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Overcoming Feelings of Dread

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
It has been actual years since I lasted posted I swear! Hello everyone!

My question relates more to the relationships and associations I have with others. I've been with my girlfriend for over 2 years now and she is great but compared to me, is very much a social butterfly. When I turned up to London, I didn't have very many people and I still don't really - just people who I see infrequently dotted around the country because I'm the only one here and I came here to work.

However, my girlfriend has lived in this area all her life and is very social and has tons of friends from loads of different circles who have become 'my friends' through her.

Her friends are very nice to me, but I'm not quite the same socially. I am a teacher and spend a lot of time working and often don't want to socialise all the time after spending so much time with kids. I also find that there are so many people to meet I often forget names and I am a fussy person. I don't smoke and resent being made to stand outside because she and all her friends smoke. Often, although not so much recently, occasions are often arranged for me; "Oh we're going to this" or "We're going that..." and we've had arguments in the past over my right to say that I don't want to go to one thing or another because I just want to vegetate on the sofa or I know how the evening will pan out so I don't want to go there.

When out I have certain people I'm really comfortable speaking to from her friendship circles; but often we go 'as a couple' I'm quite...quiet. It's characteristic for people to talk over and through each other, and I'm too polite to carry on speaking so find myself silent a lot of the time. My partner also speaks another language, so often when they don't want to be understood they'll all suddenly speak in their different language and I only speak English. They'll usually be a big burst of laughter and I'm stood quietly looking around. My gf also has a habit of lifting stories off of me i.e. I'll start telling a story, and she'll say "Oh yeah yeah I have to tell you it was the funniest thing..." and taking over the story and talking on 'our' behalf. Also, if we're around people's houses, everyone smokes heavily, and sometimes not just tobacco. I'm the guest so I can't say anything but I hate it. If I don't want to go outside and stand there, I'm left with potentially no one to speak to. They will all stand up at a dinner table for a fag break without any one actually staying with the non-smoker so I either go or sit on my own.

My partner has also developed a habit which is becoming a bit of a joke, where, because she wants to have a cigarette or go to the bathroom, she'll instruct someone to 'look after me' and almost place me in their care, which I find really embarrassing and makes me feel foolish because actually, she doesn't need that cigarette and she's the one going out for '5 minutes' which always ends up being 20-30 minutes which leaves me feeling a little lost when I don't feel comfortable in the company of people I'm not familiar with.

I just find, in a lot of situations, that I start to build a feeling of dread even before I get there. I can't quite place it but I can get really worked up about it and find loads of excuses to fight going to places. Sometimes I'll have worked up a panic attack style tantrum almost to avoid going but it's very real inside of me; a heaviness in my stomach, a slight tightening of my chest and just a feeling of dread. Right now I'm meant to be getting in my car to go see one of her friends who is absolutely lovely but allows smoking of tobacco and weed in her house, none of which I do, and I sit with my gf who just smokes cigarettes slowly suffocating. Eventually all of the people there will go comatose, talk gibberish and laugh to themselves and to me, that's a waste of my time.

I know a lot of it is me; that I have a much more socially active life then before and that takes some getting used to. I know I like routine also, and if I believe Friday night is free and I finally get in from work and I'm being told we're going to some place to watch someone play in their band, or we're going over a friends (usually because they're too bone-idle to come to ours) in 2 hours and I need to get ready, I get really...annoyed!!!

I don't know how to overcome it all really and to shake the negativity because her friends are lovely. I just have a pre-conception of what the night will look like and am instantly put off. I do find it hard to socialise with people but I've always been popular growing up and had a solid group of friends but I come from a very different background and cultural context so often don't know what to say or ...I don't know what. I'm just tired of feeling so negative about what can often turn out to be really positive experiences. All I think of is fag or weed smoke, being left on my own, not understanding the language and feeling that, in small circles, that I'm the one being deliberately excluded as I'm the only one who doesn't speak that language etc...

Right; now I've put it off, I now need to go and face it!

