Early this morning (0330) I was walking home from a very low key party... the most anyone had had was about two drinks, I'd had one beer, and there had been plenty of food. Socially speaking, it was all students, but also all people I work with. I'd been a little (a lot) anxious about going, and got there perhaps a few minutes later than I wanted to arrive, but arrival time wasn't an issue. I was pretty relaxed, and actually had a good time.
Anyway-- walking from central campus, the location of the party (a friend's apartment) out to the edge of campus where I live. The weather was a little cold, lower 30's, clear sky and no wind. In other words, quiet. Very quiet. There were still some signs of life, I saw a couple of other people walking, probably headed home as I was. There were a few lights on in dorm rooms, so someone else was awake. The quiet was nice, though... I was able to look around a little, since the usual crowds and traffic weren't there.
It seems like forever since last week, when I so completely freaked out and spent the night awake, pacing back and forth inside my apartment.
Walking back home this morning, through a campus and city that was for the most part asleep, it occurred to me that maybe I'm trying too hard. The social anxiety therapy I went through was several years ago now... and my world was so much different then. I had only recently been divorced, I'd spent my first couple of years in town working 60 hour weeks trying to get my head above water, and a relationship was ending.
The social anxiety group involved homework every week, and one of the assignments I'd been given was trying to get out of the house and doing something social three times a week. It didn't matter what I went out for, just that I did something with other people. It was hard to do every week, but I did manage to get out a lot more than I ever had. I also learned a lot about the city I live in, and began to realize what an awesome place it really is. On one of my social activities, I met my last girlfriend, so getting out was doing me some good.
This morning, it occurred to me that while that the social anxiety therapy was really very important in my life at the time, it may not be the right thing for me now. I still look at my calendar every week, and try to assess what I'm doing to try to maintain a social life. If I don't have anything scheduled, I sort of look at that, and say to myself that I really oughtta find something to go out and do. It is very likely that yes, I do need to get out and recharge... but maybe I'm going about it the wrong way. If I'm busy with school and work during a particular week, maybe it's perfectly okay if I spend most of my waking hours that week in the library. I'm a "professional" student, and success in my classes might well take that kind of work schedule this week. That doesn't mean I'm withdrawing or having social interaction issues, it means I have stuff to do that's important.
In a slightly different angle, I don't owe my past anything. The past got me here, and taught me a few things both good and bad-- but right now, outside of my responsibilities on this campus, the rest of the world doesn't matter too much. Mistakes were made in the past, and it is important that I never repeat some of them, but with all I've learned it's less likely than ever that I'll be all right. It does matter that I've overcome a lot to get here. Once that adversity has been overcome, those obstacles are in the past. There may be new ones-- but the old ones are done.
I have been having difficulties, I think, because of two things going on inside my head. The first is that I've been acting defensively-- trying to keep track of everything I've learned about social anxiety and PTSD and depression and all of my issues from all of my past. It's like walking through the valley of death, and trying to make sure I'm the baddest m'fer in the valley. Keeping up that state of alertness takes a lot of energy, and honestly I'm not sure it's necessary in my current environment. (Is it necessary to keep taking aspirin once your headache is gone?)
The other is that being a student-- just being a student whose world is math and computer science and philosophy, without the pressure of having a spouse and planning for the future and giving a shit how much money you have (or not), is an entirely new situation. With the medication added to the mix, I'm feeling better overall, but I'm also feeling a little apathetic. It's not that I don't care. Rather, in my life I've never been in a position where things were perfectly okay. I've always had one foot in the world I was in, and one foot in the world I wanted to be in. Life has always been about getting to that next place where things would be fine. So it's not necessarily apathy, but just not quite knowing how to move around in an unfamiliar place, which is ultimately fixable.
As soon as I figure out how.