Social anxiety: lost for words

Social anxiety, what an inconvenience! I say it like this not to down play it because it is very difficult to deal with because it is essential fearing/worrying about talking to people which lets be honest is a big part of how the human race works. To function in life it is very difficult to avoid talking to people. They are everywhere, waiters at restaurants, cashiers in supermarkets, receptionists at the doctors, etc. I mean I know you have things like internet shopping and takeaways, etc. to avoid people but it’s not the most healthy lifestyle if done all the time, even with those examples you have to open the door to someone. Basically when you are socially anxious you can’t escape situations that will effect you, you just have to learn how to cope.

I was out at dinner with a bunch of colleagues. One who I know but don’t know much about her. So many thought this would be a great chance to get to know her. But did not know how to start the conversation. I mean I really didn’t know. This is how it went:
First I said “so I want to get to know you better.” (Nice and direct).
So she said “so ask me something then.”
This is where my mind failed me. I just was thinking what should I say. It was like is literally forgotten how to have a conversation. I said “how’s life?” (What a stupid questions!)
she said “I’m happy”
I said “would you call yourself a happy person?”
She said “come on just stop with the cryptic questions and just ask me straight” (she was right but I didn’t know how)
I finally said after stumbling and thinking really hard “do you have any siblings?”
She said “no”
Okay so that’s that if she’d said yes could have asked about names, ages, jobs, etc. So had to think of something else. Urm…
She then said “okay I’ll ask something. What’s your favourite food?”
I said “probably chicken wings”
She said “what kind?”
Now my favourite is fried and I know what my favourite is but for some reason I sat there trying to find the word. I kept apologising saying “sorry I just can’t think”. This is the first time that this person has really seen my autism at play. I’m usually quite good at masking it and covering it up, so I was nervous that the autism was on display and she was seeing it.
I think she started to realise that this was genuine difficulty I was having and was doing the sympathetic nods and facial expressions people do.
I then got it out “fried”. What a relief.
We continued the conversation I found out her favourite food was but now I can’t remember something like spinach and ricotta calalone maybe. Some pasta that uses the same type of pasta as lasagne. That she’s an only child and something else that I also can’t really remember. (I have really poor memory).

So the point of sharing that conversation is that my autism and social anxiety creeps up even when I know the person. But the way to deal with it is to accept that it’s happening. I think if you pretend that it’s not happening it makes it worse. So here are some tips for dealing with anxiety:

1. Breathe! Seems obvious but a 10 second deep breath can give you the time to think rationally.
2. Accept don’t deny! If you’re forgetting your words or something like that just laugh it off and say something like “don’t know what’s going on with my brain?” Or “can’t seem to find the words”. It happens to more people than you think it may just happen to some autistics more often.
3. Have “go to” questions! This is something I need to work on but if you’re going to meet a new person then have some questions that you can automatically go to. If it’s meeting a new colleague something like “what were you doing before this job?” Open question and gets them talking giving you time to think. Or if you are meeting a date ask those kind of silly questions like “if you were on a desert island what would you take?” Just to lightening the mood.

Those are my top tips they usually get me out of awkward situations. I always try to see the funny side of my social anxiety otherwise I feel it would really get to me and bring me down. But I stutter over my words, find it hard to say things but eventually when I do say them they’re worth it (most of the time), good things come to those who wait as they say.
For fun here’s a web link to an article that perfectly sums up social anxiety through text messages:

Thanks for reading. Hope you liked it. Peace out.

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