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  • Writer's pictureLaura

Social anxiety: A long night on the loch.

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

I’m writing this at the end of a long night, a long way away from home. A long night on the loch and what a night it has been. A very typical story of being on holiday in a quiet location until the guests from hell arrive and immerse you in their noise and wants. I knew that last night was going to be difficult from the moment it began.


It had been a quiet couple of days leading up to the weekend, beautiful weather, beautiful Scotland. I’d already been through the early stages of holiday anxiety. The worry and apprehension of how many people were going to be here. Whether I’d be able to find a quiet place to think, whether we’d be able to find a quiet place to eat or a tranquil spot to just be. Whether I’d missed something back home. Perhaps part of me was left at home because after all and as the saying goes, home is where the heart is and right now in this state of anxiety and noise induced sleep deprivation, I certainly don’t feel completely myself.


A black and white photo overlooking a Scottish Loch with tree branches in the foreground.
The loch of long nights.

It’s strange how we often want to escape from life but then when we do often all we want is home. When you’re so far away from home, home becomes a magnet drawing you back into its clutches. Even when you want to get away, getting away isn’t always an escape. In my case, it has been both an escape from one sort of stress, only to be replaced with another. I don’t speak for everyone with social anxiety, but my own experience is that being away from it all leaves you with a new set of challenges to overcome. Home isn’t there, your usual escapes don’t exist in new places, and you only have a very limited window of time to find new ones.


Even now as I am writing this sat in a lounge overlooking a loch on a stunning day with snow-topped mountains in the distance. It’s beautiful but I know I’m probably not going to be able to stay for long. In fact, by the end of this blog post, I’ll likely be sitting in my car or accommodation again, because, for those of us with social anxiety, we can’t stay in one place for too long. We’re always looking for the next escape from the next threat, and when you’re away from home that can only be intensified further because you might not know where to escape to.


A black and white photo looking through windows overlooking a Scottish loch.
My writing spot today. Thank you to M and J for suggesting this to me.

There’s still a long way to go before social anxiety is understood in depth beyond the people who are experiencing this. That’s why I want to draw upon this away-from-home experience to highlight some of the things that could help people like us. How places, spaces and people could become more friendly and inclusive to those with social anxiety. So first of all, I’ll briefly tell you what happened last night so we can come up with some potential solutions together.


A long night on the loch...

I could feel it as soon as I got back to the place where we were currently staying. It was Friday. Arrival day. Cars everywhere, new faces appearing, groups emerging and holiday cheer at its peak. Since I’ve begun to learn about myself in a sensory way following my autism diagnosis, I’ve become fine-tuned to my senses in greater depth than just ‘anxiety’. When I’m propelled into a new social situation, whatever that may be, I feel my body tense almost immediately. Before I even see the person or people, I can sense that they are there. I can feel their energy, their eyes seeking contact and their laughter often internalised as being about me even when this isn’t the case.


The guests were a large energetic group who from the onset had the energy of a party. They came brandishing gifts and presents, excitement filled the air. Even at this point, early in the situation, I knew that a large group with presents on a holiday resort means one thing, a party. Parties that are an extrovert haven and an introvert hell. So throughout the evening, I was on edge, I dismissed this at first as being tired after a long day out on the West coast. Yet by the time I went to bed, it started. Thump, thump, thump…not them, me. My heart was racing, my body would not ease itself of its tension. Although at this point it was quiet...


Back to the lounge for a moment, there’s a Hoover just starting up. Disrupting me from my flow. Ok, it’s someone just doing their job, they won’t want to talk so I don’t worry about that. Safe noise, disruptive but safe. I’ll continue.


So last night, even when the room was quiet my mind and body were in adrenaline mode. Within an hour of going to bed, I was launched into a full panic attack before anything had even happened. That’s one thing that people don’t understand about social anxiety, it’s not always about the event itself, a panic attack can occur from apprehension of the event or something that may not even happen. Unfortunately in this case my senses and intuition were correct and it did happen.


I tweeted out my panic attack because right at this moment I needed Twitter. I needed familiarity and without my home surroundings, Twitter was the next best thing. It was familiar and at that moment, whilst J was trying to get me some help whilst dealing with his own anxiety, I received some kind words in response from a very kind person. I won’t ever forget that person being there for me just at that time, so D, if you are reading this, thank you. What you did in that moment was validate me, and I cannot thank you enough. Following that other people also offered support, I am truly grateful to every single person who was there. As much as I moan about Twitter, last night Twitter was home during a time when I was so scared and very much away. So thank you all so much.


Following this, I spoke with another kind person, this time over the phone. A lady called M, who works at this place and connected with me almost immediately. We sat and spoke for some time in the early hours and then later at around 6:30 am this morning, and I am truly thankful for her time, support and interest in what we are trying to do here at ASW.


The guests arrived back and sure as anything they were drunk and ready to continue the party. They decided that the party was going to happen in the place next door to us, so we were already dealing with my panic attack, being sick and crying my eyes out to then be dealing with very real noise. At one point it was like a scene from Benidorm, there was dancing around the car park, singing, shouting, banging on doors and I half expected someone to dig out a karaoke machine. J went out to ask them to be quiet. It was gone midnight by this point and we were both completely exhausted. M went around to see them too, but they decided to carry on with their cheer, all in the place next door.


