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Why do I act like this - is this A Thing?

(41 Posts)
INXS Tue 28-Feb-17 19:31:54

Or am I just a horrible person?

I've always been a bit like this, but it's getting worse.

I really struggle in public spaces - especially on the street, or in doorways. I feel quite stupid about this, as I know it's difficult to understand why anyone could have such problems with such basic, everyday things.

For example, here's what happened today.

Walking into the library, on foot with toddler. A woman with a pram was approaching from the other side, plus a third woman inside the building, wanting to exit, visible through the glass doors.

We all arrived at the door at the same time. This in itself makes me really tense as I'd prefer not to have to interact with strangers, even non-verbally, if I can avoid it. But the worst part was that the woman with the pram kept looking at me, talking to me (I live in a country where I don't speak the local language) and obviously trying to get my attention. I didn't engage, as I couldn't, but stood well back to remove myself from the situation. She went through, then the woman inside stood back to let me through. I hate it when people do this, I don't know why. I avoided eye contact and continued to stand back.

Eventually Lady Inside got the message that I wasn't going to walk through, so she walked through herself and left.

But the woman with the pram was still there in the lobby, and still trying to engage with me. Eventually I held my hand up to my face, palm out, so I couldn't see her anymore and said in English, "leave me alone".

I know this was an awful way to behave, but I was honestly so agitated by this point that I just wanted to disappear. I felt observed, "pecked at", defensive.

What's wrong with me?

I know it's partly because I want to feel invisible - I detest feeling beholden to other people, even for something as simple as them holding a door open for me. But my behaviour must be mystifying (and seem really pathetic) to 'normal' people who are just going about their day.

Am I the only one?

Anonymoususer1938 Tue 28-Feb-17 19:43:10

No I doubt it. If you read these boards you will eventually deduce that people are mystifying, and therefore engaging with them can be stressful on a number of levels.
Having said that your 'talk to the hand' response probably elicited a 'what a stuck up c*nt'' response

Ellisandra Tue 28-Feb-17 19:52:38

I daresay whatever your "thing" is, it isn't helped by not speaking the local language!
That's going to make some interactions tough even for people who aren't generally bothered.

I think you should see a counsellor, or your toddler is going to learn this behaviour from you (and leaving them out of it, it's stressful for you)

At least in the short term, practising some looks and phrases in a mirror might help you reach for them more easily. "Leave me alone" with a palm up was rude, avoiding eye contact with a shake of the head, a smile and a "I'm sorry I don't speak <language>" would have been better.

Definitely see a counsellor flowers

whirlygirly Tue 28-Feb-17 20:03:50

This actually sounds debilitating. The only times I've ever felt this way is when in a strong panic over something- rushing to catch a train or get to an interview, for example. Are you particularly anxious at the moment?

I think I would write down some examples of things you find difficult and go to an English speaking gp, if you can find one. Do you have a friend or partner you can take for support?

INXS Tue 28-Feb-17 20:12:28

Anonymous yes I know, I was a shit. It wasn't quite a talk-to-the-hand, as I was more shielding my eyes and lowering my head (rather than putting my hand out towards her), but yes I have no doubt she thought I was an utter twat. I would too.

In the moment I honestly can't handle the eye contact. I hope this isn't an offensive question, but the eye contact thing makes me wonder - is it an autism trait? Or what is it?

INXS Tue 28-Feb-17 20:13:57

whirly yes, I was feeling anxious and probably am all the time at the moment. The problem is that I really struggle to understand my own feelings and often feel completely overwhelmed by them.

INXS Tue 28-Feb-17 20:19:55

Ellisandra yes I'm very conscious of the little one learning all of my awful traits. At the moment it feels as though I am simply a collection of horrible characteristics actually.

Learning some phrases is on my to-do list. Mirror idea fab. Thank you. Must also practice deep breathing. Removing myself from these situations more completely might also help, but I have found that people don't seem to like that either.

I try to maintain my own boundaries, so for example when I was back home recently, walking down the street with the buggy, a driver tried to wave me across the road. But I didn't think he should have stopped where he did, it wasn't really an appropriate place to stop for a pedestrian, so I shook my head and turned my face away so he knew not to linger. I prefer to cross when there are no cars (again - hate being indebted).

He leant out of the car window and told me contemptuously to "calm down", called me a name, and drove off confused this is another thing that makes me just think "am I from another planet? Surely I am allowed to cross the road wherever the hell I want to? Is it me?!"

Anonymoususer1938 Tue 28-Feb-17 20:50:19

I'm not an expert but it could be I suppose. I often read of people who get themselves tested for Aspergers/ Autism and it can be such a relief for them when they find that they are on the spectrum as it makes sense of everything regarding their behaviour.

whirlygirly Tue 28-Feb-17 20:54:16

Absolutely agree with anonymous, Asperger's/ASD came to mind after your first post and absolutely the eye contact element fits.

There used to be a fantastic poster on here years ago who had Asperger's and described in wonderful detail what her world was like. It might be worth searching - I'll see if I can find anything.

babyunicornvomit Tue 28-Feb-17 21:07:46

Have you looked into anxiety, specifically social anxiety? I suffer with it, much more mildly than you, but struggle very much interacting with strangers and get very hot and anxious making prolonged eye contact. Talk to a doctor, it's a problem and sounds awful but I'm sure someone can help. Good luck smile

nonameinspiration Tue 28-Feb-17 21:19:09

I kind of get this. I'm not like that all the time but now and then I'm just desperate to get through an errand without being approached. Door etiquette is an issue for me when I am stressed though I notice now I'm less strsssed I'm more way going about it.