Thanks for responses in advance!


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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Have you talked to your girlfriend about it?
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Hi Maltester Monkey,
    It sounds like you find yourself in situation where you end up feeling uncomfortable and negative. It can be really hard to feel that you are not able to understand what other people are saying. Does your girlfriend realize that this makes you feel uncomfortable? Could you ask her to tell you what is being said or teach you some of the language so that you understand.

    You say that her friends are really nice to you and lovely. Listen to the sort of topics which they talk about and try to talk about similar topics. It seems like your girlfriend is trying to look after you by getting a friend to look after you while she goes out to smoke, could you tell her that you would be happier not having someone you don't know around.

    If her and her friends all smoke that can also be a difficult situation, as you don't want to join them could you try to find one of her friends who does not smoke either to talk to while they go and smoke to make the time go faster, while there is less people about so that you can practice breaking into the conversations.

    For the feeling of negativity about the social situation, could you try telling yourself that you do enjoy it and try thinking about any positive that you can, however small to try to gradually enjoy the socializing a bit more. As the more you think that it's going to be awful the more negatively you might see the situation and the worse it will fell.
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Hi malteser monkay :wave:

    Welcome back :yes:

    This sounds all very stressful. You are clearly aware of the positives; going to see her friends that you do like; the occasional need to make yourself more sociable - so you're not all negative. However those feelings of dread and panics are real - and need to be addressed - so well done for posting so honestly.

    As StrubbleS and blackcanary asked, have you talked to you gf about this? If yes, how much does she know of the effects this is having on you?

    Your post was clear - however perhaps breaking down some of the reasons this is bothering you could help;

    - The smoking , cigarettes and weed (which you mention many times you "hate" and which is completely understandable)
    - The feeling of being left out mainly due to language barriers (which is inevitably hard and can feel lonely)
    - Her asking people to take care of you if she disappears for a while
    - People (who you like and dislike) tend to "go comatose, talk gibberish and laugh to themselves and to me" which doesn't sound like a fun ending to a night
    - You struggle to feel comfortable in the company of people you're not familiar with

    All the above seem like legitimate reasons for you to dread going - and so far it seems you have done really well in order to compromise with your gf. Panic attacks are your body trying to tell you something - and can come from very deep. Sometimes when we feel constantly "forced" or put in situations where our gut says "no" but we do it anyway, they can occur - and if ignored, they can get worst.

    This doesn't mean you can't go out at all, but perhaps a better compromise can be sorted. You could go together but then you leave earlier or show up later. Or sometimes she could simply go alone, and let you "vegetate on the sofa" if that's what you really want!

    Speaking to her really can make a difference here - you are not saying you want to stop socialising completely, but perhaps less often and differently. If she saw you panic, she will hopefully be understanding about it.

    Good luck and do let us know how you get on *hug*
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Hi there,

    Thanks for the replies and apologies for avoiding this thread since. I got a little frustrated at the first reply; sorry Strubbles; it wasn't you, it was just that I've communicated a few of these points a number of times to her and then no-one else replied for a month so I tried to figure it out on my own!

    I appreciate the understanding I've received and have been trying to pinpoint where it all comes from. We've had a number of conversations in the past and since this post and bit-by-bit the situation is improving.

    This may sound daft but the people I was getting het up about seeing that day, who I do adore but as I've said about the smoking etc...actually bought puppies (wait, stay with me here) and so from then on out have shifted their lifestyle slightly in terms of reducing the smoking of all substances as they don't want to damage their puppies lungs! As an animal lover, I felt I had more incentive to visit, people stay in more and smoke less and I feel like I'm in touch with regular humans again (and when I don't know how to speak to them, a puppy rocks up and the attention goes to them anyway!).

    I also started to think harder about smoking and the weed part especially. Ever since we met, she promised she had quit...and she did quit weed but not regular smoking. I still hate being designated a carer when we go out and she leaves to smoke - I am closer to 30 and it embarrasses me and I hate how patronising it is and how others have started to make it a joke. The warmer nights are making it less offensive as we're usually in a beer garden anyway so we're outside, together and I don't feel so abandoned.

