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Everyone’s cups are running over with rum, whiskey, vodka and just about every drink combination you can think of. “Drunk in Love” and “Flawless” pulse in interchange over the speakerphone, and all the party-goers flow in out of conversation, as flirting is done and connections are made. This might very well be the best damn party of the decade, but where am I? At home, watching yet another backlogged episode of Scandal on Hulu, wondering what everyone else is doing while simultaneously hoping that no one texts or calls me to invite me to the party.

It’s complex and confusing for myself and others, being an anti-social introvert with the ambitions of a social butterfly. While normal conversations and exchanges can sometimes be met with ease and cheer for some, there’s a stressful and somewhat painful discomfort gained from the prospect of small talk for others, sometimes proving to be a debilitating big deal that compels me to stay home huddled under blankets.

There are times when I’ve found myself completely dressed to attend a get-together–outfit on, hair and eyebrows on point–and made it all the way to the train station only for the anxieties to set in. I feel the fear that the comfortable gathering will give way to tension biting at my gut like pre-prom butterflies, making me want to do a complete about-face and go home to tune back into the happenings of Olivia Pope and associates. The desire to visit with friends easily trumped by the option of rigid familiarity, my comfort zone, and promises that things are going to be “handled.”

But, when I do decide to go, to attend gatherings and join in on life, I generally find it to be a pleasant experience. And though I feel as if I’m fumbling my words and I’m sitting on pins and needles, I’m reassured by smiles; contrived but concerned conversations; and the well-meaning whispers of, “You’re really not as awkward as you think you are.”

But the thing, is I am… and anticipating feeling awkward or out of place denies me excitement. Perhaps I don’t show it and in that case, kudos to me for my award-winning portrayal of a “normal” personal in a social setting, but in most exchanges held with people outside of my immediate circle of family and friends, and sometimes within, I cringe with discomfort and unease.

When socially-motivated anxiety first struck, it was within the last few months of me being a true party-goer, which was two years after college. At the time, I treated the condition with a quick shot of spiced rum and maybe a beer, if I felt so inclined. But as I’ve matured, I’ve started to treat the anxiety with breathing exercises, affirmations, and inspirational music to really get me in the mood to make acquaintances and have a good time. I’ve also found it beneficial to invite one or two friends along to every affair, so that I feel more obligated to attend and less likely to back out at the last minute.

Recognizing that I’m a work in progress is certainly the best way I’ve come to terms with my anxiety issues. Trying to attend as many events as possible, but placing a limit on the time that I’m meant to be at a particular place is another way I’ve helped myself to enjoy outings without overwhelming myself. And browsing the news prior to events, so that I’m up-to-date on world news, and ready to conquer any conversation and topic also helps.

Living with anxiety when you’re trying to come out of your shell is hard. But the couch doesn’t have to be your only friend if you take the proper steps to get out there, meet new people, and worry less about if everyone thinks you are looking and acting a mess, and focusing more on just having fun. It’s a process, but you’ll get there. We’ll get there.

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