All evidence to the contrary, I am a very shy, introverted and anxious person. In person. On paper, in texts, over social media I am brash, outspoken, uninhibited, wildly impulsive and loud. I over share. I flay myself publicly so others know they aren’t alone. I’m loud about my life. Above all other things I am LOUD. I am a force of nature that wants its path no matter what stands in my way.
The thing is, I am most often the thing in my way. I am the wall I come up against when the flying free me wants to explode into the air in a colorful burst of sound and fury.
I have lived with intense social anxiety since I was a kid. There are days when it’s manageable, and there are days when it feels like there is an invisible wall between me and my life and trying to push past it takes Herculean effort.
I can look out the window and have every part of me yearn to be able to simply just go for a walk with my dogs to feel better but I’m frozen. It makes me feel simultaneously trapped and yet intensely driven to beat it.
School was terrifying. In classes I was ok, I could focus on work and my studies. I sat in the front of every room so I couldn’t see the other students and I would pretend it was just me and that teacher.
Passing between classes, going to recess, and lunches were quite another situation. College was no different. Parties took the place of those recesses. They required conversation and solid self esteem and a thick skin. I spent a lot of time waiting things out in stalls or strangers bathrooms.
Adulthood meant interacting with other adults at kids play dates, concerts, games, open houses, in staff break rooms, annual parties, and a million other equally terrifying places. I swear I had so many kids because they formed a human duck blind to hide behind as I navigated such treacherous landscapes.
If my life has a sound track, it’s definitely from Jaws. Thank God I like sharks. Just not too close to me. In fact, I like them best when they’re far, far away from me. Like everything else!
I am supremely uncool. I’ve been this supremely uncool for ages. It takes a lot of energy and distraction techniques to master this level of uncoolness. My coping skills are mad strong. Like so many people who struggle with anxiety, I use a combination of avoidance and humor to survive myself.
If I can avoid a social situation you can be absolutely certain I will. If I can’t, I’ll come in swinging with funny stories, self deprecating humor, and do whatever it takes to keep those laughs coming until I can escape and go back into hiding. I may have loads of anxiety, but I sure as hell don’t have any shame, a personal point of pride.
So I’m loud. I openly confess and display my messy mind to the world deliberately. I challenge myself to strip away the mask of laughter, and I hold my feet to the fire by letting people know upfront that I’m trying, I’m struggling, it’s hard, I’m dying inside when I’m out there face to face, but I need to be out there face to face if I want to truly engage in my life. And I know that I’m not alone.
I know there are so many people out there, looking at everyone else and wondering why they feel so alone, wondering why it looks so easy and feels impossible. And so I am loud.
I shine a light on the dark places inside of myself. I want people to look at the magnificent hot mess that I am and understand that they are not even remotely alone. We are all in this together.
And so I am loud.