Injury Compounding Social Anxiety.
August 12, 2018 8:44 AM   Subscribe

In a couple hours I am supposed to get on a plane to join my husband at a business conference. I was already pretty anxious about the trip for reasons, and last night I managed to poke myself in the eye with a stick (insert various jokes here). I'm 99% certain my eye is fine, but it looks terrible, all bloody and gross. I'm considering not going on the trip. Details inside.

I have what I think is probably, medium-bad social anxiety, compounded by many years not handling it well because of understanding what it was, and not learning how to take care of it (i.e. not getting a diagnosis or therapy). My way of dealing with it is to avoid as many social situations with lots of people as I possibly can. This upcoming trip was going to be stressful enough, but in the last 4 days a couple things happened that have made it seem absolutely daunting. First I discovered that there is not just one dinner where families of the conference attendees will be invited (expected to attend) there will be THREE. Second, I had an unexpected result with my hair color. I actually quite like the result, but its quite a bit brighter, wilder, and more attention getting that I am comfortable with. I prefer to fade into the woodwork if possible when I am anxious. The last thing I want is to stand out. I imagine that in this very business environment at fancy resort I'm going to stick out like a sore thumb. Lastly was this incident with the stick. Now in addition to bright, weird hair, I've got a very obvious, and kind of gross injury. I was really looking forward to this trip because its in a location I've always wanted to visit and I felt like I really ought to represent, since families were very invited, and I have never met any of my husbands coworkers before (he works remotely from home and just takes occasional trips to the office which is in a different state than we live).

I really don't want to go now. Its making me really uncomfortable thinking about this, but I also feel that I should just tough it out. I don't like letting my fears control what I do, and in general I LOVE to travel and see new places. My question is, what would you do? If you are a person with social anxiety, how would you handle this? Are there really good tips or tricks I can use to get through this? Or would you cut yourself a break and not go?

Please assume that my husband is totally supportive of whatever I choose to do and that I am and have been for some time, trying to find a therapist to help with this, so no need to remind me to do that. Also please assume that I have carefully evaluated my eye, and the injury, while gross, does not seem to be serious.

Any help is deeply appreciated. Thank you MetaFilter!
posted by WalkerWestridge to Human Relations (12 answers total)
One thing not in your question is: how do you feel afterward when you make yourself go to things like this? Because for me, the anticipation of a thing like this is always much worse than the reality. Almost always, I'm glad I did the thing.

Life is really short, and when I have the opportunity to do things I always try to say yes even when inertia and anxiety are yelling at me to say no. At the very least, I think you should go on this trip and see a place you've always wanted to see. If, when you get there, you can't face the social outings, it sounds like your husband would be supportive of you skipping one or two (or all?) of them, no? It's easy enough for him to tell his colleagues, "Oh, WalkerWestridge has a bit of food poisoning" (or a migraine, or another commitment with a friend from high school who happened to be visiting there too, or whatever).

Another thing to keep in mind is that nobody is ever really paying attention to anyone else, especially not at a business event like this where everyone is concerned with the impression they're making themselves. Really. I think about this every time I agonize over what to wear to a business dinner and then realize I can't recall what a single one of my coworkers wore to any previous similar event. I couldn't tell you what my boss wore yesterday. Really, nobody is paying attention to you.

I think you will regret letting your anxiety prevent you from going to a place you want to go. I know I would.
posted by something something at 9:03 AM on August 12, 2018 [15 favorites]

I've been an introvert all my life and have only recently clued in to the fact that about 2 hours in a socializing situation is my comfortable limit. By the time I hit 3 hours, I'm in genuine distress. But if I can limit it to 2 hours or thereabouts and then have time to recharge alone afterwards, I actually quite enjoy it.

Would something like this -- a hard time cut-off after which you "must leave" for some unspecified reason (maybe with your husband) -- make these social events more attractive to you?
posted by heatherlogan at 9:22 AM on August 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

I once skipped out of a similar obligation for similar reasons and it turned out that I got more attention for being absent that I would have for showing up. At the initial event, everyone kept asking Mr. Carmicha about my whereabouts and the reason for my unexpected absence, which was awkward for him, and then at the next gathering, what everyone remembered was that they hadn't seen me at the last one and so they teed off our conversations with that. I would have been better off going and setting boundaries in place to ensure I respected my need for recharge time.
posted by carmicha at 10:00 AM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

What were your original reasons for going? A beautiful resort, great location.

