I've always been both very extroverted and very introverted. I can just as easily be the life of the party as I can not even care to be around another person at all. I've always required a certain amount of alone time, but I've also enjoyed the energy of lively settings and lots of people.
Since I was discharged from Our Lady of Peace last October, however, I've found my extroverted self has struggled. My friends took me out that first Friday night (I was discharged on a Monday). We just went to Old Chicago, but it was packed and I threw up thrice. I had to step outside twice, and I felt overwhelmed the entire time. I tried to console myself that I had, of course, spent the previous weekend in the serenity of a mental health facility. The contrast was staggering. I just needed a little more time, I said.
Except that it's now been nearly ten months and I'm still easily overwhelmed by crowds. Last night, my friends and I went out to celebrate a birthday in our group. It was simple enough: dinner at Silver Dollar (their barbecue pork sandwich was terrific!) and then off to Phoenix Hill Tavern for some live music and drinks. We had three tables at the Silver Dollar outside, all the way in the back, so we were as out of the way as could be, but I had to take a Buspar before we ever even placed our dinner order. (Buspar is an anti-anxiety medication.) It helped, but it also wore off by the time we got to Phoenix Hill - which was certainly more intimidating and exciting than the Silver Dollar had been.
I don't know what's going on with my anxiety. There's no conscious thought that accompanies those attacks. I can't say that I find it upsetting to be in such settings for any given reason. Crowds make me nervous because of Crohn's and I'm always afraid I won't be able to quickly get to a bathroom, but at Old Chicago and Silver Dollar, that wasn't really even an issue as they were restaurants. I don't think it has to do with the noise level, any sense of attention placed on me or anything else that would at least explain why I find it so upsetting these days. Maybe I'm just mentally still tethered to the calm of OLOP and it's too jarring to be somewhere that's the antithesis of that? I can't say.
What I can say is that I find it distracting and, frankly, a little upsetting. I'd like to be able to become comfortable again in such settings. I should be able to dine with friends at a restaurant without feeling keyed up to the point that I want to puke. I can't even say whether it's a flight-or-fight energy. I just feel...uncomfortably excited.