(Anxiety has dominated more of my waking hours than I care to admit, yet I’ve written relatively few posts about it. While working on the next ebook, Depression Present Tense, I came across this early post that captures a typical incident. The new book is an attempt to capture the inner feelings of depression in a mosaic of many small dramas like this one.)
Anxiety is one of the fringe benefits of depression. The form of it that I find most acute is now called social anxiety, but I used to think of it as social torture. When it’s upon me in full force, every encounter with people is a searing experience. I can hardly make out who they are because of the blinding panic that sets in. Driven to say or do something, words tumble out, expressions cross my face that are usually totally off the mark. Completely embarrassed and burning inside, I leave as fast as I can.
There was a time when I tried to capture moments like that in poems, and this is one from a long time ago.
The two beside me on the bench
speak in one touch of their intimacy,
and I am the cheap voyeur.
I touch up face after face,
I bluff, I burn in unlikely mime,
I dangle near their design
of entwining arms.
Like an antique entertainer
tapping song to his ragged time
while the showgirls upstage him,
I want the sudden comeback,
want the place dead with applause:
I don’t know what I want.
Then quiet like a curtain falls,
and I make off.
Is social anxiety a partner to the depression you experience? Does it happen mostly with strangers, or can it be triggered in any situation?