Strange Social Behavior

I’m drained.

Burnt out.

Stressed out.

I’m all kinds of not-doing-well, I guess. I flip-flop between being okay, and not okay throughout the day and some of the time, just feeling nothing at all.

I’m a little nervous about seeing S this week – not only because it’s a change in routine (he had something else going on during my regular appointment time – we have been changing our scheduled time around A LOT this semester. He had apologized and told me that he hasn’t gotten the hang of managing his schedule yet – but also because I’ll be making a solo trip out of state the next day, as well as the fact that I have so much to talk about but just not enough time in the session to do so.

I’m also nervous about what had happened on Saturday. I feel a lot of shame for my behavior and I had contemplated not writing this post.

On Saturday, my university had the biggest annual event of our campus. We had a kayak racing competition for all the students, alumni, faculty, as well as staff. It’s a huge deal here in our campus because it’s a day where everyone on campus gets to get together and just have a great day.

It was a beautiful day to have a 1/2 mile kayak race down the canal too. Even I, who hates being outdoors and under the sun, enjoyed myself being outside.

I was at the event at 10am and had a great time just being at the canal. It’s beautiful there, even if the water looked really gross. XD I had a great time just skating up and down the sidewalk next to the canal. When the race started, I had a great time just cheering the random teams on.

This was my first year attending the event – I hesitate to name it because I don’t know if I’ll be revealing my school’s name if I did since it’s a pretty unique name, so I think I’ll just call it “the event” for now. I was excited to be there just because I had never been to this annual event and yet have heard of it ever since I joined the school in the Spring of 2015.

I was also excited to be there because I knew that CAPS had two teams representing their department. I was excited to see how the staff at CAPS would fare in the race and I was also thrilled at the chance to see them outside of the dreary CAPS building.

When I saw D, the receptionist (whom I now realize is actually an Administrative Secretary – I think they changed her title recently), I told her “Good luck!”. I said hi to T, the co-facilitator for my group, and nodded at Y, whom I had seen once before for a walk-in. D was excited to see me and cheerfully thanked me. 10 minutes later, the teams were all loaded up in their kayaks and within minutes they were all racing down the canal.

I hopped on my skateboard and followed them down the canal. I stopped halfway through to wait so that I could cheer them on as they changed rowers. When the CAPS team came by again, I recognized S, and B (she was the lead psychologist for my previous group) and I felt my heart catch in my throat. I didn’t realize that S was going to be in this team. I thought that he would be in the other team. I felt pleased that I could see him.

And suddenly, I found myself feeling like a creeper or a stalker because as the CAPS team raced by, the rest of the department were following them on foot – cheering and screaming their colleagues on. I hopped back on my skateboard and followed them.

I was totally creeping on them. My curiosity drove me onward. I felt a mix of guilt, shame, and giddy excitement as I followed them. When I arrived at the docking area, I saw that CAPS had gotten 4th place. I was very impressed because these are professionals who spend all day sitting on their office chairs in front of their computers as well as sitting on their couches/armchairs across from their clients. For them to beat some young people was an impressive feat. I felt proud for them.

I watched from 20 feet away as they disembarked and excitedly talked to each other about the race. As they started talking to each other and walked away from the docking area, I realized that they were headed towards their families.

I followed them and I saw their families. It warmed my heart to see them with their kids, spouses, and partners.They all looked like they had picture perfect families – of course, it’s just an impression but everyone looked very happy to be there. None of the kids were crabby or complaining and it looked like everyone was just having a good time. It looked like a picnic scene from a movie. It was great!

Now here’s where the shame comes in.

I felt ashamed of myself because I just stood from afar and observed them. S and I had not discussed our boundaries when it comes to school events so I didn’t quite know how to act. I didn’t know whether it was okay for me to go up to them to say hi or not – although C, the Office Manager, did recognize me moments before the race had begun and had said hi to me. Though she is the Office Manager, and not a Psychologist so the rules don’t quite apply to her. I didn’t know if any of the psychologists had noticed me or not and if they knew that I had been observing them.

I tried to be as surreptitious as I could. See, I have a huge fear of rejection – I’m so afraid that things I do and say could cause people to judge me or to not want to talk to me again. I’m always afraid of causing friction with others because I’m not always sure of how to act. So, because of that, I tend to just stand from afar and observe people, gathering knowledge of them without ever having to expose myself to the vulnerable position of potential rejection.

