Mental Health

Please Don’t See Me… Hiding from People I Know

little boy covering his face with his hands

Last week I was in a grocery store outside my neighbourhood. I was feeling physically lousy that day, and had greasy hair and was wearing the previous day’s clothes that I’d slept in.

In the produce section, I spotted a former coworker. This was someone I used to really like working with, and a very kind person. My first reaction, though, was to hide, so I took a detour on my way to grab celery for the guinea pigs. Then I spotted him again in the bakery section, this time about to walk right by me.

More active hiding was called for at that point. ย I did a quick 180 to keep my face hidden, and I think chances are he was preoccupied or else he would’ve noticed the weirdo doing the evasive manoeuvre.

It’s not as though this was someone who I had any negative associations with, so what was going on? Why was I hiding?  I looked like crap, but that wasn’t the issue either – or at least, it wasn’t a major factor.

I think the biggest factor was embarrassment. My level of functioning career-wise has tanked over the last few years. There’s a very good reason for that (my illness) and I’ve made the most of what I’ve been dealt, so most of the time it’s not an issue. But when I’m faced with the possibility of talking to former colleagues, I start to feel inadequate.

This colleague I avoided in the grocery store wouldn’t have judged (or if he did, he would have kept it very much to himself). He was always really supportive when it came to my illness. So if the judgment wasn’t going to come from him, that meant that it was firmly rooted in my head.

I think part of the issue is that when seeing former colleagues, naturally the first topic of conversation that’s going to come up is work. That’s just the way it is, and there’s no way around it.  And if it doesn’t happen to be the first thing that comes up, it’s guaranteed to be the second. And I don’t want to talk about work, but really in that context there’s no way to avoid it.

I suppose it’s sort of an identity thing too. I used to be a nurse, then that shifted to nurse with a side of patient, then straddling nurse-patient, and now patient with a side of nurse. And that is what it is, but it does change who I am in relation to my old colleagues.ย  My identity has evolved over time, but for colleagues who I haven’t seen for several years, they know me from a few different identities ago and to them this would look like a large shift.

I don’t know if my weird explanation makes any sense, but I suspect I’m not alone in avoiding or hiding from certain people. Is that something you’ve experienced?

book cover: Managing the Depression Puzzle by Ashley L. Peterson

Managing the Depression Puzzle takes a holistic look at the different potential pieces that might fit into your unique depression puzzle. It’s available on Amazon, he MH@H Store, and other online retailers.

This post contains affiliate links that let you support MH@H at no extra cost to you.

COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.

47 thoughts on “Please Don’t See Me… Hiding from People I Know”

  1. Sometimes I also avoid people, and I guess all of us do it for different reasons. I think it is totally fine (normal)! May be your situation was different and it is also ok to vent out or express what you felt like ๐Ÿ™‚ Stay blessed.

  2. Oh, I can definitely relate. Like, for seriousness. I hate all forms of interaction on-the-spot. I get self-conscious just returning the mailman’s hello.

    But I know what you’re saying. I HATE running into people from my past. Hate, hate, hate. My dad and I were out walking once, and we ran into a married couple who I knew from back when I taught reading. Everyone at the reading center knows I’m crazy, although it doesn’t bother me too much. But this woman who’d worked with me was so patronizing. My dad was bragging to her that I’m into woodworking and I build furniture. And she was like, “Oh, that’s so cute.” And it just felt like… she was talking down to me, I guess?

    I totally understand how you feel!! Believe me, I’ve hid from people in the grocery store too many times to count!!

  3. It does make sense but t is something one needs to change. In my view and in my case at least. I have spent much of my life wondering if anything I did would dispel the condition: career, geographic location, belief.

    In the last 30 years I have experimented ad infinitum and nothing has solved the problem.I feel I could probably achieve anything I wanted if I were happy. I was certainly lucky enough to have been born with sufficient intelligence.

    So to me it now all boils down to one thing:getting rid of depression. I have been busy reading research on treatment using psychedelics and indeed experimenting with small does on myself.

    Most of the research is on larger doses and I am currently pondering taking a very much larger dose in a supervised setting.

    i do think one has to take very determined and strong action. Whether such action works I have no idea. But anyone who has suffered knows that there comes a point where you will try pretty well anything to make the misery stop.

    I guess we need to keep trying. The alternative is of course extinction. Which isn’t too bright for those who have relatives and dependents.

    So for me at least the risks of a full blown psychedelic trip are beginning to look negligible.

  4. The identity shift… I get it. Mine has shifted a time or two, some for happy reasons but still hard (parenting break from work)… shattered even (on the job injury). Then came back together better than before. Best to you as you adjust to life’s challenges!

  5. Oh, gosh, and the rest! I’ve done that so many times from different people over the years. To be honest, half of them (mostly school and university peers) probably don’t even remember me, or wanted to act forgetful for reasons of their own, as I haven’t always been skilful about getting out the way in time and they must have seen me.

