspin of a depressive spiral this week. Just…Being sick with a massive head-cold, not doing anything physical for a week as a result, it being cold and dreary outside, keeping my inside my home and inside my head…Finding myself coming time and time again back to my severe issues with eye contact.
It’s always been a little tricky, being a teacher and all. At first, my kids are all amazed and love the attention. But after awhile, a few of my shyer students get a bit freaked about the giant looming dark guy they don’t really understand who is just too tired to smile because he’s sick looking right at them. Mostly teenage girls. And so, it bothers ME, because I try to avoid pressuring them with my gaze, but the classrooms are too small for that and my mind is too active. If I think about NOT looking at something, it only means I’m going to lock in on it when I’m looking over the class, trying to explain something.
I fully realize shy students are just going to be there in every class…But lately my teachers too are acting strange. None of them can look me in the eye and get all nervous and weird if I try to have a conversation. Many of whom I was good friends with when the semester began and I can’t think of a single reason why things are strange for us now. You all know the sort of “random awkwardness” that creeps up between you and a person if, say, you made eye contact for just an instant too long? Even though you know there’s zero reason to feel awkward, it’s still there and you two can’t quite relate properly after it. Every time I talk to someone, that’s how I’m feeling right now. It’s snowballing because I notice it and I’m trying so hard to correct it I can’t act casually.
And as a result, things are getting strained with my foreign friends too. Back in July I went to Xi’an with a group of friends and felt I was weirding out one of my friends thanks to said paranoia. Well I noticed she was feeling off-balance whenever we’d talk, so I caught her alone one day and asked her “if everything was okay and did she notice any awkwardness between us?…” She said no, of course. And I explained that “I’ve been really worried that I’ve been making too strong eye contact lately and that it’s scaring some of my students and friends. It’s just been on my mind a lot..Blah, blah.” She insisted all was well and I said thanks for being honest, though I was a tad sarcastic since all was decidedly NOT well. The trip only got worse from there, long story short.
Well, after the trip, I took the opportunity and laid bare as much as I could via email. I told her how things have been really strange with me and some of my shyer students and I’ve felt like I’ve been intimidating them and eye contact has been on my mind a lot, etc, etc and she said she understood…But it hasn’t worked. She can’t stand to be around me anymore. It’s affected me with profound guilt; I can’t stop thinking about it because I really liked her as a friend and to lose a friend over something so trivial has just shredded my self-worth. And it’s happening more and more. The Buddha compares it to getting shot with an arrow, pulling it out, and then sticking yourself again with the same arrow, over and over again. The point being, why would you do such a thing, and knowing the result, you cease the pointless mental exercise. I haven’t been able to do it since July. I just keep sticking myself with that poison arrow of doubt and depression.
I went out last night to a bar with some friends. English Corner; pretty popular here in Jinan. I was feeling down then, but figured I’d perk right up after a few drinks and conversation. Every conversation I tried to start was abortive. I can’t just talk to someone normally; I’m always THINKING ABOUT where my eyes are and talking at once, and tripping over words as a result…I don’t know. If I stare too hard, it weirds people out. If I let my gaze drift, it weirds people out. My self-confidence and self-worth are really in pieces at the moment, I just don’t know what to do. Meditation’s not helping. It lets me see the how of it to a degree and even the why, a little, as I’ve explained above. But I’m still powerless. I see now beyond what I thought was me, that I really do crave understanding, attention, and love far more than I’d ever thought I did. Not nearly the loner I thought I was.
I don’t know if I want to write this, so I will. I had lucid dreams…Nightmares…Last night following the bar about the conversations and talking to them all over again and being awkward. Muttering in a half-lucid state…I was still a bit drunk, which didn’t help, but still. I had to get up, grab a drink and tell myself: “you’re awake!” Then go back to bed and finally I could sleep normally..
I thought I left my shyness behind but teaching and always being on display…I put on a good show and on some levels, I’m happy as I’m learning so very much about myself. I know that the suffering I’m feeling now is grist for the mental mill and I will be able to stand from a point of stability in the future…But I want that point NOW. I need it now.
January can’t come fast enough. Family, friends, and clean air are just what I need right now. A break from China and coming back with a fresh head and heart full of love. Right now though…Things feel bleak