Every Friday night starts the pictures of friends who are out at parties and dinners and with more friends and strangers. I love to see them dressed up and happy but a tiny bit of myself looks at those pictures and feels like a loser because my anxiety disorder makes me run from crowds and there’s no way I could ever do what they’re doing.
It was worse when they still asked me to come with them and I’d beat myself up all week while telling myself that I should and could totally go and then I’d feel that lurch in my stomach and back out at the last hour. And I’d feel relief and regret in equal measure. Nowadays I’ve said no so often that I don’t usually get asked. Which is a great comfort and also a strangely bitter sadness. Some friends still tell me when they’re having a get-together, or invite me with a kind side-note of “I know you won’t come but remember you’re always welcome”. Some have given up on me ever coming to their parties but never give up on me personally and still make time for me in quiet moments, or house-calls when I can’t leave the house. Some text because they know that my fear of the phone will keep me from answering even when I want to talk. Some come to my room at conferences because they know it’s too hard for me to leave the suffocating but safe quiet even though I desperately want to go to see old and new friends just outside my window. And some are gone. They’ve given up on me and I can’t blame them because being my friend is not easy. It takes work and patience and sometimes people come to the realization that I’m not worth it and they disappear. It’s hard, especially when it’s someone you love. But as they drift away, others come into your life. Others like you. Others that aren’t like you but who appreciate having a friend who asks for so little time or effort. Others who will get on google chat with you so you’ll be less alone while you’re quietly playing solitaire. Others who live on twitter because it’s safer than real life…who will be there with you at 2am when you can’t stop the voices in your head. And that is a wondrous thing.
And then it’s Friday again. And the pictures start coming in of your friends out at clubs and concerts and restaurants, and I sit home and feel a perfect mix of glad and sad that I’m not there. And I play music that reminds me that I’ve chosen this life…or it’s chosen me. And that it’s okay. Better than okay. It’s good. Even when it stings a little. The sting reminds you you’re still alive.
I’m still alive. So are you. Find the life you want and make it yours without apologies. Whether it’s loud or quiet or filled with dancing or books, or a combination of each. And I will be happy for you when those beautiful pictures come into my feed of the amazing places you are. And I will try harder to be happy for me that I’m where I am too.
PS. This is one of the songs that I listen to when I start to feel bad that I’m never going to be comfortable in crowded spaces. It might help you if you’re the same: