I dreamed last night of an old friend. For the sake of brevity, let’s call her A. I met A in school when I was 8 years old. She lived up the road from me, and we became the kind of intense fast friends that you see in movies about coming-of-age Summers. But my family moved away from where we lived, and we went to different secondary schools, and we just didn’t see each other all that much anymore.

When we did it was like no time had passed at all. Meeting her when I lived in Japan was like a refreshing window out of the isolation that had grown around my life there. Maybe it even helped form the initial crack that would later break me out of the kind of prison I’d gotten into in my life and relationship out there.

We both live in the same country now, but at opposite ends, and I don’t tend to travel to her end, but she occasionally comes down here. And it has been lovely to meet when she does.

Last Summer she came for a visit and we had scheduled a meet-up, and I missed it.

Several things were going on. My anxiety and depression were riding high. I didn’t write it into my calendar, and we ended up going to something else on that day and I didn’t remember our meeting ’til we got home. But I hadn’t been looking forward to the meeting in the first place.

It was nothing to do with A – I enjoy her company, I like catching up. But … something has happened to me in the whole friendship arena, and not just with A. I find it hard. Before a scheduled dinner, movie, drinks or whatever with people who have been my friends for years, I generally find that the tune playing in my head is that I don’t want to go.

There are a few things going on:

  • When you see someone every day, the boring minutae are interesting – kind of like watching a soap, I guess. So I feel a bit boring, and it feels challenging to break through the crust of “haven’t interacted in a long time”.
  • The point above could probably be mitigated if I were to keep in better contact in the interim  –  but that can feel like an extra item on my to-do list. It just doesn’t come naturally any more. I don’t find myself seeking out contact with very many people at the moment.
  • I feel weird and strange in most human interactions.
    I spoke about this in the context of the upcoming Summer party at the end of school. It feels like a huge dishonest performance when I’m interacting with people in a social setting. I could make some comment about how it’s something that I don’t know how to do anymore, but honestly I’m not sure I ever did know how to do it comfortably. Is it something that people are comfortable doing? Does everyone feel like they are performing on a stage?
    Anyway, when I said it about the Summer party, I dressed up all my excuses about not wanting to go really nicely, didn’t I? But the more truthful thing is that I’m just feeling very averse to all social interactions.
  • I often feel overwhelmed by day to day life as it stands, and I feel a strong need to look for time on my own, especially after dealing with people all day in my job, and a lot of “human-ing” (of a different type) with my children. I want to think and be me and not have to carefully match my steps to the learned interactions of society.
  • I’m almost always feeling like I’m not getting the joke. Sometimes I say things and I didn’t mean to be funny, but it comes across as a joke. Sometimes people say things that are meant to be funny or interesting, and it just doesn’t engage me at all.
  • I think I’m boring, I think the forced conversations are boring, I feel like I have better things to be doing, I want to be alone.
  • I often don’t like how I look. That just adds to the anxiety.

Maybe there’s something I can do about this. I tell the students that the way to get better at maths is practice. So maybe I should be practicing too. Not practicing the fake social interaction that I find so draining, but practicing at being honestly myself whilst still in company, practicing changing these interactions into something that is less of a performance and more a part of my own truthful life.

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