    With weed, after a particular argument over her 'sneaking' some I actually opened up a bit and (I'm not promoting this at all) suggested that we have a couple nights alone, over a weekend, where I try it in order to get over it. I feel like I got it out in my youth and my brother had particularly horrendous experiences of drug use after my own light and tiny dabble (weed smoking) when I was young. So we've tried, and it's made me more open and less judgemental, less critical and I suppose makes me feel less distanced from her and her friends. I think a lot of it is lacking commonalities. When they all do something habitually and you're always the odd one out, not doing that then people oust you because they believe you're judging them. For me, I became resilient to peer pressure (to a degree where there have been awkward exchanges of "No, I'm fine. Please stop expecting me to start smoking that." between myself and her friends) and then felt quite angry when everyone continued to smoke around me, having heard me publicly say I don't want to be involved. If I suggested I wanted to go home and she could stay, I was guilt tripped into staying which made me further resentful and then had me thinking 'Well if I don't even find myself at that place, I can't be made to go through all the rest of it.' I think I've reached a few conclusions about myself over the last few weeks.

    We've talked about her arranging our lives and she is bad at this still (she'll pick up the phone for a chat and will randomly invite the caller over, put the phone down and say "Oh so-n-so are coming over, is that ok?" when I can hardly say no.) However, with work petering off (they're taking exams and leaving) I have less planning and stress and feel like I can cope with a bit of additional socialisation, but we've agreed my right to say no, to leave early if i wish without argument etc...which makes me feel like I can leave once I've reached my social peak and it won't be detrimental to our relationship.

    I've tried to actively learn a bit of the language she speaks...but it's an ancient one, quite complex and not something that there are language courses available for so I'm trying but I can't imagine really grasping lots from it. But I'm trying to do my bit and I know she's flattered as it is a unique language and at least I'm trying.

    I suppose a lot of the changes have had to come from me and my way of thinking, which I'm not sure is a good thing because if she did quit smoking, did think sensitively and not just invite people over at random etc...then we could have an even healthier relationship and she could be a healthier person. That may come with time, or not.

    Thanks for replies, apologies for the biggy in response.
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    JamesJames Deactivated Posts: 1,706 Extreme Poster
    Hey malteser monkay, good to see you back.

    It's great to hear that you've made some progress - there are a lot of insights in your reply that seem to come from better communication with her and a better understanding of her friends.

    In your original post, is it fair to say that the feelings of dread you were experiencing perhaps came from a lack of control? A lot of what you talked about seem to be about people (particularly your girlfriend) making decisions for you or regardless of your needs/desires. This might feed into what Christele said earlier about panic attacks:
    christele wrote:
    Sometimes when we feel constantly "forced" or put in situations where our gut says "no" but we do it anyway, [panic attacks] can occur

    From your latest post, it sounds like things are starting to even out a little:
    we've agreed my right to say no, to leave early if i wish without argument etc...which makes me feel like I can leave once I've reached my social peak and it won't be detrimental to our relationship.

    That sounds really positive, a nice middle ground.
    Learning her language is also a lovely idea. New languages can be mega-hard, and from the description you've given, hers sounds especially tough. Still, it's a really nice gesture and could be another talking point with her friends. As long as you're prepared to embrace looking a bit silly, asking how to say things in a different language can be an amazing and fun way to join in.

    It's interesting that you feel lots of the changes have come from you and your way of thinking. Would you ideally like her to undergo a similar process?

    By the way, we have an expert question and answer service for relationship issues here: Ask a relationships question - might be worth a whirl too?
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Hi there ,i just wanted to ask if she finds any of your habits irritating ,or slightly annoying shall we say for want of a better phrase?

    Are you sure that you want to be in this relationship ,or are you simply staying as so not to be alone ?

    Just asking, so please do not be offended :)
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