Monday, 4 April 2016

School Day Memories & The Socially Awkward Blogger

"School days are the best days of your life"

I remember hearing that expression back when I was 13, and thinking to myself "Oh dear god, please do not let that be true!"...

Of course it wasn' fact I would say with 100% certainty that my school days were by far the very worst of my life.

When I think back to school, the one over-riding emotion I recall is worry and anxiety.

And in particular -  that horrible feeling of not being part of the crowd.

I was always the one on the outside - never part of any clique, never had a specific group of friends, always kind of a loner.

Maybe if I'd been a more confident person it wouldn't have bothered me quite so much, but when you're an anxious kind of kid and you spend your days feeling alone it's not an easy thing - I always felt vulnerable, always felt different, always felt disliked and unwanted. Kind of like a spare part that nobody had any use for.

I experienced some bullying throughout my school days but probably no more so than anybody else did and certainly nothing very intense...just your usual mean girls and their name calling, exclusion and mind games.

It started in primary school aged about 10 when a girl named Suzanne who I'd known since infant school took a sudden dislike to me - she'd call me names every day in front of the other kids, and try to threaten and intimidate me - My mum always told me to stand up to her and she'd back down, but she was so much bigger than me and I was scared by her.

One day she started picking on me in the cloakroom after break, and I - as usual - tried to ignore her completely.

But then she did something she hadn't done before...she made it physical, and pushed me hard in the chest - she sent me tumbling backwards and knocked me into a boy from our class.

All of the other kids were in hysterics laughing at this of course, and the whole thing made me SO embarrassed that I had my very first experience of "red mist" - before I even had time to think about what I was doing, I had leapt back up and LUNGED toward Suzanne - all I did was shove her back, harder - she fell, then the teacher came in and we all pretended that nothing had happened.

But I'll never forget that look of absolute shock on her face as I leapt towards her...clearly she'd taken for granted that I would never defend myself....and funnily enough, she never bothered me again after that day - in fact she started to be very nice to me from then on!

My experience with Suzanne should probably have taught me that bullies need to be stood up to, but unfortunately I remained very easily intimidated and I continued to be an easy target all throughout high school.

Looking back, I can see that the reason it affected me so much was due to the social anxiety I already had and still do have....I hated any attention ever being drawn to me, and so having anyone pick me out in class to make fun of me was just about the worst thing that could have ever happened to me - most people could probably have brushed off those experiences quite easily, but it was such a massive knock to my already low confidence that it felt insurmountable.

I remember one day in high school when a teacher tried to defend me against one particular girl who'd always had it in for me - she'd been asked to partner up with me in French class, and made a big scene about how she didn't want to sit with me - the teacher, trying to keep some control, was trying to force her to switch desks and sit next to me to complete the assignment and I remember feeling so embarrassed - not because I cared what the girl thought, not because I was upset that she didn't want to sit with me (I didn't like her either, and wasn't too keen on having to work with her) but because the whole situation was drawing attention to me - I could feel the rest of the class looking at me, my cheeks were burning and the tears were stinging my eyes - I wanted to just run out of the classroom and never come back.

And that feeling is the one I seem to revert back to, even now...whenever I find myself in an uncomfortable situation.

The thing is, I was always good at school academically - it should have been a rewarding time for me as I thrived in class, I did well in my exams, teachers liked me - on paper I had it made.

But killed me inside everyday that I had to sit alone in the cafeteria...every day that I had to walk around the playground by myself...other kids looked forward to free periods but I dreaded them as it was more time to kill trying not to let anyone see that I was alone or feeling awkward.

I can never quite put across in words what it was that made me feel so awkward - I can only say that I felt constantly unsure of myself.

I was always nervous about everything I said and every move I made...worrying that someone would find something to ridicule me for...worrying that I'd somehow make myself stand out in a bad way...worrying that people wouldn't like me or would think me weird, or uncool....worrying, worrying, worrying.

I'd like to say that feeling eased once I left my school days behind me but it's something that's followed me throughout my life...

In most college courses I took, In most places I've worked, in most social situations I find myself in - for whatever reason, that outsider feeling always remained....that worry always remained.

Worrying about what I say, worrying about what I do, worrying about every move I make...

Should I say that? Am I laughing too loud? Do they think I'm weird?

I never quite managed to shake the "disliked and unwanted" feeling. Maybe it's something that just remains with you once the damage has been done...I don't know...all I know is, it's never quite left me.

And i've found that those feelings can be very easily stirred up again - even now, so many years later - by the simplest of things.

