I have a friend who gets extremely sensitive and anxious outside her comfort zone. Sometimes it gets to be too much for me. How to deal?
posted by Sock of Silliness to human relations (44 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
"Susie" and I are part of a circle of friends which is mostly male. We are the only two females in this circle. I have built a one-of-the-guys friendship with them while Susie takes a more girly role. That's cool with me and I like her a lot, she is a smart and witty person.
The group planned a day where we would do a challenging hike in the morning and afternoon, then a loud, raucous and wild concert in the evening. This is outside of Susie's comfort zone, but she was enthusiastic about joining. The problems started a few days beforehand. I fielded several anxious calls from Susie on what to pack, if she was bringing the right types of shoes and what kinds of shoes would be better, if she was bringing enough water, if she was bringing too much.
On the morning, Susie and I biked together to the hiking spot. The entire way, she brought up one anxiety or complaint after the next. What if she hiked slowly? Would they be mad at her? Maybe they would wish she hadn't come. What if she got poison ivy. I tried to reassure her that if she needed to go slow I would stay with her and nobody would be mad at her. She turned it around on me. What if I couldn't keep up? What should she do? Would I be okay? I assured her that everything would be okay. Then as we were biking, her legs started hurting, her shoes started pinching. The problems kept popping up like whack a mole.
We met up with everyone else at the hiking spot, and decided the two best hikers should split off and go faster, on a harder route. This made Susie extremely anxious. Would they be okay? Did they have enough water? These guys have been very experienced hikers since their early teens. Then Susie started asking if anyone needed to go potty? If anyone needed something to eat? Were they sure? Were they sure?? Everyone in this group is in their mid 20's to early 30's, it is not a group of kindergarteners.
She started offering to suffer in random ways like saying "Are you sure you don't ned anything to eat before we start? You can have some of my food. I do have some extra. I mean, I only have a sandwich and an orange for lunch, but I'm used to not eating much. Really. Here, you should have it." Everyone assured her they were fine.
We started hiking. Over the course of the hike, Susie began to pick at me. She started picking at my footwear choice! Quote: "Aren't your footsies hurting in those shoes?" It was not my favorite question of the day. I said that I was fine. Along the trip I started eating some licorice I had with me. I think Susie might have some anxiety about food and my candy eating really triggered it (she keeps herself on an extremely strict diet.) "Oh honey! You can't just go through the day eating licorice! Here. Have an orange. I only brought one, but I don't mind going without. Really." I assured Susie I had plenty of food with me and I was eating licorice because I felt like it. "Honey! It's so unhealthy! Please eat something else. Please." We went back and forth like that about 5 times. I stopped eating my licorice because it was bothering her so much, but did not feel like eating anything else. "Honey, why did you stop eating? Aren't you hungry? Are you okay???" Later in the hike I pulled out some beef jerky and started eating that and we had to have the same conversation again.
I will try to summarize the rest of the main issues.
#1 "Are you sure???" Every time she got anxious about something and people reassured her, or she offered something and people declined, we had to go through several rounds of "are you sure???" It's fine at first but when we start to get delayed because we need to spend 5 minutes on "are you sure???" it gets to be too much.
#2 Making you guess her needs, and dragging that process out. "Oh dear. How are you all feeling?" "Okay, how are you feeling Susie?" "Oh, I'm okay too... yes, I'm okay." "Is there anything you need Susie?" "Oh no. No. I mean, it's okay." "What is the matter Susie?" "Nothing, I'll be fine." After 5 minutes it comes out that Susie wants to stop for a water break. "Okay sure, let's stop and have some water?" "Are you SURE?? I mean, I don't need to. I only want to stop if YOU want to."
#3 Acting like she is putting others ahead of her in a way that actually makes things harder for everyone else. Carpooling from the site of the hike to the concert, we have gone through a round of #2 and found out Susie needs use the bathroom badly. We stop, and we have to go through a round of "Are you sure" while Susie asks everyone if they need to go to the bathroom before her. By the time we are done with "Are you sure," half the people in the car could have been finished using the bathroom.
#4 Ending up in an emotional meltdown if you do not guess her needs. I think a lot of people will say, "Hey just stop guessing her needs and trying too hard to accommodate her and let the chips fall where they may." This is what happened when I tried that. We got to the concert and all the guys decided to go up to the front of the stage, where there was some wild and aggressive dancing going on. Susie was enthusiastic about this until we started making our way to the front, and all of a sudden started talking about all sorts of unrelated things that she was upset or nervous about (feet hurting, headache, etc.) I asked if she was okay and she didn't want to go to the front of the concert. She eventually said she didn't want too because it was too aggressive. I offered to stay with her and as expected, she said I should go on ahead. The guys had already gone. I really wanted to go up there and it was the whole reason I had come, so I said okay, but I would come back after two songs and hang out with her again.
I came back after 2 songs and could not find her, when I finally found her she was sitting by herself in the lobby sobbing. She said everyone must hate her and she should never have come, and she should have known she couldn't do something like go up to the front of the stage, and she was missing the good time everyone was having. We had a huge friend Chuck with us who is something like 6'5" and 300 lbs, and I said that we could get Chuck to protect her, and I usually stand in Chuck's shadow myself to avoid getting thrown around. When I said that she suddenly got furious and snapped at me, saying that was okay for me since I was 5'6" but it wouldn't be okay for her since she was only 5'2". When she snapped at me I felt very frustrated and weary and I did not know what to do.
Then our other friend Mike came out to go to the bathroom. Susie has a crush on Mike and then she was all smiles. Mike came over, heard the situation and offered to block anyone from pushing Susie. Well, she was happy to do it after that.
But then the whole way home all she talked about was all the things that she had been scared of, all the bad things that could have happened but didn't, all the bad things that did happen, how much relaxing it would take the next day (Sunday) to calm down from this, etc.
I have a stressful job during the week and I like doing these things with my friends to relax. When Susie is stressing constantly it really brings my stress level way up. Especially when she starts picking me about what I am wearing or eating or things like that, I am a very independent and competent person when it comes to things like hiking and it ruffles my feathers to be asked those kinds of questions. She doesn't pick at the guys for what they are eating. It also ruffles my feathers when she gets mad and snaps at me.
It is also stressful when we can't make decisions or get way behind schedule for everything because we have to have long discussions about nonexistent problems and go through many rounds of are you sure.
The thing is I really like Susie and she has a lot of good qualities even if I am just talking about these stressful incidents here. It is just hard when she gets out of her comfort zone. I also feel like it's harder than me than on the guys because she expects different things out of me. But if I didn't prevent the emotional outbursts then they would happen and it would ruin the whole vibe of the day. I just want to have fun with my friends, this is why I like hanging out with these guys because they are all independent and we don't have to do a lot of caretaking of each other.