caregiver social anxiety

I know I'm not alone in this one.  

So often when I'm in public and I try to have a small talk conversation with others, I struggle.  It gives me anxiety and I feel like I don't have anything to add.  Conversations about activities going on around us, new restaurants I should try, how their kids soccer games went, concerts, vacations, normal life stuff.

Except I don't have a normal life.  I mean of course it's normal to Steve & I, but those talks about their vacation to the beach last week doesn't really have much in common with my husband struggling to breath because the ridiculous pollen count in Georgia right now, or the fact that his feeding tube is leaking stomach acid.  


Aside from that, small talk also makes me feel superficial.  It's one of those conversations I have and at the end I'm rolling my eyes at myself.  Did I just say that?  Why?  That's not what I actually think? I have a panic response and start complaining with the lady checking me out of the store about the traffic because of construction on the road.  Do I actually care about construction?  Nope. Not one bit.  You know why?  Because I leave my house for an hour every 2-3 weeks.  Why would construction actually matter to me.  Why didn't I just say that?  

As a caregiver when I'm out of the house, I'm not fully out of there.  A part of me is always home, responding to whomever is staying with Steve, and constantly checking my phone to see if they need me.  Listening to people around me talk about their day to day lives often leaves me silent and feeling awkward.  Because I'm not present enough to even be able to add to the conversations, let alone anything witty.  It's usually a smile and a oh yeah.  

It's good that I am aware of this, because it's something I now work on.  Today at the eye doctor, I really tried to engage with the doctor about how his 3 year old leaves him wanting to sing songs to his patients.  "That's cute, "I say, as I'm thinking about how much Steve and I wanted children.  It was my choice not to have them.  Steve has baby fever daily, and I know I couldn't take one more single thing onto my plate and a child is more than a plate full.  I try not to bring myself into the room and not make it about me, but it happens.  

So today's appointment was about more than just my eyes.  It was about me needing to work on being present in even the most uncomfortable situations.  It's learning to walk straight into the awkward, embrace it, feel it, and learn to deal with it.  Rather than shutting down every chance of small talk. The random encounters used to be my favorite thing, and I will get it back.  Now that I'm aware of it.

Anyone else know this struggle?  What are some of your tricks?