Monday, April 3, 2017

Anxiety? Maybe Not. Some People Are Just Assholes

the Gorleston Psalter, 1310-1324
Some people are just assholes. I’m realizing more and more that anxiety isn’t all in my head. This is a huge breakthrough for me, because even though I’d *like* to be liked by people, there are some, no matter how nice I try to be, that will just be plain jerks.

I play in the Society for Creative Anachronism, an educational group who learn about life before the 17th century by researching and recreating pretty much everything the way it used to be. We learn about clothing by researching, creating, and wearing the clothing they would have worn. We learn how they ate by researching and preparing recipes from hundreds of years ago. Fighters combat on the field using techniques that would have been used then. The list goes on. If it was done in the Middle Ages, someone in the SCA is doing it.

I've only been in the SCA for a year and a half, so I don't have the solid friendships that others have grown and nurtured over several years, and in some cases decades. This causes SCA events trigger major anxiety attacks for me. These anxious thoughts heighten when I go to an event alone and don’t have dedicated people to interact with. While I’ve had positive experiences with most of the people who play in the SCA (some of the best people I've met), there are a handful out of several hundred who have made me feel excluded and even inferior. I’ve not been around these people long enough to have offended anyone (at least I don’t think I’ve offended), but I still experience rudeness and arrogance from them.There are some who walk past and turn their head to not make eye contact. There are some who give as short an answer as possible when I try to engage them, and then walk away.. There is one who always offers only a sneer or an eye roll when in proximity. There has even been one to whom a friend and  I said good morning in passing, who stopped dead in his tracks and glared at us as if we were too beneath him to offer such a greeting. When we were met with his nasty glare, we both turned to look at each other at the same time, in shock, and all either of us could say is “WOW”. The incidents I have mentioned are not imagined; they are real and are regular in occurrence, and involve the same people at each event. These things are NOT anxiety talking. These behaviors do not belong to me.

In retrospect, there has been only one occurrence that I found I had read too much into, and after having expressed my feelings to the person involved and asking what I had done, I was assured that there was nothing to be concerned with, and that everything was OK. Incidents like that happen, and I do need to acknowledge those as flaws within myself.  Genuine anxiety aside, I've just realized that I’ve been internalizing other people's rude and hateful behavior and owning it as if my being too sensitive and imagining things is the total issue. This is not healthy and is adding to the anxiety that I feel. I need to start accepting that some of these people are just rude jerks, and quit taking the blame for them being assholes. I think that if I take these things for face value and can accept that I’m not always the one with the problem, that it may boost my confidence and lessen the anxious thoughts. It may also loosen me up and help me let down my walls when people with good intent actually do come and talk to me and engage me, rather than keeping my distance and being afraid to speak for fear of being rejected or ridiculed. By recognizing which people are giving me negative feelings, and understanding that the problem is with them and not with me, I may finally be able to more freely accept that I am actually accepted by the others.

I had a job and a plan this past weekend, and I got to hang out with some really awesome people who say they like me and that I’m “their kind”. I was introduced to new faces. I heard stories from the past, which only adds to my experience in the SCA. I was made to feel appreciated, and I had a purpose. I did see several of those people I mentioned above, and their actions toward me were exactly the same as they had been in the past. This time though, it didn’t settle into my heart and head. I was able to shake it off and can say that anxiety didn’t creep in for the entire day. Being relaxed, feeling accepted, and enjoying the event with people who actually wanted me around helped me see that it isn’t all in my head, and that I’m not as big a basket case as I thought. What freedom!

People are assholes and it’s OK. It means that it isn’t all my problem, and I’m better off emotionally than I originally thought I was.

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