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Read more from Marci on xoVain.
I have two recurring anxiety-dream themes. The first is that I have to use the bathroom, and I have a choice between two stalls. One is pristine, but there's no door, so there would be no privacy; the other has a door, but it's completely disgusting -- "Trainspotting" disgusting.
The second is about being left out. In some dreams, people will literally turn their backs to me and start a conversation I'm not welcome in; sometimes I'll be in the conversation, but everyone's rolling their eyes at what I say and making me feel generally unwanted.
The former theme is, luckily, something I've never been faced with in real life; the latter, however, happens on a regular basis.
I don't really socialize much. Most of my closest friends don't live around here, and the few that do have closer friends than me, so I'm rarely the one that gets invited to do stuff. I sometimes have to drop hints to remind friends to include me. I'm a good friend to a lot people, but I don't think anyone would call me their best friend.
At the office, I rarely feel welcomed into personal conversations and sometimes even in work conversations. Some people are nice to me; others can't hide their contempt when I try to contribute to the discussion, giving me unamused looks, looking at each other like, "Ugh, her," or saying something that cuts down me or my opinion.
It averages out to being tolerated.
Being tolerated leans more toward rejection than inclusion, especially when the people tolerating you seem to want you to know you're being tolerated, choosing to let their disapproval show instead of being nice. Being tolerated makes you feel like you should always be apologizing, even when you haven't done anything bad. Being tolerated hurts -- a lot -- when you want to be liked and respected.
You know where I'm liked? On social media.
To me, I am the same person online as I am in person, with the exception of mannerisms and verbal delivery. The goofy, dorky awkwardness I have in real life transforms into sharply delivered one-liners on Twitter and Facebook. The self-deprecation that gushes out of me in person seems ironically confident with the clever words I pick online. People from various times and places in my life -- middle school boyfriends, sorority sisters, random celebrities I haven't actually met -- validate me with their likes, retweets and LOLs.
For a few minutes a day, I'm led to believe I'm cool.
But as soon as I interact with people face-to-face, that fantasy ends. I never completely forget, though. My Twitter bio says it pretty clearly: What I write is funnier than what I say out loud, so we should probably never meet.
Even when I think I'm interacting in real life the way everyone else does, I'm made to feel like I'm interrupting. I'm sure I'm guilty of it sometimes, but definitely not all the time. I interject things into conversations like everyone else around me, but I feel ignored or resented for trying to participate.
I always show genuine interest in other people's lives, but perhaps being alone for so many years has made my contributions to conversations too self-centered. I once said something about a how my dog made a hole in my sweater that morning, and a co-worker responded with, "Why would you tell me that?"
I don't know; I was just thinking out loud about it and thought it would be amusing conversation fodder. I don't have anyone to tell my mundane shit to, so I end up saying it to the people I work with, to the neighbor I see at the subway stop, to anyone who will listen. But I could've sworn everyone else does that, too, but with a much warmer reception.
I'm not an asshole; it's not like I do or say horrible, mean things that call for a hostile response, but you'd think I do exactly that on a regular basis. In fact, I'm always trying to be super-friendly and positive toward everyone.
I don't like to let people see when I'm upset or angry, and I don't show people when I'm annoyed with them because I know they're human and that making them feel bad won't do anything good; I seem to be pretty much alone in this practice, though, because it's always perfectly clear when people are annoyed with me, which seems to be more or less all the time.
Not everyone I interact with makes me feel this way, but it's enough people and often enough that I feel like I can't escape it.
This isn't a new thing. I felt like an outcast in my sorority; I was considered weird. I was bullied for being a nerd when I made the middle school cheerleading squad in sixth grade. And for most of my childhood, I wanted more than anything for my half-sister to like me, but I don't think she ever did.
That's probably where my intense desire to be accepted really begins. My half-sister is 12 years older than me, so we didn't spend much time together; I don't remember much of our relationship before age five, but my parents say she hung one of my Cabbage Patch Kids from a makeshift noose on the banister.
When she'd come home from college and law school during her breaks, I'd want to show her everything new in my life: a gymnastics trick I'd learned, a video tape of my favorite show, pictures of my friends. She would shut that down immediately, with obvious disdain. It reached a point where my parents would remind me to not try talking to her for the first day she was home.
I don't think she knew how deeply that rejection affected me; she was in her teens and early 20s and probably didn't have fully developed empathy. But I think that had an enormous impact on the blueprint of my social emotions. It didn't make me the socially awkward dork I became, but it made me overeager to be accepted.
Being dorky is one thing. Being dorky and seemingly desperate for acceptance is another.
And when I say "desperate for acceptance," I don't mean I've been desperate enough to pretend to be someone I'm not in order to find that acceptance. Quite the opposite. I don't know how to be anyone but myself, and I just really want that weirdo to be affably embraced by people.
I've become very depressed as a result of my loneliness. I'm already clinically depressed to begin with -- I've been on antidepressants since I was 16 -- but what feels like an almost constant cold shoulder, either from blatant rejection or simply because I'm never anyone's first choice for hanging out, is a very concrete catalyst for feeling even more despondent.
It may sound ridiculous to a lot of people -- especially those who are disenchanted by it -- but the acceptance I feel on social media keeps me from sinking even further into sadness.
It's not sustainable, though. I need help reining in the more annoying aspects of my personality without losing myself. Either that, or I need to learn how to stop caring.