I know now that there's a term for all of those anxiety is a complicated thing and many people assume that if you're able to speak to people in public and you don't lock yourself indoors that you can't be suffering with social anxiety, but they're wrong.

Social anxiety affects people on so many different levels...

For me, it's that feeling of being unsure of myself...of worrying what people think, of panicking about looking stupid...

It affects me in so many every day situations and I overthink things that other people would never even think twice about.

If I'm paying for an item in a shop, I have to count out the money two or three times first to make sure I have it right...and even then I'll panic when I hand it over incase its wrong, and I somehow don't have enough and the shop assistant thinks I'm an idiot...

If I'm in a queue to pay for something, I panic endlessly about whether my items are lined up ok on the checkout, if the people behind me are getting annoyed that it's taking me too long to bag up items, if the checkout assistant thinks I'm bagging them up wrong...

If I'm walking down the street, I worry that I'm walking too slow and annoying the people behind me...if I hear someone laugh I assume they must be laughing at me and I worry that there's something stuck to my back, that my hair looks weird, that I'm walking funny...

If I need to cross a road, I worry that I'm being a nuisance to cars who have to stop...I worry that I'll walk too slow or I'll trip over, I worry that people will get annoyed with me or laugh.

If I have to make a phonecall, I go over and over what to say in my head first...even just calling the Drs to make an appointment takes 10 minutes of working myself up to it and practising what to say....

The worry and overthinking is constant and endless...and exhausting.

And it affects me everywhere...even here in my little blogging bubble.

Once again, just like with school, blogging is an experience that should be good for me overall...I do well with my blog in so many allows me to work from home, it gives me so much financial freedom and so much creative reward...but there are some aspects of it that stir up all of those feelings again.

There's a real social side to blogging, friendships are formed amongst bloggers, there are so many groups and communities for bloggers to chat about various things...and although I'm in them, I struggle to involve myself much.

Socially I feel like that gawky teenager in the cafeteria again...looking around at all the tables full of friends sharing gossip and banter, having fun, passing the time together...while I wander off to find a table by myself and watch on in silence, wishing I could belong like that. Wishing I knew how.

And just like back in my school days, I can pretend that it doesn't bother me...but it wouldn't be wasn't true back then and it's not true now.

I wish I knew how to involve myself more, how to make friends more, how to open myself up more...but just like back in school, I struggle for some reason.

And this time of year is probably the worst one of all - blog award season - the time of year when the two biggest Blog Award ceremonies are running - of course most bloggers would love to win an award for the effort they put into their blogs and I am no different. I pour my heart and soul into my blog, and I would so love to have an award to show for it - to show my kids one day.

But it stirs up all of those old school-days emotions all over again...the awards are votes based, and so the first issue comes with deciding on whether or not to ask for votes.

As I've already explained, I hate drawing attention to myself in any way - so putting myself out there and saying "Hey! Over here! Would you like to vote for me to win an award?!" - well that's just about as foreign a concept as there could be to me! It does NOT come naturally or easily to me to do that....

So most years I haven't...but this year, after talking it over with Jon and him giving me a little pep talk...I decided I'd try it, I'd put myself out of my comfort zone and just make people aware that the awards were happening and I'd be grateful for a vote if anyone felt I deserved it - after all, how would non-bloggers know how to vote if they didn't know the awards were happening?

So I did.

But then started all the posts from other bloggers who think nobody should ask for votes...and the more posts I read about how cringe it is to ask for votes, the more awkward I feel that I did - are they writing that post about me? Do they think I'm stupid for asking?

And then there's all of those posts about who everybody is voting for...all done with the best intentions of course, bloggers share lists of who they'll be nominating for certain awards...who they feel is most deserving, who they think are the best bloggers in those categories ...

 and that's lovely for the people they mention of course...but for the ones they don't? Well it just feels a bit shit really, surely?

And so it goes on...more social anxiety, more awkwardness, more feeling out of the loop....

And even if I did find my name on one of those lists...wouldn't I then feel the need to return that favour and write my own list? But then what if I left somebody out accidentally?

And so you see...there's too much overthinking, too many memories of feeling on the outside of the in crowd....the whole thing gives me a headache.

I don't think I'll ever truly shake off that school days feeling - I think I'll be an awkward-person for life...but it really does go to show that your school days have a whole lot to answer for, and they are certainly NOT the best days of your life!

Oh and if any of those bitches from school happen to be reading this...Yes I still remember you, and that's why I won't be accepting your friend requests on Facebook so do piss off! :D

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