Social Anxiety During the Holidays

We spent Halloween at my sister’s house this year. Every year, most of the houses on the block she lives on decorate their garages as one of the locations in the Harry Potter books. The crowd that comes is by now completely insane. You can barely move through the street (which is blocked off). Whenever we go there for Halloween, we help to pass out candy as the crowds move through their garage.

My son, who is almost seven, wanted to help pass out candy. While my interaction was limited to saying, “Hi, cutie,” to some of the tinier Trick-or-Treaters, Lawrence kept up a running commentary. “Wow, great costume.” “Oh look, the good and bad Spidermans together” and, after he was released from the bathroom (he accidentally locked himself in with the quirky antique lock), confiding to visitors that the night had been great except for his “bad bathroom experience.” I’m sure they assumed he had had a bout of diarrhea after eating too much candy or something.

Events like this are why we call him our “little cruise director.” The kid was born with the gift of gab, almost unshakable self-confidence and a need to interact with other people. He gets that from my husband, the ultimate extrovert, not from me. I’m the opposite of both of them in anything to do with interacting with other people. Although I’m articulate in general, I freeze up in certain situations and am perfectly happy with a minimum amount of social interaction.

As you might have guessed, parties and similar social occasions are torture for me. For some reason, my normally healthy self-confidence takes a hit. Everyone seems to be in little cliques and I start getting flashbacks to birthday parties that I was invited to when I was younger. I think in most cases the child’s parents made them invite me because the whole class (at least the girls) was invited or because they were friends with my parents or something. I was painfully shy and somehow ended up being the butt of jokes. I don’t know if my shyness was a result of my depression or a part of it, but either way it meant that most social gatherings were something I endured instead of enjoyed.

Of course, this is the time of the year for parties and gatherings. If you’re like me, you’re anticipating them with the same pleasure that you would a root canal. But there is something you can do to make the experience easier – volunteer to help out.

If your employer’s holiday party (which, in many companies, is essentially mandatory) is usually on your most-dreaded list, volunteer for the party committee. You’ll get to know your co-workers during the meetings and you’ll have something to do during the party. I was on the holiday party committee during my first year at my current job, and was happily ensconced at the crafts table helping people make Christmas ornaments during most of the party.

If you’re at someone’s house for a party, volunteer to come early to help set up, and/or help with cooking and serving during the party. You’ll have won the goodwill of the host/hostess, who you very possibly don’t know that well, you will have something to do instead of sitting in a corner feeling awkward, and you will have some handy conversation openers, “Some cheese-puffs? They’re made with seven different kinds of cheese and they’re yummy.”

If you have the same kind of wonderful childhood memories that I do, remember that things are different. Grownups are not as openly cruel as children and less inclined to try to kill the weak or sick member of the herd (don’t ask me why, but that’s what children en masse taunting one child reminds me of). Definitely less Lord of the Flies and more Martha Stewart. During the holidays, most people are enjoying themselves at social functions, and want you to also.

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Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

I’m reading “Green Eggs and Ham” to my son Lawrence before bed. Actually, he’s reading it to me, which is very exciting. He’s doing really well. I only have to help him with about one word out of ten. I read way ahead of my level when I was his age, and it seems that he’s going to be just as good.

The thing I’m noticing, though, is that while he’s reading, he’s wiggling around on the bed, almost falling off sometimes, although his eyes are fixed on the book. Come to think of it, he does this when we’re going over flash cards at the dining table, wiggling around on the chair. He also, which I’ve never seen in another kid, jumps up and down in place when he’s playing a video game, usually when he’s at a part that’s particularly difficult. Continue reading

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Does my son have ADHD?

Around January this year, my husband and I got the dreaded summons from our son’s kindergarten teacher to meet with her about a problem with Lawrence. It was not a complete surprise – she had told us that she had some concerns. Lawrence was having some mild behavioral problems, in that he was having trouble conforming to the classroom structure.

I knew what she was talking about. I had observed him myself in class, when I took the morning off to help with the Halloween party. He ran everywhere in the room instead of walking. Unlike most of the other children (there were a couple of boys who acted like him), he fidgeted and talked out of turn.

There was some good news. He was that he was doing well academically (and in fact his grades even improved as the school year went on). The only area he was having a problem in was handwriting. He was far behind the other children. Incidentally, my husband and I both had problems with our handwriting in school. Continue reading

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Why Suicide Rates Increase in the Spring

We often hear that suicide rates are highest during the holidays. I even heard a character in a Christmas TV movie warn about the risk during the last holiday season. Seems to make sense, in a way. After all, the holiday season even has its own syndrome – the holiday blues. Many people are stressed out, and for anyone who’s alone and depressed, the contrast between the ideal of the holidays and reality can be hard to take.

Here’s the problem – the prevailing wisdom is wrong. In fact, we’re not heading away from the most dangerous time of the year for suicide, we’re heading towards it. Suicide rates are actually at their highest during late spring and early summer, and at their lowest around the holidays. There does appear to be a jump on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, which is thought to be due to the holiday season ending and harsh reality settling in.

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10 Tips for Staying Sane when Your Partner is Depressed

If you’re involved with someone who’s depressed, you’ve probably seen quite a few lists (including some that I’ve written) that tell you how to be supportive of your partner. And yes, these are a great idea, as the person who is depressed is in hell, plain and simple. However, you have to think about yourself too. Having a partner who’s depressed can be frustrating and lonely. The person you look to for emotional support is, to a great extent, not there anymore.

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