I wouldn’t let a minor injury stop you. The anxiety was already a part of your process and it sounds like it’s just that detail derailing you.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:07 AM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Um, so this isn't answering your question, but if you haven't had the eye injury looked at by a medical professional then you really should be going to your nearest eye hospital. I did the same last year, headbutted a twig in the garden, and was immediately put on antibiotic eye drops even though it was a tiny scratch. Infected corneas are not a joke.

Other than that, I would rock an eye patch and look upon it as an ice breaker! Feel better soon.
posted by doornoise at 10:10 AM on August 12, 2018 [15 favorites]

please assume that I have carefully evaluated my eye, and the injury, while gross, does not seem to be serious.

I have to second doornoise...please get this looked at. Mr. hgg got poked in the eye with a stick while gardening and while his eye was not as injured as yours sounds, the scratch required antibiotic eye drops. Basically, you need to see medical professionals if you ever injure your eye--eyes are too precious to gamble with.

I also second the advice to get an eye patch. Personally as someone with some social anxiety, I'd feel more anxious about what people were thinking if they could see my bloody eye than if I were wearing an eye patch. I mean, either way they are going to ask what happened, but I'd rather look kind of mysterious and dashing in an eye patch! I generally put on a persona for long obligatory social situations with people I don't know anyway, and an eye patch would help me create a really cool persona for myself. YMMV.

Also, as an introvert, I do find it helps to go to social events I'm dreading with a time limit in mind. So if you go, set a limit for yourself (discuss with your husband so he's on the same page) for these dinners and gatherings. I often end up staying longer, because the knowledge that I have an "out" means I feel more relaxed anyway.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:47 AM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hmmm i had'nt considered the risk of infection thats a good point.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:21 AM on August 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

If your eye is still “bloody and gross” long enough after the wound happened that you posted a question, you need to seek medical attention, not get on an airplane. Eyes are part of your brain. Go to doctor.
posted by zinful at 12:34 PM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nth-ing the general opinion that you should get that eye checked out! A similar thing happened to me a few years ago where I stuck my eye with something. The day after, my eye was bloodshot but felt fine. But when I woke up on the 2nd day post-injury, I couldn't open my eye at all from the swelling, irritation, and dried tears!
I was also shocked at how much it affected my vision because both eyes were tearing up quite regularly, and I seriously could not keep my good eye open for the life of me (once the swelling went down, that effect went away).
Antibiotics and an eye patch for a week did the trick and I was fine. I did get some gentle, well-meant scolding from the eye doc for not coming in earlier!

Anyway maybe it's a bit too late for advice, but I wanted to give you a hug and encourage you to go just for the sake of seeing an exciting new place, and to make a suggestion that may kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Even if you don't have time to get to a doctor before leaving, I'd think about getting some kind of eye protection (look up the safest way to do this of course!). And wearing an eye patch also means you have a visible injury and excuse to rest more, leave a bit early, etc., from those dinners. You and your husband can script up a few lines about how your eye hurts/throbs/gets tired etc. I can confirm from my above-described experience that you do get pretty tired from having one eye closed all day!

Also, do you need to go to all 3 events? I know from personal experience that skipping one of those makes you more self-conscious for the other ones, but if you have a good excuse or two cooked up, even something tourist-related ("Oh I've always wanted to see XYZ and the only time I can go is that evening..."), most people will really be very understanding.

Either way, hope the eye feels heals up soon and that you can enjoy the trip!
posted by sockbladder at 3:41 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

You have this internet stranger's permission to cut yourself a break and not go. I have only very mild social anxiety and I probably would bail.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:36 PM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Data point: As an imaginary fellow attendee of this trip, I might ask about the injury, only out of friendly concern. People might be curious, but nobody will think badly of you for having a bloody eye! I would enjoy meeting a person even if they had a prominent eye injury.

You could also consider wearing sunglasses whenever you're outside, and maybe tinted "fashion" sunglasses that aren't totally dark when you're inside. This would make the injury a bit less noticeable, and you could just say you're sensitive to bright lights.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:32 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would use the eye injury as an excuse not to go - you don't want to get on a plane and deal with pressure changes with an injured eye. But if you do decide to go and get clearance to go from a doctor, you can fade your hair colour a bit by washing it several times.
posted by hazyjane at 12:17 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

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