We gave up on sleep, there wasn’t anywhere to escape to, and there was no option but to endure it. I’ve dealt with many noisy neighbour scenarios over the years, home and away, and what I’ve learnt is that often people don’t realise how loud they are being. We live in a world where everyone has their own needs and wants, with little consideration for anything outside of that. Their need to party and celebrate came above and beyond our need for sleep. This is often the case in life, needs and wants battling it out in the landscape of life with very little dialogue between them. As introverts, we are all too often told that we need to get involved, conform or if we really must be ‘boring’ then don’t stop other people’s fun and enjoyment. Ok, that’s fine, we all have our needs but do we consider other people's needs enough? I've said this before, what can be one person’s want is another person’s sheer distress.


By 6 am the noise had long settled and whilst our neighbours were all now snoring in their alcohol-induced slumber, we were still wide awake and now seriously considering going home. Only ten hours in the car, a week long holiday turned into a mini break...


I went out for a walk to clear my head. I needed to see everything in its fresh morning state, untouched by the intensity of day. Because this, leaving, has happened so many times before. I’ve had to leave early and miss out on things because it’s been too noisy or busy, all about other people's wants and fun. That early morning walk was so beautiful and still. Nothing but myself and nature, early morning frost coating everything and the air was so fresh. It was like breathing pure oxygen. I sat down after taking some shots and soon enough two ducks came wandering over and just sat beside me, it was comforting and everything was just quiet. After this long night on the loch, I needed a moment for myself to enjoy it, for my own needs to finally be acknowledged. It was emotional because I knew that if I left this place now, I would frame it as a negative experience and might never return again. So I wanted to capture every moment of that moment, to take the beauty of this place with me and leave the bad parts behind.



A photo of a duck resting its beak between its wings
This beauty had frosty feathers.


This video shows how exhausting social anxiety can be.


So that’s the story, I know it’s probably quite standard in this loud and chaotic world we live in but it’s still an important one. One which raises the issue of differences and how our individualism means want and need remain personalised and social anxiety is rarely considered in this mix. It’s not over yet nor have I left for home. I really don’t want this to be yet another failure, another moment of having to walk away. It’s happened too many times and I want to be here, and try to enjoy the break as they don’t happen too often.


There’s still another night to get through and I don’t know how this next one is going to go either. But I have learnt a few things since being away. The first is to be honest with people, and where relevant tell them about your problems and barriers because although you may not always get the response you want, people cannot help you without knowing. I didn’t tell the staff here that I’m autistic or that I have social anxiety before coming and had I done so things might have been different. They have all been so supportive, and have said that if they had known they would have ensured we were not in the party area. All of the staff have been absolutely fantastic so far, this story is not a fault of theirs or the place. It's perhaps my own for not speaking out, I take accountability for that.


Secondly, I’ve learnt that whatever barrier I’m facing, there will be someone out there who understands, often closer than you think. Whilst chatting with people online and offline over these last few days, I’ve realised that social anxiety impacts so many of our lives. That leaves me to think that things surely need to change, and perhaps they are changing slowly, but there’s still a long way to go.


So, a long way away and a long way to go, but the main thing is that we can be open and talk to each other. Because once we can do that we can begin to find ways to create more inclusive spaces and experiences that accommodate social anxiety. Doing so may be the start of a new beginning.


 

Have you ever endured a social anxiety nightmare while away from home? Feel free to share your expriences and tips in the comments below. Or connect with us on Twitter.



4 commenti


Ospite
03 apr 2023

Thank you for sharing.

I have to say I agree that often the extrovert's needs are pushed ahead of the introvert's. Possibly by the very nature of being louder.

I'm so glad you found people on Twitter on were able to support you when you needed them xx

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Laura
Laura
04 apr 2023
Risposta a

Thank you for reading. Twitter can be an amazing place for support when finding the right communities and people - my friends there were so supportive throughout this experience.


I agree that extrovert needs often take presedence and seem to be valued more too. Yet there's room for us all in this world which is our ethos, 'We can be different together'.


Thanks again for dropping by.


Laura x

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Ospite
06 mar 2023

Thank you for sharing this story, I love how succinct and detailed your story is, while it connects with many of us emotionally. I have bi-polar, and I guess my sensitivity gives me anxiety in social situations. People don't understand it because I am an actor, but then I am being someone else, it is me that is the issue. I agree that this world is noisy and it becomes overwhelming. Not just people, but also information. I have to disconnect in order to get back to me. I do this using music, I love film soundtracks, and I also watch old films which is like seeing old friends again. Mainly though it is music and refocussing my mind using…

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Laura
Laura
08 mar 2023
Risposta a

Hi, thanks so much for leaving this comment.


I’m glad that the story resonated. We all have such diverse experiences of social anxiety, I think that it’s really valuable to be able to share our individual stories to be able to collectivise and make sense of the world (and its flaws).


I completely understand what you say about acting too. I can imagine that it gives you an escape. It’s also great that you have developed strategies to be able to find yourself again. I too have this problem, as I often feel that I am so caught up in ‘playing a role’ or what society commands me to be that I become completely overwhelmed and burnt out. I’ve learnt…


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