Today, I went out and met up with the walking group for a ten-mile hike around the Cotswold hills of South Gloucestershire. Getting up and getting going was far from easy, even though I woke up in plenty of time. I was aiming to leave the house at 9.15am and to arrive at the meeting point early, with time to spare. But, it was already 9.30am by the time I accelerated away from the drive and I, quite literally, arrived at the meeting point bang on time, making a flamboyant, fast-paced 180° turn in to a vacant parking space!
I have a confession to make before we go any further… Despite walking for more than three hours today, with clear views towards the Severn Estuary and plenty of trees within the local woodland, I neglected to take even a single photograph! So, for the purpose of making this post more enjoyable, I’m going to have to use images from other sources, respectfully paying credit where it’s due.
My excuse is that I couldn’t find the strap that allows me to wear my camera either around my neck or diagonally across my chest (my preference). That is true. I was rushing around in a frustrated panic this morning and couldn’t find my favourite walking trousers either. But, the real reason I didn’t take any photos is because I ‘don’t want to‘, when I’m in a large group of other walkers. I feel uncomfortable and don’t like drawing added attention to myself. I don’t like to get in others’ way or to potentially slow the group down.
It’s my social anxiety and associated fear, all over again.
This was the first group walk I’d done for a few weeks. All the other ramblers had their lifts sorted so, I ended up driving to the start point alone, which I was quite comfortable with anyway (it meant that I could attempt to sing along to the radio…). But, it set a precedent for how the walk would develop – from my own perspective, anyway…
There were only three familiar faces (to me) within the group this time and a total of three people (plus the walk leader) made an effort to come and say hello while we were walking. I made a genuine effort to try and talk with two of them but, each time I responded or even asked a question of my own, I could sense or hear the interest fading… A tumble-weed was on its way as soon as I opened my mouth; that’s what it felt like. I struggled, once again, to find common ground with these people; their PhDs, past experiences of travel and how so many of them seem to be relatively ‘new’ to the Bristol area.
Each time I talk to someone (in any social situation), I find my mind and ears drawn to the words of the conversations going on behind, infront of and all around me. It’s very hard for me to focus solely on the person I’m trying to listen and talk to, as much as I may want to. Is that anxiety? I don’t know why but, I’ve nearly always done it. I have to take note of every sound and any physical movement.
If it’s not anxiety then, not for the first time, I’m going to question whether I might have a form of autism or Asperger’s… At least that might help to explain (in my mind) my lack of understanding and connection with others, that seems to come so naturally to just about every other person on this globe.
Should I tell people that I’m a mental health blogger?!
This isn’t something that I can remember talking about in counselling last year. If I did bring it up then, it was probably ‘washed over’ with the coloured label of social anxiety. Perhaps if I interacted with people (face-to-face) more often then, it would appear as more of a pressing issue and not simply something that crops up from time to time. Saying that, I had a nice cup of tea with a friend from this group yesterday. We began sat outside the cafe and played a game while the conversation seemed to flow reasonably well. Once we moved inside though (it was a cold day), I began to clam up. There were no words. I was disturbed by the noise and the presence of many others. There wasn’t a single clear thought on my mind that I felt I could share. I don’t know if CBT would help me with this but I need to pick up that phone after work tomorrow (it’s been almost a fortnight since the doctor gave me their number). There were times where the woodland walking just didn’t seem to end soon enough.
It’s like digging like digging a hole in the ground where you thought you buried that treasure, only to find that it isn’t there. So, you keep digging. Deeper and deeper; the frustration grows and you quickly begin to doubt yourself.
Coaley Peak is an area I may well visit again on my own. To be honest, alone is how I felt for so much of the day. I was the odd one out, while everyone else was (literally) paired-up in conversation. All I was doing was to follow the lead and it made me think that, if I can’t converse with others then, perhaps I should stop worrying about that. Instead, I can focus on attending as many walks as possible to discover new routes, exciting scenes and different places to ones I’ve seen on my own. At least someone else is leading the way. If I only do this for twelve months and then decide to continue walking alone then, at least I’ve gained something (I think). We also passed an old Gothic mansion (supposedly haunted) near Woodchester Park, which would also make for a great return trip, especially after they’ve renovated/finished building the place and it is open to the public.
I do feel bad about not attending the pub drink at the end and for the second walk running now. I allowed the walk leader to show me the directions as I changed my shoes and dumped my muddy boots in the back of my van. I wasn’t honest with him. I didn’t want to be sat in that kind of situation again; surrounded by others but not talking to a single one of them.
It’s not that I don’t want to say anything; I really do not have any words.
- Got Aspergers? A Speculative Confessional of Sorts (ramblingrickblog.wordpress.com)
- Self-Focused Attention in a Conversation increases Social Anxiety (psychologymatters.asia)
- Social Anxiety Meetup (littlewing131.wordpress.com)
- Social Anxiety and Me… (beyondtheclosetsdoor.wordpress.com)
- Worried About Anxiety? Don’t Be; It’s Often Good For You. (forbes.com)
- Worried all the time? How to control anxiety (thetimes.co.uk)