Something to think about…

*I apologise in advance for the length of this post. And I will totally understand if you decide not to read it! Come back tomorrow for a more “regular” post*

There was no post yesterday for the simple reason that, after coming in from work and sitting down on the sofa, I wa unable to summon up the energy to get back up and turn on the computer. The theatre on Monday night followed by quiz on Tuesday meant two very short nights… I’m loving having friends but the whole social life thing is exhausting!

Anyway, I said there was something I wanted to post this week once I had more time and could give my attention to it properly. This is that post.

Once again, I was reading some posts in the “British Armed Forces Brats” group that I’m a member of on Facebook (see Saturday’s post if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

One person mentioned that, a few years back, he had been “in a very bad way with the relationship/communication issues many of us seem to experience.” Looking around for fellow brats who had had similar experiences, he found himself on the (American) Forces Brats Wikipedia page, where there is a section on mental and emotional issues linked to the typical forces upbringing. One of the conditions listed was Avoidant Personality Disorder, which he provided a link to. Here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidant_personality_disorder

I am not going to say that I have this disorder… obviously only a trained professional can do that. But many aspects of the condition sounded exactly like me.
Wikipedia says:

social_phobia-234x300

People with avoidant personality disorder often consider themselves to be socially inept or personally unappealing and avoid social interaction for fear of being ridiculed, humiliated, rejected, or disliked. Avoidant personality disorder is usually first noticed in early adulthood. Childhood emotional neglect and peer group rejection (e.g. bullying) are both associated with an increased risk for the development of AvPD.

People who have been reading for a while may recognise me in that paragraph… particularly the part on being socially inept (how many times have I mentioned my lack of social skills and inability to act like a normal human being on here? Not enough times to get the key words onto my tag cloud, but often enough, I think…).

The World Health Organization says Avoidant Personality Disorder is characterised by at least four of the following, which I would like to comment on:

  1. Persistent and pervasive feelings of tension and apprehension;
    I’m not sure this one applies to me. At least I don’t think feel particularly tense when not in a social situation.
  2. Belief that one is socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others;
    I’m pretty sure I actually am socially inept – it’s not just a feeling. Personally unappealing… not all the time, and in every way (there are things I actually like about myself!) but yes. I don’t think I feel inferior to others though…
  3. Excessive preoccupation with being criticized or rejected in social situations;
    YES! I have been known to plan out what I’m going to say to make sure there’s no chance of me being judged negatively for it. The better I know people (and the more sure I am they like me), the less I do this.
  4. Unwillingness to become involved with people unless certain of being liked;
    “But what if they don’t like me?” is a phrase Jan has heard me say many times…
  5. Restrictions in lifestyle because of need to have physical security;
    Other than tendency to try and avoid social events where I know literally nobody (which I’m not sure is even meant here), I don’t think this applies to me. I’m always looking for new experiences and I don’t feel like my lifestyle has been restricted in any way.  
  6. Avoidance of social or occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fear of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.
    Associated features may include hypersensitivity to rejection and criticism
    Definitely!! I’ve got a lot better at this over the years, but I’m still not a fan of attending social events with people I’m not already convinced actually like me! I worry about saying the wrong thing and being criticised or laughed at… years of being told you’re “weird” or that people “never actually liked you” will do that, I suppose.

The American Psychiatric Association has a similar list, but two things in particular struck a chord with me:

– Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
– Is unusually reluctant to take personal risk or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

YES and YES! I love trying new things, but only certain new things… the kind that I’m pretty sure won’t lead to any embarrassment for me. Unless I can do them with my friends and only my friends. People I’m already sure like me are allowed to laugh at me 😉 Although even once someobody likes me, I am afraid I might do something wrong or stupid and end up alienating them…

This post probably makes me sound like a very unhappy person. Actually, at the moment, after having very few friends in Germany for a long time, I now have a group of people who I am reasonably sure actually like me (and don’t just hang around with me becasue I’m Jan’s girlfriend) and who I can spend time with without my usual fears about social situations coming up.

Socially-Awkward-Penguin-01So why am I posting this if things are so good? Because, after years of believing I was just odd, knowing that there are other people out there from the same type of background who have the same kind of confused, illogical feelings as I do is a huge relief! And knowing there’s an actual disorder with characteristics that describe me perfectly (seriously… I could have written the Wikepedia article!) make me feel like I’m not just a freak. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I actually have avoidant personality disorder – I do still attend social events and usually even manage to force myself to speak to people (while praying that I don’t say the wrong thing!). But knowing that such a thing even exists at least gives me a point of reference, and a possible place to start with trying to overcome my issues. As the title of the post says, it’s something for me to think about. And I feel like I’ve made some kind of breakthrough!

Maybe I AM a cliché after all…

A few years ago I joined a group on Facebook called “British Forces Brats”. Somebody has posted one of those “You know you are…. when” lists on there. I’m sure you all know the type… “You know you’re a student when”, “You know you’re German when”, “You know you’re a child of the 80s when”… that kind of thing. This particular list was “You know you’re a forces brat when…”. I thought the list was pretty accurate until I got to an item that read something like “You get restless if you have to live in the same place for more a few years”. Naaah, I thought. That one’s not me. I’ve been in Karlsruhe for a while now and I’m not thinking of moving any time soon. If anything, I’m glad not to have to pack everything up again for a while! I was forgetting though, that despite living in the same town for a while (5 and a half years now – the longest I’ve lived in any place in one stretch ever is six years!), at that point I had just started my fourth job since moving back here in 2006. I’ve now been in that job for 2 and a half years, and although I still love it, recently getting up at 6 a.m. to get ready for the day has been getting harder. I’ve actually got into the habit of setting my alarm for about 20 minutes before I need to get up because it takes that many snoozes for me to drag myself out of bed! Here we go again, I think as I’m leaving the house each day. Same old same old. I wish I could do something new for a change! (It doesn’t help that most of my translations are for the same 3 or 4 customers and mostly involve the same technical or IT-related topics – the interesting stuff which involves some degree of creativity tends to go to my colleague, who is a better translator than me – at least in terms of style and the number of mistakes made). Maybe it isn’t living in one place for a while that causes forces brats to get so restless, but seeing or doing the same thing day in, day out for weeks, months or even years. Most people need a break from routine once in a while, but perhaps it’s more extreme in those who are used to only being in one place for 5 years at the most. In which case, I guess that item on the list does apply to me after all…