My brain is wired different.
To me, a few people in the room look like a crowd of dinosaurs.
I feel that they have super-hearing and will judge everything I say. I’m so scared of attention. I dread mockery – being laughed at. I can’t see that in my quietness I am actually drawing more attention to myself. I cannot fathom that my fears are coming to pass because my silence and loneliness are making people judge me, look at me, wonder things about me.
Just like how Anorexics think they are fat, I think my quiet voice is loud. You can hardly hear me but I so hate the sound of my voice when I’m in public, that if you ask me a question, I will just shrug my shoulders instead. I want to talk to you but I don’t want to hear myself speak. I feel it will make everyone turn around and look at me. I want to shrink away and hide. It’s okay, you can talk to me as much as you like, but I guess a one-way conversation is hard to keep up.
My facial expressions are dull. They give you no indication that I am listening. They do not tell you that I am happy for you to be around. They give away no clues that I am glad that you are showing an interest in me. They make you feel rejected. Worthless. You think I am uninterested in you because I cannot engage in conversation at this point. All I can think of is that I want to be as far away from here as possible. Not far from you, but far from my own head. Your feelings should matter to me, but my dread takes me into a kind of selfishness that understandably makes others irritated. You have needs too. You would like me to take an interest in you and ask you how you are feeling.
But during moments like these, all I can think of is me, my fears and how I want to escape from them forever.
You speak, and I can hardly raise my head to give you eye contact. You ask if I’m okay and I appear irritated. Don’t hug me at this point or I’ll feel daft. I’ll pull away and make you feel even worse. But I mean no harm, it’s just the way I was put together. My wires connect to a different part of my brain than yours do.
So I mutter a reply that’s rather curt and you pull away because you’re rather hurt.
Even as you create a distance between us, I don’t appear to be bothered in the slightest. My apparent indifference to your feelings stir up resignation inside your spirit and you move away from me completely, seeking solace in someone else. Someone who knows how to treat you as a friend. Someone who you can interact with properly without having to decipher psychological clues.
I keep my head down but I’m not really reading. My eyes have scanned the same line 8 times. But pride is getting in and I don’t want you to know that everything inside me is screaming for you to come back. I’ve blown it again haven’t I?
So I harden my heart and declare to myself that I really do not care. Who needs friends anyway?
But something inside me is changing. I feel a whirling about in my stomach as nausea creeps into my intestines. My muscles are tense and I feel rubbish.
Why cannot I not respond to social cues like everyone else? Why do I feel such panic when strangers are around? I say ‘strangers’ but I know who most people are. All the same, I don’t feel secure in their presence.
Why is an environment with many people so terrifying to me?
Why does it make my head so fuzzy that I cannot show those who care how I appreciate their support?
I feel so different from them. Abnormal.
I think of those few comrades who haven’t given up on me and I yearn for them to be here right now. How I long for their companionship – accepting me for who I am and having the tenacity to coax me into being myself. But it’s taken them a long while to discover who I really am. Looking back, I guess being around them daily helped to bring me out of my shell.
But you – I cannot be so assertive as to ask you to not give up on me, for I know it feels to you that I have already given up on you. In my heart I haven’t, but I know my actions say otherwise.
I am so sorry. My silence is not because I’m uninterested in you. It is not because I do not like you. I can understand how annoying and rejecting I seem, but in those moments of self-preservation, all I can think about is how horrible I feel.
You want to scream at me.
Order me to speak.
Shout and ask me why I’m being so boring.
Thank you for trying. Thank you for caring enough to try in the first place.
One day I hope I will feel different and maybe then I will talk.
This isn’t a plea for you to try harder. This is not a request for you to give me another chance. I just want you to know I am sorry for not being able to be the friend you wanted me to be. And I am eternally thankful for the great effort you have made to include me in your life. I really appreciate the time you have taken to try to make me feel normal, special, included.
I hope one day when this social anxiety passes, that I will be able to look you in the eye and answer your questions, show an interest in what you love and hate, laugh at the things that tickle you and sympathise with the things that make you cry. I hope I can be the person who you needed me to be back then. But I know it may be too late.
Our paths may have widened so far that we may never reconcile. But I will never forget how you tried. And in the end, that’s all that matters in life.
When we look back – through all the success and failures, the one thing we can say that will give us satisfaction and peace is that we tried. You certainly did with me. Thank you.