At last, my moment of peace and quiet that I had been longing for. After a day filled with anxiety and negative thoughts, I relished sitting down in my pajamas and watching the American Idol Finale. Energized by the music, I hummed happily while writing during commercials. What could go wrong?
Don’t ever think that. Honestly, the moment that you do, you are setting yourself up for trouble.
Anyway, my younger sister called my mom asking to bring home friends from school. Immediately, panic crept into my thoughts and spread through my body as if in my blood. College kids who I didn’t know coming to my house unexpectedly? This change of plans that involved more people, noise, and business terrified me because of my immense social anxiety from aspergers. Not to mention the fact that I was wearing my skimpy (honestly, I barely have any skimpy clothing so what are the odds?) summer pajamas and there would be boys which brings up another whole area of paranoia.
“Why are they coming?” I inquired of my mom, trying not to freak out.
“She can have friends over. They are going to stargaze.”
What does that mean? My black and white thinking tried to comprehend how that would effect my evening. Would they be outside the whole time looking up at the sky? That wouldn’t be too bad – as long as they stayed out there. “So are they going to come in the house?”
“I don’t know.” Typing on the computer, my mom barely looked over at me. I didn’t blame her, though. After a full day of supporting me through my struggling, she really needed a break. “Don’t worry about it.”
One thing that really annoys me is when someone tells me to “not worry about it.” Obviously, I am already worried so I need help calming down not being told to stop.
Anyway, they came over despite my misgivings. Miserable, I tried to figure out how to deal with my frustration and fear. My family, however, angrily shushed me whenever I stated my frustration. Alone and hurt, I crept into my room and shut the door. Once again, I had shown what a selfish unsocial person I was and my family showed me how much they hated that side of me.
However, what does a person with aspergers do when put into a situation like that? All I had expected from the evening was to relax with my family. To tell the truth, even the coming and going of my family members was upsetting to me. Not knowing who is going to be around when throws me off. I want to know how to prepare for the people at hand.
Yet, I understand that my family wants to be hospitable. My sister should be able to bring over friends. I shouldn’t have to know the exact schedule of each person and I certainly shouldn’t have control over it.
But that still does not help me figure out what to do in the moment. It is difficult to live with aspergers/social anxiety/depression/anything else that makes you prone to isolation and fear of others. But it is also difficult for my family to live with me and my illnesses. There needs to be a compromise between us. I have to keep working to be flexible and open to surprising changes while my family needs to continue to care for each member individually.
So, what do you do when you surprised with a group of people when you want (or even need) to be alone? First of all, do what you can to be gracious such as greeting them. If you think that you will be ok, try to spend a little bit of time with them. Maybe they have some similar interests as you. However don’t torture yourself. If need be, find a safe place to camp out. Bring books, a blanket, a pet, your laptop, music – anything that you need to feel safe. Stay there as long as needed.
Secondly, talk to someone that you trust about what is happening. Maybe you are really struggling that day or maybe there have been too many guests over recently. Whatever the case, ask someone else for their perspective and then tell them yours. Hopefully you can come up with a plan about what to do in the future.
So next time you feel like panicking because of a social situation, know that you are not alone in longing to be alone. I’m right there with you!