The return of social anxiety

The return of social anxiety

This weeks photos are from an afternoon in Split, Croatia. It’s Croatia’s 2nd largest city and the place where we often sail into from Italy. These photos were taken in 2018 as we waited for our ferry back to Italy after a few days in Hvar.

You can get prints of the photos in this weeks newsletter on my print store or you can tip me on Ko-Fiso I can buy film for my camera.

The return of social anxiety

One of the interesting aspects of the pandemic is that I stopped worrying about a lot of every day things. One of which was social anxiety. I no longer worried about whether a shirt was too snug or too loose? Did the trousers go with the shoes? Could I pull off this look? Am I sitting right? What if I’m not sitting “right”? How are others sitting? Should I research sitting? Where do I put my hands? Oh god what do you do with these beastly bundles of flesh and vein? I’ve gone red. Totally red. I’m basically on fire. Someone will notice and say “Hey. Come look at this guy. He’s so red Ferrari will sue him for use of colour palette. What an idiot!” I’m an idiot. I’m a big red stupid idiot that can’t use his arms. If everyone could stop looking at me and thinking about how alarmingly absurd I look trying to take human form that would be great. STOP THINKING ABOUT ME! I know people are thinking about me. I’m the worst thing here. They must be. Oh the thing finished? Was it good? I missed some of it.

I have not missed this. It’s amazing how much I’ve changed in the past year. I’m fine going outside wearing mens leggings with a purple beard, purple hair and bold colourful nail polish. I’ll strip off down to my shorts and go for a swim in the river or lake and not give a second thought to how my body looks. 100% fine. The pandemic gave me time away from social anxiety to relax and gain confidence, oddly enough. The break from the issue meant that instead of constantly fighting the fire I was able to think about the causes and prevent the fire in the first place.

Yet. On Saturday. It flooded back like a kaiju tearing through an “impenetrable” wall like it was tissue paper. WHY!?!

My wife and I attended a Zoom comedy night. I was looking forward to it. Live comedy in the safety of my house. I could have sat there in comfy leggings and big bright pink fluffy rabbit slippers if I wanted to. I was at home and safe. I live stream 4 days a week to an audience and I have no issues doing that. I never get embarrassed or socially anxious doing that. I oddly feel empowered doing Twitch shows. Yet for some reason social anxiety came back and while it didn’t ruin the night I was uncomfortably aware of its presence.

I think there were a few factors that contributed to this. I could see other audience members. I could compare myself to them. Not good. I couldn’t get the lighting right in my setup for 2 people and I kept comparing myself to others lighting. I felt like I had failed. Absurd right? Totally absurd. If I had asked my wife she would have said I was being absurd. Technically speaking, from a 100% technical perspective, the lighting on my wife and I wasn’t as clean as others. You could see we were in a dark room being lit by the video feed. We needed a nice big clean white spot light to make us stand out from the background. Technically speaking of course. We didn’t need any of this. Some people were fine in terribly lit dark yellow rooms. I’m not having a go at their setup. They seemed happy. That’s what mattered. They probably didn’t care and weren’t comparing themselves to others. That was one issue.

The second issue was that the comedians would, for lack of a better word, pick on audience members. Unfortunately for me being autistic means I don’t emote as much as others. So what happens when you look at the thumbnail of my wife and I? I look like the cliched man who’s been dragged to the event just to make his wife shut up about it. Yes ok I was sat there with my arms folded like I was bored but it was that or let them hang lifeless from my body like I had given them the day off. “Hey body. Don’t bother supplying blood to the arms for 2 hours. I won’t be needing them. Give the smile system a bit more love maybe?”

An irrational fear I have is that I will be an old white man. I will be an out of touch boring cliched stuck in my ways man. “In my day…” “Hang on let me mansplain…” “Wife! I’m putting my foot down…” I actively fight against being that guy. Last night I felt seen in the worst way. They saw my fear rather than my progress.

I know it’s all harmless fun. Bit of bants innit. A way for the comedian to find their footing at the start of a show and to break the ice with the audience. I get that. While there is a small part of me who wants to correct their mistake (honestly I’m fine…how dare they!), and that is possibly my autistic side wanting to correct something factually inaccurate, how could they know? How could they have possibly known my pitch perfect impression of Data from Star Trek was actually an autistic personality? Should I have worn a sunflower lanyard?

There’s an interesting aside here. I am suddenly presented with the idea of cosplay as a method for coping with such situations. If I went as a character and someone attacked the character would it matter? Maybe if the character was a proper gangster set off by any amount of criticism. But if I wasn’t me then maybe I wouldn’t take this personally? (Haven’t taken it personally. Totally fine being a bored uncaring husband in a huff.)

Faced with two things I knew to be untrue my brain chose to give me social anxiety. In that space I was worried about appearance amongst strangers. Why? Would I ever see them again? Probably not and even the ones I know would understand. There’s no issue here but the one my mind makes. There’s no evidence to support its claims and yet it build a house for social anxiety to live in. I guess I still have a long way to go.


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