Anxiety, BPD, Mental health, Recovery

Social Progress

By now you will realise that I have a huge problem trying to socialise. Social progress for me is saying “hello” to more than one person a day in the street and not running away after three sentences.

I feel like I was born ‘out of whack’ with humanity and entirely without the necessary social skills to get by. This goes far beyond mere shyness. I am an oddity, and there is a permanent sense of not belonging in this world.

I am also very gender biased. I didn’t know this until recently.

Men are fine. I am a lot more relaxed around men. I guess I know what to expect, both good and bad. I anticipate hurt, and I know where that pain is going to come from and what type of pain it will be. I can survive anything a male throws at me. Except for rejection and abandonment, I’m borderline, so that is still a WIP.

Women, on the other hand, are not so easy. I do not understand them, and although I didn’t realise it, I have a deep and innate distrust of women. I have learned that women are often warm and open and pleasant to your face, but are quite the opposite when you leave the room. This was always the case in my youth and through the nightmare of high school and has most certainly been the case since I moved here.

It’s been the cause of my most recent relapse.

I value directness and honesty and simply do not understand gameplay or gossip. I think it is cruel and I cannot understand why people would choose to be cruel.

Not all women are like this, but a high enough percentage are, so contact is often awkward for me as I tend now to be on alert and wary in their presence.

But for some reason, I trust my (female) GP. She keeps telling me that in general women are trustworthy, that they are strong and safe and supportive. She talks of this mythical thing called sisterhood that I have yet to see as though it is the reality. Some women are not nice just as there are men who are not nice and that I need to learn this.

I am unsure. It has never been my reality.

Obviously, there are individual females that I trust, but they are within my family. I could trust my late grandmother, and I trust my aunt.

That is not a lot of trustworthy females for a middle-aged woman, is it? There certainly is no ‘sisterhood’ thing.

This does not mean that I don’t like women, to the contrary, there are quite a few that I do find intelligent and personable and would probably want to get to know on a deeper level. But … my innate distrust and my surety that they will betray and hurt me prevents me from doing this.

For the last few months, I have been meeting up with a group of older women on a weekly basis. Well, not every week because sometimes I hear some nasty little rumour about myself which then catapults me into hiding again, so I need to be coaxed out.

The group takes turns hosting events at their houses, so it was only a matter of time before it was my turn. The group contains intelligent, educated and talented women so even though they all appear to be very nice ladies, I tend to feel inferior.

On the weeks leading up to my turn to host, I kept wanting to leave the group. I was afraid of letting strangers in my house. Even though I had not seen evidence of them being judgemental, I was conscious of the fact that I am still living between two homes with a random mix of furniture. My dining suite is at the old house, so I had to bring an outdoor table indoors and borrow chairs from my old place. I felt my walls were too bare so I frantically practiced drawing and painting and in the weekend before the meeting, painted three pictures which I framed and hung on the lounge room wall.

I hoped they didn’t ask about them. I wanted colour, but I was worried about people commenting, finding out they were mine and judging me accordingly and not in a positive way. I didn’t want to be the mad lady with mismatched furniture and her own stuff on the walls.

I have been dieting and have lost 15 kgs but had to bake a cake or two. Again, the opportunity to be judged hung heavily over my head. But I made those two cakes, one a standard cake and the other an experimental cake without sugar, flour or butter. (Yes it worked).

I was concerned my pets would misbehave, but my dogs were perfect angels. It was the cat who decided to show off. She is quite the attention seeker.

I was concerned about the pet smell in my house, so I hired a carpet shampooing machine from the hardware store and cleaned my carpets.

And I washed the skirting and cleaned my not unclean house from top to bottom.

Really. So some ladies could come over for coffee, cake and a natter.

I didn’t know how I should dress or whether I should wear makeup and if so, how much. I washed my hair. But this is something I struggle with every week. I toss and turn and fret the night before and try on outfit after outfit.

I am learning to contribute to the conversation, but only a little and only on occasion so hosting was terrifying. I wondered if there was a secret backup plan. I kept thinking up ways to cancel.

But I didn’t.

I thought perhaps that maybe only one or two might turn up and they would probably be the nicest of the group and just come out of pity.

Then they came. Eleven ladies. One after another, after another and they walked through the door, settled down and chatted as usual. My explanation for my furniture seemed to be accepted on face value. No one noticed, let alone queried the pictures on the walls and one lady even helped me climb up and rescue my errant cat from the top of the fly screen in the kitchen.

I won’t go as far as to call the morning a social success, but it was a substantial social, mental and emotional step for me.

It was social progress.

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