I don’t reach out to people.
I’m terrified of talking on the phone and starting conversations with strangers. I’m even scared of texting certain friends and coming on too strong, of graduating from a concerned friend to an annoying nuisance. So I delete messages. I wait too long to answer back. I don’t let on that I care.
But I care more than anyone realizes. I care so much it hurts.
I come across as a snob, because I find it hard to talk, hard to force a smile. But I’m not trying to be a bitch. I’m only trying to survive — because, to me, social interaction is a war zone. It makes my cheeks redden, my lungs flutter.
That’s why I don’t look people in the eye as they’re talking to me. I look at their lipstick, at the wall behind them, I might even glance down at my phone. It makes me seem like I don’t give a damn about what they have to say, but avoiding their gaze is just a crutch. I’m paying closer attention than they can imagine. Absorbing every word.
I’m not a good conversationalist — and it makes me seem like a shitty friend.
I don’t jump into conversations. I’m quiet in groups. People assume that I’m sitting there, judging them for every word that pops out of their lips when really I’m in awe of how easily they can communicate. How natural it is for them. How human they are and how fucked up I am.
Of course, they don’t realize that I have anxiety. They just think I’m quiet. Shy.
No, they don’t realize I have anxiety, because I’m not shaking at the table and hyperventilating into a paper bag. My meltdowns happen before I see them.
The night before, on my drive there, in the car — I’m freaking out the entire time. Imagining all of the things that could go wrong. Picturing how embarrassed I’ll be.
But when I’m finally in public, I internalize everything. I try to minimize my physical symptoms to avoid drawing attention to myself — but just because I calmed my shaking doesn’t mean I’ve calmed my mind.
I’m still anxious. I’m just not showing it. Secretly, I’m freaking out over what I look like. Freaking out over what to say next. Freaking out over why someone across the room gave me a strange look.
And if I need to compose myself, I’ll escape to the bathroom and heavy breathe inside of a stall or splash water across my face, and then walk back into the room like I’m perfectly fine.
But I’m not fine. Anxiety makes sure I’m never fine.
It makes me hate myself. It makes me turn down opportunities that I know I’d enjoy. It makes me stay quiet when I have something important to say.
It makes me look like a complete asshole.
But that’s not true at all. I’m just someone that’s trying to get through the day. Someone that wants to be liked, but feels like they’ll never belong.
By Holly Riordan for ToughCatalog