I learned something when I was 16 that I am relearning now. Playful teasing without the foundation of love and a solid relationship can be felt as cruelty. It's the knowing that you are loved that makes it playful, without that it just comes across as bullying. I learned this once and now the tables have turned and I am learning it again. This time from the victim's perspective.
I blush. I can't help it and wish that there was something I could do to remedy it. I am
It usually starts thusly:
Let's call this guy Joe. Joe walks in and says something rude to me. It's typically a jab at my nerdiness (yes, I watch Millionaire while crocheting Harry Potter scarves on my lunch break everyday. Can we move on???). I blush because that is what I do. My face gets hot and tingly, I sweat and get a little shaky and dizzy, and get an immediate headache. I do realize that really is more than just blushing, I will get to that later. So, Joe sees that I'm uncomfortable and then points out that I am as red as a tomato and starts laughing at me. How do I react? I blush a deeper red, my face gets hotter and numb, my hands visibly tremble, and my head begins to pound. So, he laughs harder and teases more. Eventually I laugh with him and agree that I am "such a nerd" just to get him to leave me alone. This happens almost daily. Sometimes, we are in a large group, and I add something to the conversation. The attention that I just placed on myself stresses me out, so I blush. Then, Joe makes a complete spectacle of me and teases me publicly for it.
Today, someone complimented my outfit (I am totally rocking these tights and purple cheetah print flats). Joe's head popped out of nowhere and he whispered to me, "Hey! Are you blushing yet? Ha! Oh, my gosh, you are totally red."
..Where am I going with all of this? Joe and my relationship consists soley of teasing. That wears on me. He doesn't know me well, and teasing must be coupled with friendship and knowing one another in order for it not to offend. Here is what I know that Joe doesn't know:
- I believe that I suffer from social phobia/anxiety. If you haven't heard of it, then know that it's a harsh reality for some people and can be debilitating when unaddressed.
- The simplest of things like making a phone call, going to a restaurant, making a return at a store, even going to church overwhelm & overstimulate me.
- Attention is the last thing I want. "Agonizing" is not too strong a word to describe it.
- Blushing is one of the most common manifestations of social anxiety. As are, tingling sensations, dizziness, headaches, and shakiness.
-What Joe is witnessing and teasing me for is not just as simple as blushing--that is just the surface. Inside, I feel like I am having a mini panic attack.
- It takes strength, bravery, and a lot of pep talks for me to function in what any other person would call a "typical day".
-He must know this: He is teasing me for being me. That is offensive. Also, blushing isn't something you can easily change or fix. And, you should never tease someone for something they can't change (such as their physical appearance or intelligence).
- Maybe he already knows this one, but bullying only perpetuates the problem. Now, every time I see him, my heart begins to race, my body tenses and I blush out of fear of blushing.
Here is something else I know, that I wish Joe knew:
- Teasing, even when done with the best of intentions, always has the potential to wound. Kindness will never wound, never hurt, never offend. If you don't know someone well, then always choose kindness.
Every person has issues and struggles and unless you know their personalities and quirks, it is most likely the wisest and kindest thing to not tease them. You don't know what's going on in their mind or how their hearts are hurting or what they are struggling with.
I don't think ill of Joe. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I want to backhand him and yell, "leave me alone!" and then cry. To quote Tina Fey, “Some people say, “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.”. But seriously, I think that in his mind, he really is just playfully teasing. I think he is completely unaware that I dread and avoid interaction with him. I don't know if I am approaching this in the best way. Maybe the best and most loving thing for me to do is tell him how jerkish he really is. But, right now, I do not have the guts to do so. Another symptom of this disorder is the avoidance of confrontation (ergo, I can really be a doormat sometimes). I know myself, and there is no way in heck I am going to tell him to lay off.
So, those are my thoughts.
Let me just say that I absolutely believe that there is a time and place for teasing. I love to tease and be teased in the right time and place. Our family is constantly teasing one another and it's all in fun. But, we are family and know each other well and love each other well, and it's that foundation that puts the "playful" in the teasing.
Also, I am in the process of sorting through all of this social anxiety crap. I am addressing it and dealing with it and pushing myself so as to prevent it from being debilitating. I realize the seriousness of it and do not take it lightly. But, I also know that I am human and have my limits and so I am gently pushing myself and am okay with baby steps and do not expect to become a social butterfly overnight (if ever).
One more thing...in case you are wondering, I do love people. Social phobia doesn't mean I am a people hatin' hermit. I love to spend time with people and invest in relationships and hear people's stories and tell people my stories and so on and so forth. There is just a long list of limitations on how I am able to interact with humanity. Maybe I will write about my anxiety more at another time. Right now, this post has exhausted me and I need a break.