Fear of Family Gatherings
I seem to do OK If I am alone with one family member. I can talk, communicate, carry on a conversation but when one or more join the conversation or if they are even within earshot I become silent. Not because I want to be silent, because fear makes my mind go blank. I don't know what I'm so afraid of. I can handle an interaction with one person but not two or more. Often before I go to a family gathering I try to psych myself up and I tell myself to try to stay focused. Try to continue to talk with someone. However, it almost always turns out bad for me. I tend to try to stick with one person, my brother for example. But then I tend to follow him around and that looks silly. Once I lose focus my fear takes over then I just sit wherever I am quietly hoping the party will be over soon. I'm too shy to leave b'se then I'll have to say bye to everyone. I'm too shy to do that. I often sneak off and drive away when no one is looking. If my wife goes with me I tend to cling to her. My wife is not shy and she does just about all the talking when we go to her family gatherings. But I still have problems. Many people don't understand why I'm quiet and they actually tease me about it. This has happened all my life. They will say "Shut up Jeff! You're talking too much!" Then everybody laughs. I don't laugh because I've heard it a million times and I hate it when someone brings the fact that I'm shy and quiet out in the open. It happened again for the billionth time on Thanks giving day at my wife's family gathering. After my fear starts to take over I have a feeling of distress. People can see it in my facial expression and some ask me if I'm OK. I don't even realize I'm making a face. When I start feeling that way I know I'll never recover that day then I start telling the wife, "Lets go!" She often doesn't want to go then I feel trapped. Family gatherings are torture for me because of my annoying fear. I keep going to them because I need to stay in contact with my family and with my wife's family. I need that social contact but I fear it at the same time. It's like I'm living in a little hell. I'm 52 and I've suffered from social phobia all my life. I've tried many different kinds of meds and therapists. My social phobia isn't as bad now as it was when I was a young man but it is still disabling and it causes me to suffer while I should be enjoying myself with family. I often avoid family gatherings because I know I will suffer there. But I have to keep going.