Anxiety & Crowds: My Kryptonite

Tonight a friend of mine had a birthday party at a bar I’d never heard of. I had a class til 10, so I zipped over there at 10:30 to stop by for a bit. I get to the bar and find that it is a small space filled to the brim with people – typical of L.A.

I circled the bar the best I could, but couldn’t find her. Maybe I happen to arrive when she was in the restroom or something. But I discovered something about myself in that brief two minutes…my stress level skyrocketed.

This is not news to me, per say. I am 35 and have been in many crowded loud bars. But this was the first time that I ever stopped to take notice of exactly what I was feeling. My anxiety went into overdrive. I felt shaky, nervous and on edge. So…I left.

I never saw my friend, but I couldn’t take it. I didn’t want to be there.

I will send her an email apologizing for missing her party after saying that I would be there. And I genuinely am sorry for not making it. But I realized tonight that I need to take care of myself.

I am easily prone to stress, depression and anxiety anyway. I simply cannot keep voluntarily putting myself in situations that exacerbate those problems.

Crowds have always been unpleasant to be around. A few months ago, I went to a karaoke bar in the valley with three people and we were the only non-employees there. We stayed about two hours. By the time we left more people had arrived, but the total was only ten or twelve max. And I had an amazing time. I sang six times. I never bumped into anyone. I didn’t have to raise my voice to speak to the person next to me, or dip my ear to hear them.

Now, that particular situation is rare, especially in Los Angeles. So, I know I cannot expect to find that too often. Which unfortunately means that I’m not going to be frequenting too many bars.

During the two minutes I was circling this bar tonight searching for my friend I noticed that everyone there seemed to be having a good time. People were dancing, talking and laughing. And I realized that I have no idea how they do it. I don’t know what’s fun about any of that. And that’s okay. Many of those people might not understand what I find so fun about playing a game of RISK with five people for three hours. Different strokes and what not.

If you were at my last two birthday parties you might wonder how I could have had fun since they happened at a bar that got pretty crowded too. Here’s how: 1. the bar I went to was much larger 2. There was an outdoor area and apparently that makes a difference 3. It wasn’t crowded when I first got there, so I was quite liquored up by the time the crowd formed 4. I hadn’t had this realization yet. Not sure what I’m going to do for my next birthday, but after discovering this, I’m going to be looking at a potential house party or something outdoors maybe.

So, if I know you and you’re having a bar party at a small place that will likely be crowded, I apologize in advance if you don’t see me there. But I gotta take care of myself and those situations do me way more harm than good.

Thanks, y’all!

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