I think I might have stood around for maybe half an hour to an hour just observing everyone. Now, doesn’t that just sound like something a creeper would do?

I started beating myself up the longer I watched them. The more I criticized myself, the worse I felt, until finally, I snapped out of my trance-like observations and told myself that I needed to run some errands before I headed to work. As I drove to the barber’s for my desperately needed haircut, I told myself that I was being such a weirdo.

Then something else happened that was somewhat unexpected – which lends credibility to my thought that I’m really improving and recovering.

I suddenly stopped myself from criticizing myself and instead said to myself, out loud in the car as I drove, “Jules, you need to stop beating yourself up. You were curious about them. You were particularly curious about S and his family. You wanted to know what his wife looked like. You wondered if he had a mixed race family, or whether they were all Caucasians. You wanted to know what his children looked like and you wanted to confirm for yourself the gender of his youngest. You’re just really curious about him because you don’t have access to him on a regular basis. And you just want to see him in that context because you wanted to know more. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to know more about someone. It means that you care about them. You didn’t do anything weird or creepy. You and S didn’t discuss what boundaries you should have during school events so you stayed away so that there was no potential backlash. After all, the director of CAPS was there. She could have deemed your actions inappropriate and S could’ve gotten in trouble. So it was good that you stood far away and didn’t engage them”

Every time the critical voice came back, I would speak to it and say, “It’s okay. You felt what you felt. Your curiosity was burning. What you felt was valid. It’s okay…”

When I calmed down, I marveled at how I had handled that. I was so distressed when I left the canal. I felt disgusted at myself but later was able to recognize that yes, I was creeping, but that I was not doing it out of malice or inappropriate reasons. I was/am curious.

The only thing is now… I don’t know how I’m going to bring this up to S. I don’t know how he would feel knowing that I had seen him and his family. I just know that he would want me to talk to him about this. There definitely are underlying issues behind my creeping behavior as he isn’t the first person I’ve done this to – I’ve done this to everyone who’s been heavily involved in my life at some point or another. My intense desire to connect with them, and be a part of their lives overwhelms me and I obsess over them. I don’t know how normal or abnormal this behavior is but I just know that in my case, it’s a sign of deeply rooted issues that I have yet to process.

So that makes me nervous to see S on Thursday.

I hope things work out and I’ll be able to figure out why I’m so obsessed with people and how I can work through that.

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3 thoughts on “Strange Social Behavior

  1. I want to point out a few things to you here. First – you were at a public school sanctioned event where you had every right to be. Second – you didn’t go to said event knowing S would be there. Neither of those things say “obsessive stalker” behaviour to me.

    I think that what caught you was a desire for connection and to be a part of an experience that maybe you lacked when you were younger and there is nothing wrong with that, in fact I think the way you dealt with it showed tremendous growth.

    You didn’t interrupt his family time, you didn’t follow them around after for a while, you didn’t “oops, I just ran into you!”

    You stopped and realized what was going on, left, and then talked yourself down. I think S would be proud of you, to be honest.

    I wish you luck xx

    But remember that “obsessive” may not be the right word here. We have all done things in need of connection.. You wanted connection, and there’s nothing wrong with that because you held some very appropriate boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww…. Thanks, PD. That really warmed my heart. I don’t know why but I never got a notification that you had commented. Weird…

      Anyway, yeah, you’re right… I didn’t do any of those things. I could’ve and part of me really wanted to or wished that I could’ve. Also, you’ve reminded me of the fact that yes, I never did have such an experience – the wholesome movie-like family time experience, I mean. The one where the family sits around on green grass and everyone’s happy and having fun. An uncle comes up and scoops a little child up and throws him into the air, the kid laughs… That kind of scene, you know? I never had that. And a part of me desperately wished that I had a dad like S.

      So I think you’re right… I was yearning for connection with S in that aspect – as a dad. I’m glad that you think that what I did was appropriate. I was worrying over that. I know I’m going to have to bring this up to him but I hope he doesn’t feel like his privacy was violated because I had observed him.

      Liked by 1 person

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