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Trouble in Mind

Harriet, the woman who runs Preserve, had an Indian-style pot luck this afternoon. I'd promised to attend, so I baked naan and headed up the street.

It couldn't have been a prettier day. Harriet's garden is magical. The guests were all like-minded, friendly people. The food was delicious. There was some gentle live music. I enjoyed a conversation with another woman from the neighborhood.

Yet I freaked out and had to leave after less than an hour.

It used to be bigger parties and stranger strangers. Now, it's any gathering. Pressure builds inside me. The strain of finding things to say is enormous. My desire to escape overwhelms me. I flee.

And afterwards! Oh my god, the toxicity. I'm filled with feelings of shame and stupidity, a certainty that I've behaved badly or talked too much or done wrong. The feelings continue to taint my awareness for hours afterwards. Nothing feels right, nothing is fun, everything loses its allure.

It's a trauma symptom: inappropriate activation of the sympathetic nervous system. A situation viewed with pleasant anticipation by more well-balanced people is apparently a scene of combat to my nerves: enemies in every chair, danger in every dish, hazards everywhere.

The simple solution, of course, is Never Accept Another Party Invitation As Long As I Live. And it wouldn't break my heart. But the problem closes in, year by year, and I wonder how long it will be before I can't stand to be in the same room with another human being.



Sep. 7th, 2008 11:30 am (UTC)
My first reaction was "But you're cool!" and just the kind of person I would love to have at any future party I might have.

My second reaction was a bit of embarrassed relief that I'm not the only one who finds parties a challenge to cope with.

I think it's brave of you to go, even for a short space.

You baked naan! You showed up! You enjoyed the garden, the conversation, the refreshments! Apart from being dissatisfied with the length of time you spent there, did you mess anything up?

I think not.

Give yourself some credit -- showing up at the party is the hardest part, in my opinion.

*continues to admire you*
Sep. 7th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
Ha! Well, thank you! I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I suspect that any party you might throw would be a party I'd relax at.

No, I didn't break any social rules apart from the gracious leavetaking one. The bad feelings arise strictly from exposure to the combat zone, and have very little to do with how well or poorly I fought.

Put another way, they aren't reasonable feelings. Just nervous system reactions.



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