My Ghosts Give Me Anxiety

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When I’m out in public and I catch a glimpse of a car someone I dated drove, I freeze up. My heartbeat starts to race and think of the easiest way to hide if it comes down to that. Nine times out of ten, it’s not them and I feel a wave of relief wash over me. This says more about my relationship to those people than the actual relationship itself.
I have no desire to run into anyone I dated (does anyone?) but it has happened. I’ve run into them, their parents, siblings, even their new girlfriends.
You see, I used to be that girl who hung out with her ex-boyfriends after they broke up. We ran in the same social crowd, so it was inevitable that we would see each other. The only other choice I had was to lose all of my friends and I wasn’t about to let that happen. So I sucked it up, went to the parties, even if I wasn’t ready, didn’t want to go, or felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t going to risk losing what I had.
If you care to guess, you can say that those nights didn’t always end well. I would usually drink too much to shake the nerves. Some nights it ended with tears, other times fights, and on the really good nights, both. Other times my exes and I got along just fine. We were adults and we could both attend the same party without causing a scene. Those nights were rare, but they made me believe that I could keep doing what I was doing. Until I had enough.
It always started out the same. I would get the invite via Facebook or text and I would immediately get anxious. I would check out the invite list to see who I could cling to that night, who was going to be there and start thinking what I was going to wear.
Usually, the night of the party, I almost always back out. I know it’s not gonna end well and just forget about it. My friends always told me to come anyway, assured me that everything will be fine. But it almost always wasn’t.
So this year, I stopped going. I stopped putting myself in situations that made me uncomfortable and gave me anxiety. I decided that if I felt like I needed to have a drink to be able to stay in a situation, it was a situation I shouldn’t be in.
A few weeks ago I was invited to a party and was really excited that I was going to be able to go. I hadn’t seen these people in a long time and it was going to be good to catch up. Of course, some of the people I dated were going to be there but I figured I would be okay.
The night before the party, I got upset with a friend who was putting herself in a situation with an ex that we both knew wasn’t going to end well. I got frustrated because even though she knew that and I knew that, she was putting herself in that situation anyway. And that it dawned on me that I was doing the exact same thing by going to that party. And so I didn’t go. I might have made some people a little mad (I was very vocal about getting pizza for the party instead of sandwiches) but ultimately, it was what was best for me. I have so regrets about that. I won’t apologize for it either. If people really wanted to see you and hang out with you, they will do so in an environment that makes you feel safe.
I’m still working on not being so anxious every time I see a car an old boyfriend used to have. That’s something that will come with time.
And next time that you’re invited to a party where you know you’re going to be uncomfortable, skip it. The pizza isn’t worth it.
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