For example, today; when a friend from church (LOVELY woman, and I like her a lot, really) managed to trigger a full-blown panic attack by combining three of my anxiety triggers in 5 short minutes.
- Drop-by Visit: My house is generally in a disgraceful state. Not dirty, necessarily (thanks to the wonderful and affordable Miss Nicole), but always cluttered with kid debris. I hate to have people see it that way, so before someone comes over I rush around like a madwoman to pick up. When someone pops by without notice, I have to just let them in... And I know they probably don't care. That my friends who drop by are not actually going to judge me for having laundry spread all over the living room. But it's seriously a huge issue for me and stresses me way, WAY out.
- Phone Calls: The reason this lovely woman was forced to do a drop-by is because I don't answer the phone when she calls. And I don't call her back when she leaves a message. As she has done probably a dozen times over the last few months as she was trying to catch up with me during our busy traveling summer. It's nothing personal. I don't answer the phone for anyone else, either. I'll pick up for the school, work (most of the time) and Aaron. Otherwise, can't make myself do it. Another completely unreasonable fear, but I just cannot bring myself to answer the phone most of the time. And forget returning a call. I hate to even listen to the messages... I don't know what I think is going to happen, but fight or flight response kicks in every time the stupid thing rings.
So as she was leaving, my surprise visitor added, "I'll give you a call!" I kind of laughed it off and tried to humorously explain that I probably wouldn't answer. I think she thought I was kidding, because she said again, "I'll call you later this week - pick up when you see it's me!" For almost anyone else, I could just tell her to Facebook or email me instead, my usual coping strategy... but since she doesn't have Internet, that doesn't work.
So there I am, already stressed out from a drop-by visit and threatened phone calls, when she adds the disastrous third issue and asked me to...
- Leave the House and See People: There's a reason I work from home, and it's not just because I prefer to never wear shoes. I have plenty of days where the idea of having to see people and make conversation is just too much to handle. Again, it's nothing against you - you're wonderful people. I just don't want to talk to you. Or see you. Or be anywhere in your vicinity.
Going to church on Sundays is a major undertaking, because there are so many people there that I might need to talk to. But at least that's a pretty structured environment and I can usually manage to chat with someone for a couple of minutes and then a lesson or song starts and naturally puts an end to it. Or maybe I'll go and NO ONE will want to talk to me. And somehow, in a way that makes no logical sense at all, that would be even worse. But at least Aaron is generally there with me, so I have a good buffer.
Going to the store where I might bump into someone is tougher, because then I might have to have an awkward conversation in the store aisle. (Again, nothing against you guys that I always bump into at Target; you are awesome... this is totally all me!)
And hardest of all is a party of some kind. The whole POINT of the party is to see people and chat and mingle. No structure. No buffers (because Aaron is ALWAYS working and can't go with us). And I KNOW that if I manage to go, I'll probably have fun and enjoy myself, but I can NOT force myself out the door to attend. Even when I have every intention and have been psyching myself up for it, can't do it. So the church BBQ this Saturday... probably not going to happen for me.
So yep, she dropped by, told me she would call me later, and asked me to attend a party. How dare she be such a kind and caring human being!?!
Definitely makes me feel like a nut that a couple of nice gestures drove me to a full-on, medication required panic attack. *sigh*