Someone unexpected popped up in my dream last night. It was a person from graduate school.
I earned my Master’s in English in the spring of 2010, and I’d originally planned to get my Ph.D and become a full-fledged academic. But then–I don’t know if the circumstances were out of my control or if I somehow self-sabotaged–that dream became impossible. I could still go back and try again, but after that time something about me–this is the period that I’m terming “the big break”–changed. I no longer desire to be an academic.
In fact, I don’t have many desires at all. It just crushed me somehow–all of that drive evaporated. Perhaps I’m afraid of failing again, like I did in graduate school. (Yes, I did successfully get the Master’s, but just barely . . . all a long story that could probably take several entries to share.)
It’s not like I’m a radically different person. I still have the same interests, but I no longer have the same goal in life.
Now, we return to the dream. I’ve never made friends easily. I’ve had very few of them over my lifetime. It is probably because of the social anxiety, but sometimes I worry that it’s because I’m unlikable.
In graduate school, I felt like I belonged for the first time. Though I wasn’t wildly social, I did get along with everyone and enjoy their company. It was probably possible for me to become good friends with some of them. (And I did with one at least.)
But then I had to go and ruin everything.
There are several ways in which I accomplished this. First of all, I used to bring up my insecurities in conversation, somewhat casually, to see how people would react. In other words, my insecurity was obvious. I’ve now learned that such behavior is inappropriate until you’re sure that the other person is a close friend. But back then (and even now, to an extent), any time I made an acquaintance, I got excited that the other person actually seemed willing to be talking to me because that doesn’t happen often. So I would perceive more closeness than was there. In addition, I did meet someone who evidenced their insecurities in similar ways. I found it awkward and annoying, so these days I try to restrain such impulses in myself.
The other thing is that I eventually started withdrawing from the social scene. All of my problems at the time magnified my social anxiety. Any time I did venture out, I found myself trembling so much that I could barely function. I believed that no one truly wanted me around. When I withdrew, no one followed up on me or invited me to events anymore. At the time, this confirmed my suspicion that no one liked me.
If it wasn’t for the big break, I would probably have a much better life right now. I might finally know people that I enjoy hanging out with. I might be academically thriving. I might foresee a contented future.
But now I have none of those things. I have few friends (and none who live near me). I don’t foresee much of a future.
All of this has made me passionate about mental health. If I’d sought help when my big break was first beginning, things might be different. Instead, I told myself that I could handle it all, just as I’d always done. I told myself that it was temporary and that I merely had to wait for it to go away.
Therefore, I would urge anyone who experiences troubling signs to seek help immediately. Don’t try to keep it to yourself. It will only fester and get worse. I might not even be here if I hadn’t finally caved in and sought assistance.
(As a sidenote . . . now I think that eventually letting people know this is my blog might be problematic. What would happen if someone I knew from grad school decided to read this? . . . Could be embarrassing.)