Study Abroad

Today was my first official "day" studying abroad in a film program in Germany. Despite having gone off medication, I felt like more of a zombie than ever. I took a shower and waited hesitantly upstairs--afraid I would put myself into an uncomfortable situation if I arrived for breakfast before they were expecting me downstairs only to find that, once I had arrived downstairs, everyone but my host father had gone. He tepidly spoke that it won't matter if I'm late--they won't leave without me--which I took to mean that he thought/knew I would be late and so I had failed an easy trial of acceptance--punctuality. We talked a little about politics and I left for the bus not bothering to pay attention to the stop name. I arrived twenty minutes later at the bus station that my host parents told me to get off at, but, much to my chargrin, it wasn't the proper station and I wandered around for about thirty minutes until I fortunately stumbled upon my group.

The group leaders both gave me a hard time about being extremely late not seeming to care that it was my first day and I had been told something wrong by my host family. Of course, as someone with social anxiety and mildly low self esteem, I internalized this as their giving me a hard time as proof that I wasn't deserving of kindness. Wondering weeks before if I would have the courage, I confidently talked to a heavy set girl with punk clothes and tattoos about the Panic! concert she had suggested we go to toghether. To my surpise, her tone was melancholy bordering on the annoyed--as if she didn't even have a relationship of any sort to me whatssoever. I was set back, but I recovered. Natalie, a decently pretty Latin student smiled at me and said hello--she is always polite. As well, her boyfriend, Jose, talked to me and asked me about my host family for which I was grateful--he made me feel as if people were interested in talking to me and, more importantly, that I was safe from feeling like a social leper. As such, any thoughts I had about getting closer to Natalie vanished--Jose was an exceptionally kind guy in my book and I wouldn't mess with him in that way. The situation with the tattooted girl continued to trouble me. I started to question myself, my place around people, and why I couldn't seem to just mesh with the group. I asked questions of people and they typically gave me one-word responses. When asked questions, I would ask them back which is obviously the most boring conversationalist you can be. When I listened in to others they would be making jokes I thought were passable but not anywhere near as funny as I knew I could be and had been with individuals in the past and even to this group, over our facebook group page.

But it was more than just internet confidence, and then my insecurity did a kamikaze and asked this one fat, ugly kid who I know hates me probably out of jealously but I'm not certain nor wish to be, if he had studied german over the summer. Of course not only did he ask me what I said in a rude tone, he also said not really in a dismissive voice and moved on. This was terrible. I had just gotten the final confirmation that I needed that everyone wanted me to go away. That I wasn't fitting in. That I was ruining everybodys good time. Now, it wasn't just about being socially confident it was about not being able to survive. I had embarrassed myself through going through great lengths not to embarrass myself and now, with no one to vent to and no one with which to resolve my feelings who actually had any real connection or understanding of the specific event, I was doomed to self-torture. I kept feeling the fat kid's hatred. The fact that I am better looking and yet was dominated by a supposedly socially inferior specimen. Furthermore, the fat girl I thought I would have to get rid of when she started expecting romantic things from me, was actually ducking me like a disease. And the tortuous question that can ruin any socially anxious person--"what's wrong with me?" Why am I not good enough to be accepted, why can't I thrive, why is everyone avoiding me, this seems like too much of a unanimous thing among the group to just be specific to the individuals. There is something.

There was a finally a break in the schedule and I ran for it back to the host house. I agonized over the punishment of ditching the first day, but was also relieved--I had gotten my power back. I was living my life on my terms even if those terms with solitary and unnecessarily non-conformist. The music entering my ears from my iPod was a triumphant ballad thundering my individualism, my self worth, my great personality.

I share this painfully long experience because despite it being boring on the surface, it brings up the important connection often missed when talking about depression. Depression is connected to lack of control which translates more crassly to lack of power. When we feel powerless, we feel depressed and even anxious. When I felt like something was wrong with me and also that I had no idea what that was, I had given all of my power to these kids and lost it all at once for myself. I didn't make my own decisions, I made decisions to please them so that they would give me what I thought I needed--acceptance. When I ignored the bus stop, it was because I was preoccupied with the fact that I was going into something I knew I couldn't control one bit. Being able to feel like I have control over my individuality, my essence, with a group of people feels impossible. Be happy and feel grateful you always feel in control of the fact that you matter, that you belong, and that you are loved.
pavx45 pavx45
22-25, M
Aug 22, 2013