One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism, and Other Fun Stuff
I’m exceptionally good in crisis situations. Based on everything you know about me now, that might be shocking to hear. How can I be so startled by the notion of making a phone call, but be able to keep my cool in a crisis situation?
I think a big part of it is the fact that so much of my fear stems from the possibilities of bad things that could happen, that when they actually do, it’s almost like a weird out-of-body experience. I can calmly steer the ship in the best direction once we’re in the middle of rocky waters, but if I were to be asked to be a captain, knowing that there could, one day, be an iceberg? That would render me useless, my nerves pulling me in a million different directions until I’m at a loss of what to do at all.
I’ve done some work as a volunteer crisis counselor.... Mostly it’s because I like to help people... That said… man, am I really sick of everyone’s shit.
I’m also way more equipped to deal with other people’s crises than my own. I’m not saying I can’t handle my own shit, but being at least one step removed allows me the chance to maintain a calmer demeanor that might otherwise be rattled by my nerves and worries about the future. So much so that I’ve even done some work as a volunteer crisis counselor. I wouldn’t say I thrive in chaos or crisis situations, but I have the confidence to bring someone down from an escalated high to a cooler place, even if it’s just in the moment. It’s also not a weird fetish, either. My empathy drives my actions. I’m pulled by the desire—no, the need to help others. I can’t watch someone in distress without putting myself in their shoes, suffering with them, and then doing my best to toss them a lifeline to get out of whatever it is that’s putting them in despair, even if I’m now drowning along with them as a result. I don’t do it because I want them to remember me for it. I don’t do it to be accepted. I don’t do it because I have both a hero and a martyr complex… at least I don’t think I do it for any of those reasons.
Mostly it’s because I like to help people. And I hate tension and would rather throw myself headfirst into a situation if it means I can ease anxieties and resolve problems than just sit with the unsettling feelings that may arise.
I’d like to believe I give decent enough advice, too. I’m proud of my ability to navigate the problems of those closest to me, offering up sage wisdom and doling out action plans if requested. I can armchair therapize with the best of them, but I’ll save my innermost thoughts for my conversations with myself, only focusing on their needs and what I feel would be best for them and their wellbeing. I can be a good person in a storm if given the opportunity, which I often am.
That said… man, am I really sick of everyone’s shit.
I could make assumptions about my empathetic nature being like a calling card for folks in crises. Maybe I’m just intrinsically drawn to people going through it. It’s like a Batman signal for me to appear when people are having a bad time, but dealing with constant crisis after crisis gets incredibly exhausting. We, collectively, seem to be living crisis to crisis and I’d like to mitigate that in my personal life as much as possible. And though I’m a people pleaser and have a need to help others, I’m also incredibly sensitive to others’ pain. As I said, I hate tension and conflict, and it’s not fun having to absorb that, especially at a time when all I want is a release—some happiness, some distraction from the bullshit we’re collectively dealing with day after day.
It’s a bit of a blessing and a curse. People respect my opinions and feel safe enough to confide in me, trust me with their woes. There’s a safe space I can create both in my heart and physically, allowing anyone to seek refuge in my caring, even if non-literal, embrace. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. People feel like they can be their worst selves around me, whether because they know I’ll be handy with a caring line, an empathetic response, or worse, because they don’t care at all.
It would be nice if, once in a while, people felt like they had to put on airs around me. Like if I inspired them to be their best selves, to seek to get my hard-earned approval, only to want to share their wins and good vibes with me. I thrive on other people’s happiness and would prefer it to the feeling of sinking like a stone, pulled down by others’ unhappiness and insecurities.
The problem with people feeling like they can count on me to be a source of good advice or a rock is it often leads to trauma dumping. If I could charge for the number of times I’ve been utilized, sometimes against my will, as a replacement for therapy I—well, I wouldn’t have to stress about not having enough money in my bank account to cover the co-pays for my own therapy appointments.
Speaking of which, therapy has been a major source for me to understand even more the need for boundaries and the importance of putting them in place so as not to allow myself to become a battering ram of people’s neuroses and crises. But the problem is sometimes I feel like I’m the crisis counselor when folks don’t even know that’s something I’m equipped to deal with. That’s when it really starts to feel like I’m just a trauma magnet. Even folks who barely know me seem to dump their problems on me. Folks who don’t know me well enough act like their worst selves around me and create bad situations that will rattle me for weeks to come. They don’t have to live in my skin once the damage is done. They’ll send a half-assed apology after, as if I’m just supposed to get used to it, or make me feel bad for dwelling on it.
It’s taken a while to realize that the problem here is not me.
It’s taken a while to realize that the problem here is not me.
The problem is often a lot of factors. Alcohol. Substance abuse. Other addictions that ease the pain of existence. A general sense lately that everyone’s in a race to end their time on this maligned planet. Everyone’s looking to find something to make their lives seem less miserable, unaware that the very thing they hope to achieve is often harder to attain because of what they’re doing to soften life’s blows.
I’m tired of watching people get fucked up and hurt each other. I’m tired of watching people self-sabotage and drag others around them down with them. I’m tired of biting my tongue and pretending it’s normal that everyone’s acting without regard for anyone else’s wellbeing. I’m tired of feeling like I need to save the day. Mostly because I don’t, and as much as I’ve yammered on about how people look to me as a beacon of hope during times of distress… I don’t necessarily know if that’s true. I’m just there and my efforts are likely forgotten as quickly as they get over their trauma dumps or emotional outbursts.
And maybe I’m wrong about a lot of what I thought. Maybe I’m not a good person in a storm. Maybe I’m a rat deserting the sinking ship, but I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to leave before things get worse. I’m not interested in being the hero. I will gladly be a person overboard in a sense of self-preservation. Does that make me selfish? Or is that just what setting boundaries really means?
Maybe I’ll figure it out one day.
Or maybe everybody just needs to fucking chill.