Today was a rough one. I knew it would be even last night when I couldn’t sleep despite my body feeling exhausted and I tossed and turned because my brain would not shut off. I almost stayed home from my plans today. Maybe I should have.
You should know that I have pretty bad social anxiety. The extent to which it affects me varies. Sometimes I’m anxious for a while but then I get comfortable and do fine. Sometimes I leave an event early in tears. Guess which one today was.
I do volunteer work for my husband’s squadron. The work primarily involves working with/supporting the other spouses in the squadron. I started doing it in part as a way to help me meet people and deal with the social anxiety. But, and here is a big but, when I have to attend a large event full of spouses like the one today, my husband is usually with me to act as a social buffer. He not only knows many of the people who are strangers to me, he is also an extrovert who is happy to strike up conversations. But of course he couldn’t be there today because he is out of town. Had I not been attending as a representative of the volunteer program I would have simply stayed home from the event all-together. But I had an obligation to my team and I didn’t want to let them down.
I arrived at the start of the event in part because I know how parking gets and I wanted to get a good spot. I walked up to the outdoor pavilion where it was being held and saw that there wasn’t a single person there who I knew well enough to talk to or sit with. I sat down at the corner of a table for a moment feeling like the nerdy kid in the cafeteria who has to sit by herself. I walked away to an area near the entrance and texted my team asking if they would mind if I just went home. I fought back tears. But one of them was just arriving pretty much at that moment and so I waited for her and then joined her and her kiddos at the bouncy house. I had another moment where I almost cried and she gave me a big hug. I can’t quite put my finger on why I was so near tears at that point, I just know I was feeling very raw.
We then ventured into the pavilion to find a seat only to discover it was nearly full. She suggested sitting at a table with three ladies who we didn’t know and I said no. I had seen those three arrive and one of them was very pregnant. So we found another seat and I started to realize just how surrounded I was by babies and pregnant women. The babies were pretty much all really small, like still counting their age in weeks, infants. And the pregnant women were all obviously in their third trimester. I became increasingly uncomfortable.
The other members of our team arrived and people kept asking me if I was okay and I kept fighting back tears and telling everyone I was fine. At one point I finally admitted that I might need to just leave. Then one of my team-members/friends looked at me and realized I was on the verge of tears. She suggested we go take a walk. We walked a little ways away and found an empty table to sit down. I pulled a handkerchief out of my purse and fought to not sob. There was no point in fighting the tears entirely, they were just there, but I didn’t want to totally lose it in public. She and I talked about why I was upset. I explained about the social anxiety, especially with my hubby not there, and the pregnant women and babies. Oh, this friend happens to be 8 months pregnant. BUT she knows what’s going on with us and she is awesome and supportive. She’s been there before with her best friend who dealt with years of infertility and is now 8 months pregnant with twins. We talked for a while and then I left the event.
I felt/feel bad and like I let down my team but I was in no place to schmooze spouses today. And they are all really supportive and totally fine with me taking care of myself and leaving. I just wish I wasn’t so sensitive. I wish I wasn’t always the one people have to prop up. I wish I could attend an event full of happy military families and be happy to be there and not resentful of all the young wives with their beautiful babies and bellies.