Saturday, August 31, 2013

Counting Down to a Wedding

Next Saturday, my friend Carl is getting married. I'm serving as his best man. And I am freaking out about it.

This is going to be another post about anxiety disorders and depression.

Months ago, Carl sent me an email telling me he was getting married and asking me to be his best man. I was honestly surprised at the offer, and reacted mainly with fear. This is one of the horrible things about what I'm going through: my instinct, as I'm hiding here in my little cave, is to cut myself off from personal relationships and obligations. So when my best friend for over 25 years asks me to be the best man at his wedding, instead of feeling honored and enthusiastic, I'm petrified and confused. This is the kind of thing I'm trying so hard to fix about myself.

Back then, I didn't realize why I do this kind of thing. Thanks to therapy, I understand now that as a child I internalized a series of traumas that left me with the operational belief that I don't matter very much to anyone. Not just that I don't matter, but that I never could matter. This isn't me feeling sorry for myself. This is something that, subconsciously, I believed about myself.

This is a big part of why I'm such a lousy friend/family member. I subconsciously assume people don't want to include me, so I'm not the guy who just out of the blue emails you, or calls you up just to see how you're doing. And I'm sure as hell not the guy who makes plans to spend time with friends or family. You probably have better things to do than waste a day of your life humoring me.

So when something comes along that acts against one of the core beliefs on which my life operates, it terrifies me. It terrifies me because I get genuinely confused: why the hell do you want me to be your best man? What's wrong with you? What's the joke here? Why are you rocking the comforting shell that I've protected myself with all of these years? Isn't it enough that I'm staying out of your way and not imposing my existence on you?

What I'll never be able to take back is that when my best and oldest friend honored me by asking if I would stand up as the best man at his wedding, I basically asked him if he was out of his mind.

That's another problem with this thing I'm dealing with: my instincts genuinely tell me that I'm not capable of doing these things, and that no one deep down really wants me to do them, anyway. It's why I can often be so quiet and withdrawn. Unfortunately, that comes across as unfriendly to people. But it's not meant to be. I can go out in the world and be nice and polite up to a point. But I'm also, in my subconscious, just doing everyone a favor by not imposing on everyone's time.

(Aside: I just realized right now how much this hurt me in college. I mean, I actually had occasions where--because I didn't participate in classroom discussions very often, or because sometimes I almost never came to class--teachers accused me of plagiarizing essays. It was never true, and I always disproved it, but that all came about because they never just heard me discuss things in class, because my first instinct is always not to bother anyone because no one wants to hear it.)

So this wedding is kind of a huge deal for me. I'm scared about it. Sometimes I'm so scared that I start shaking and trying to figure out how to get out of it. But it's too late for that, and besides, I really don't want to get out of it. I'm terrified that I have to stand up in front of everyone and give a toast, but (a) I think it's important that I make myself do this and (b) I want to do it for Carl, not only because he's my best friend and this is such a big occasion, but because he's really gone out of his way to make sure I'm included in this. And that shouldn't scare me the way it did. It should make me feel honored, humbled and proud. At a time in life when I had resigned myself to not mattering in anyone's life, he's proved that I do. His mother even called and thanked me for agreeing to do it.

Besides, I think I won't actually even be as scared of this as I was of meeting Carl's bride-to-be, Kate. I only met her two weeks ago. They don't know, but I actually had a panic attack about meeting her. Because, again, I don't expect people to like me at all, especially right now, at the worst point of my health, more obese than ever, and with my terrible skin and being, you know, so ugly. I was honestly expecting her to take one look at me and think "I don't want to look at this terrible thing in my wedding pictures for the rest of my life."

And you know, that has nothing to do with her and who she is as a person. It's 100% to do with my anxiety and my low self-esteem and my general assumption that people won't like me.

And that's one of the other awful things about what I'm trying to overcome: it causes me to make unfair, generalized assumptions about people I don't even know.

(And for the record, Kate is lovely and seems awesome.)

So there's a big part of me that's scared as hell. I'm very self-conscious. I have a lot of doubts. My mind is racing through all the things I want to do to prepare for it, and I'm working very hard against my natural, avoidant instincts.

I don't want to just get through this. I want to enjoy it. And I want to be there for my friend.

Feel the fear. Do it anyway.


New York Erratic said...

I hope you do genuinely enjoy this! Congratulations to your friends!

Sam G said...

I can understand it. I haven't gone through the childhood trauma you have. But I am very introverted. I really enjoy being alone. I can be social to a point, but I can only fake it for so long and then I need some me time. I hope it all goes well for you. Good luck.

Kal said...

I read this and everything you said applied to me. I am the exact same as you. Cocoon or Cave of Cool. It's all the same thing. I often can't be bothered to engage because I think I too have nothing to contribute. We both know we are wrong but in the situation it's hard to think a different way. My advice. Prepare. Use your amazing ability to express a thought to contribute to your buddies and his beloved's special day. You will thank yourself afterwards. The truth is you will no doubt surprise yourself. My therapist has a thing. He says when you feel 'stopped'. "Say, I got this motherfukcer" and step forward.

Roger Owen Green said...

Good for you.
All I can say is to try to do what you'd want someone to do for you in that circumstance, and you'll be brilliant!

Autumn said...

I can't even begin to understand how tough this would be, but I'm really proud of you for doing it despite your anxiety. I hope everything goes really well and good luck to them also, marriage is amazing!

cache said...

Brother i've been reading ur fantastic blog for years, you have a great insight on many topics. stop being so hard on yourself! Remember everyone is having fun at the wedding and everyone is drunk and hardley remembers any real detail. Thats why they take so many pics! Pop a xanax and drink a beer and have fun giving the speech, and stop giving such a shit what other people think, you will find yourself laughing when it's all over about your anxiety. mad love!

Uncle Burt said...

I do understand what you are stating about feeling unimportant and not getting included in the outside world.
But.... just think for a moment.
There are lots of people who are reading your blog, and surely not only because they have nothing else to do, but also because they care. We want to read what you are writing. We find it interesting what you share with us. These strangers like what you are about and who you are.
You do make a difference !
Burt Vance

Ben Varkentine said...

If not Xanax, are you taking any medication? I find it useful.

Greg VA said...

Even the smallest thing you can do for someone else, can mean the world to them - Even if it doesn't seem like it. Just saying yes to your friend, I am sure gives them something less to be concerned about.

So, for us the commentators and those that wanted to but didn't comment - we support you, we want you to enjoy this, but if you don't - that's okay, too. Let us know how it goes.