    The problem of living in an Orthodox Jewish community is that everyone lives within walking distance of a central point (the synagogue) and even in a very Jewish area such as the one I live in, there are not so many Jewish shops, so I run into other people all the time. It’s difficult.

    I also want to avoid talking about work, or, if I absolutely have to talk, I’m evasive to cover up the fact that I’m lower down the career ladder than someone my age and with educational qualifications should be, and working part-time on short-term contracts. But if I can avoid talking about work, they want to talk about family which is even worse (they have them, I don’t)…

  6. Oh, I guess with me there could also be an autistic thing about not wanting to meet people suddenly, and seeing people in a different setting can just feel ‘wrong’.

  7. I think what you are experiencing is more common than you might know. I was going to reply here with my thoughts, but they quickly expanded into a post, so I’ll share the link with you presently. One last thought (and I’m not taking your thoughts lightly at all, but my thought is kinda funny) .. never go out of your house, especially to the store, without at least washing your hair. Because you’ll inevitably run into someone you know. I’ve found this happen again and again, and now I’m paranoid to go out without at least a hat if my hair is ‘bad’. I once ran into my husband’s ex-wife in the produce section. I looked like hell because we’d been doing some remodeling and I had on grubbies and my hair and myself were pretty grimy. I never ran into the woman again in my life, so I became convinced it was because I looked so awful that I did that time.

  8. I can so relate to your situation. I tend to avoid people I know when I’m not feeling at my best. Especially those days when I roll out of bed unkept and looking like a wrecking ball hit me upside the head. I think it’s only natural to avoid contact with people when we feel this way. To answer you question, if I hide? Hell yes!

  9. I believe we all avoided people at certain point and we still do! Sometimes for silly reasons but we just do it…
    I’m usually sociable and I love to meet new people (something that has decreased a bit with time) but in some occasions, I remember I avoided people because I was not so confident to start the conversation and I kept thinking why I did that! Nothing is wrong with me! But it happened…Then I avoided people that love to ask many questions (especially relatives), and from my point of view, when we know that we’re not happy where we are and we didn’t achieve our goals as we wished and dreamed…We don’t want anyone to remind us that we didn’t…
    But when we’re so happy in our life, we will take the initiative and speak to people even if they didn’t notice us or simply ignored us…because we don’t care what they might think or say or ask

  10. I am convinced that when I am at my most fragile state and I go out that is when I will run into someone who Iโ€™d rather not see me in that fragile state. I make it a point now that if Iโ€™m feeling a certain way, I donโ€™t go anywhere.

  11. I can so relate. I am a nurse who has had the same kind of career regression. There are of course times when out shopping that I see and avoid ex coworkers and acquaintances. I know when I look a bit unkempt I especially want to avoid conversing with them, with the inevitable questions about work ( I don’t).
    There’s always a confused look, like they’re going over possible reasons why I would not be working.
    I was previously very high functioning, and in these situations, the reminders are difficult and I end up feeling less than, afterwards.

  12. Yep I’ve always struggled with bumping into people I know as well. Specifically because I’m usually out of work so when the work question comes up I tend to panic and don’t want to be judged negatively for it. So I usually do the same thing as you have done, either hide or pretend I never saw them in the first place.

  13. I avoid people I recognise when I see them in public when I can for similar reasons. I think itโ€™s a social anxiety issue for me ๐Ÿ™

  14. When I am struggling for a job and my other friends are well settled because of their family approach or something. One day when I came back to my room after my interview, I am lost in identical roads because I am new at that place. After half an hour struggling, I am able to locate the correct way to home. What I saw that one of my college friend came towards me, he is too far and I think he doesn’t see me yet. in college days he always makes fun of me:-( I tried to change my path, so to avoid him.
    Since I know that when he meets meet, His first question will be What are you doing here! Since my condition is not well at that time and I have no perfect explanation! I tried to avoid as much as possible. but I failed to do so. Love your article. thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I never want to see people I grew up with. They always seem to remember me and I cannot strum up those memories for lack of having them. I don’t want people to think they are not memorable. Those that I do remember I don’t care to see are because of them being judgemental assholes. I also struggle with where I know people from. I’ve worked in the public for so long that it is difficult to know where I know them from or what phase of my life I was in. I always question if I used with them.

      1. The worst feeling is when someone makes an impression on you and they don’t even remember you. You don’t exactly want to go into detail that your memory was drown but do not to make them feel insignificant.

  16. Oh yes I can relate to this so much. I also sometimes don’t want to see people I don’t like and also sometimes people who are nice to me. I just don’t want to talk about my life to everyone as I’m still looking for a job and suffer from anxiety. They don’t know what it’s like. I understand you so well. You did the right thing ๐Ÿ’—

  17. Yes, I avoid people. If I’m tired and don’t want to drag out an errand, I avoid. If I don’t want to dodge a lot of personal questions about how I’m feeling that are asked by someone who may not be sincere or someone I really don’t know that well, I avoid. Avoiding doesn’t have to be seen as a negative thing. It is a valid way to provide self-care is some situations.

Leave a Reply