INXS Tue 28-Feb-17 21:25:49

that would be great whirly. I have read up a bit about Asperger's but while some fits, some doesn't and there doesn't seem to be a "test" I can take. There won't be anything like that available here, I'm sure sad

INXS Tue 28-Feb-17 21:26:36

babyunicornvomit do you get any treatment for the social anxiety?

INXS Tue 28-Feb-17 21:28:59

"Door etiquette is an issue for me when I am stressed" noname do you have similar thoughts to me? What is it you struggle with? I'm finding it difficult to pinpoint exactly what's so awful about it for me.

Feeling indebted, yes, and also not liking my personal space moved in on, or being 'manipulated' by others (being 'made' to go first, etc). But I think there is more to it - maybe sensory? Too many inputs?

babyunicornvomit Tue 28-Feb-17 21:49:10

I filled in a form to describe all my symptoms then a GP referred me to a psychologist where I had CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). It doesn't work for everybody but it worked for me. They talk you through your problems and help you with techniques you can use for when you feel stressed. If it doesn't work for you then can also prescribe medication smile

Trustyourself2 Tue 28-Feb-17 22:05:26

I have a touch if this. I think it's fairly common. Some of us are very self conscious and struggle when other people do us a kindness. I'm constantly batting away help from friends and family. With strangers I really don't want to interact, but I live in a country where people are generally very sociable and it would be seen as rude or very odd if I didn't make an effort. I just don't want to be seen a lot of the time, I want to be left alone. I told my counsellor that I'm a very easily forgotten person and she said it's because I don't want people to remember me and my behaviour causes that response.

I had CBT years ago, which did help a little. One of the things I really worked on was asking for assistance in shops and from people in the street for directions, etc. It did help, but practise is important as well.

I lived in a country where I learned the language and it really helped with my confidence, even though I still struggled with all my other behaviour.

lananzack Tue 28-Feb-17 22:12:06

I second it likely being social anxiety. I, too, actively avoid any interaction with people in public. And I have also done/said some unintentionally rude things to avoid social situations. I genuinely get a bit panicky if a stranger does something I have to respond to (including holding doors open for me etc) - feel on the spot! I do believe it's quite common actually.

springydaffs Wed 01-Mar-17 00:47:19

Light bulb moment for me - my mum!

I don't think these symptoms are particularly unusual, op. But I do wince at the way you talk about yourself. Please don't do that sad

Deathraystare Wed 01-Mar-17 07:29:48

If you are living permanently in another country you DO need to know the language. Is it the sort of country where people engage with strangers more so than here? Perhaps the fact you where with your child. In some countries they love to chat to mums and kids.

As someone else poster you need some coping strategies for dealing with these everyday facts of life otherwise your child will be copying you.

The guy in the car that stopped for you - well I would only have crossed the road if it was obviously clear both sides as it has happend that one person stops for me but the other side didn't.

I understand in a way because I am quite shy but am pretty good at interacting with strangers now. I was brought up with manners and know the importance of thanking people, letting them through or being gracious when they hold the door for me. If you find it hard to manage try an apologetic shrug and smile - a kind of "oops silly me". If they see you smiling (no matter how awkwardly) they are less inclined to think you are being unfriendly.

Deathraystare Wed 01-Mar-17 07:31:12

Sorry, not implying that you are being rude. I just mean that I am more concerned with being thought rude than feeling awkward in those situations.

INXS Wed 01-Mar-17 09:48:45

"If you are living permanently in another country you DO need to know the language."

I know Deathray but we moved here very recently under difficult circumstances so it's not at the top of my priorities right now.

I definitely want some coping strategies, I guess that is part of what I am asking for really.

Re. thanking people - I absolutely understand the value of this, in fact I can go over the top sometimes. But that is another part of why I struggle in these sorts of situations. I feel obliged to thank people for things (like holding doors open) that I don't actually want them to do.

Example: when someone [almost always a man] holds the door open for you in the "wrong" way. Instead of standing on the edge of the door, holding it open, they stand sort of in the doorway, so you have to squeeze by them, or they hold it open in a awkward way so you have to sort of duck under their arm to get through.

This sort of situation makes me incredibly uncomfortable - and I resent having to thank someone for putting me in it!

INXS Wed 01-Mar-17 09:54:07

lananzack yes exactly. Is it really common?

The thing is that I don't really suffer from other symptoms. It is really just moving around in public spaces. Maybe it's the stranger thing.

INXS Wed 01-Mar-17 10:19:11

Trustyourself2 this is exactly it!

I have a relative who is always trying to do things for me, but gets them wrong somehow - holding doors open in such a way that I can't get through, hovering when I don't want to be observed, that sort of thing.

I really struggle to be around this person, especially walking around on the street, because the way they move around spaces is the complete opposite of the way I do - they move slowly, hold people up, it makes me want to sink into the ground.

BertieBotts Wed 01-Mar-17 10:25:18

There is a suspected asd support thread if you look in topics under special needs/mumsnet tees with special needs.

Learn the phrase 'sorry, my (language) isn't good', it's helpful for diffusing these things.

OneWithTheForce Wed 01-Mar-17 10:25:38

I can't help with the anxiety, other than to say "fake it til you make it" it's the only thing that has worked for me. I had and still have to force myself into uncomfortable situations and in much less time than you would imagine, I find I am having conversations and interactions comfortably. By far the biggest help was getting a job in retail. No choice but to speak to people and now I'm very comfortable. Still have some hairy moments but on the whole I am a lot happier.

WRT the language: immersion. You need to have the TV/radio etc on all the time, do as much reading as you can, make sure you are taking time to read and try and work out things like street signs, shop signs, fliers etc. and apps like Duolingo are great for doing five minutes while you're sitting having a cuppa.

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