Social Anxiety, Back to “Normal”, and All The Things

Jennifer Donovan
Sh*t I Wanna Say Before I Die
4 min readJun 1, 2022
Photo credit: Valentina Skilkina, Image description: a pink, graffiti heart on a grey, cracked concrete wall. The cracks break the heart into uneven pieces.

I am back to work after the long Memorial Day weekend. I’m exhausted, but (mostly) in a great way. I got to see some of my oldest and dearest friends over the weekend, some of whom I haven’t seen since the start of the pandemic. It was time well spent, even if I have an emotional hangover (although that bottle of wine probably contributed to an actual hangover, as well!)

I have found that since the pandemic, I have a lot of social anxiety. I have always been an introvert, so socializing has always taken a lot of energy, and too much socializing could deplete me so completely, I would have to schedule “alone time”, and ask people not to contact me for a spell. While I have genuinely loved a lot of the alone time I’ve experienced during pandemic isolation, I have found that coming out of it has brought new feelings of insecurity: do people still like me? Did they ever? Do I even know how to talk to people anymore? I’m so much fatter now. Why didn’t I start working out before this gathering? I found my heart racing and my hands shaking as I walked into my friend’s backyard.

Thankfully, my anxiety quickly dissipated as I got to actually hug and talk and laugh with old friends, and it was as if no time had passed at all. The day after, however, I found myself tired and irritable. It’s been so long since I’ve spent such a prolonged amount of time with a large group of people, I was emotionally and physically spent. I have gotten into a habit of going to bed and rising fairly early and have barely drunk alcohol during the past two years, so all of my resources — physical and mental, were drained. But I am looking forward to hopefully upping my socializing to pre-pandemic levels and exercising my extrovert muscles in order to lessen and hopefully eradicate my newfound social anxiety symptoms.

Today, while the last vestiges of my emotional highs and lows from the weekend begin to ebb and I return to my more even-keeled self, I nevertheless find myself sitting with a lot. 1,000,000+ people dead from COVID in the U.S., infection numbers on the rise again, and the abandonment of any coherent national plan to acknowledge or mitigate the virus spread, leaving our most vulnerable populations (especially the disabled community) feeling isolated, scared, alone, and abandoned. The mass shooting in Uvalde, TX, and the 19 children and two teachers murdered, the continued gun violence since Uvalde, and the absolute failure of our politicians led by the morally bankrupt Republican Party which refuses to back down from their position of allowing anyone to own a weapon designed to kill as many people as possible in as short a period of time, as they simultaneously fight to end access to safe abortion, birth control, and put in place the mechanisms to begin prosecuting (more) pregnant people. The murder of ten Black people in Buffalo in the name of white supremacy. The continued police violence against Black people two years after the murder of George Floyd. It’s all swirling in my head and my heart as I try to get back to work and back to “normal”.

I find the push to return to “normal” personally untenable. As each day and each act of violence bleeds into the next, I find our collective culture less sustainable, less worthy of defense, more uncaring and more destructive. The violence, anger, hate, and cruelty are coming so fast, I find myself needing more time to process. I need time to grieve. I get up each day and put one foot in front of the other. I walk and feed my dogs and myself. I hug my husband, and I do my job, but at this point, I am a robot barely getting through the motions.

I know I can’t be alone in this feeling. I know everyone feels things differently, expresses themselves differently, and even grieves differently. But I know I can’t be the only person showing up at work, or the dinner table, or the pick-up line, or the play date, or the bbq, or wherever you have to show up to keep life moving forward, with so much heaviness in their heart.

What are you carrying? What are you sitting with these days? Do you want to talk about it?

Do you have questions about anything? Is there anything in particular you’d like me to write about?

I hope you’re doing okay. I hope you’re giving yourself time to feel, process, and grieve. I hope you’re giving yourself time to be a human in a world that wants us to simply produce and consume until we die and are replaced by another warm body.

Write back or leave a comment. I’m thinking of you all, too, and holding you all in my heart.