Confessions of a Shy Girl – NOT!
Helen has struggled with social anxiety as long as she can remember. Through the support of her family, friends and technology, the 23 year old is finding her voice.
People always said I was shy. I guess it was because I was usually too nervous to talk in big crowds, in a noisy classroom or at parties (which I also didn’t like to go to).
But I’m not really shy. I am not timid or easily frightened or cautious. I want to connect with other people and am willing to trust those who put in the time to get to know me. People think I’m shy because I am sometimes uncomfortable in the company of other people, especially in big groups or crowds. But that doesn’t mean I’m anti-social either.
I have social anxiety. While I may seem different because I’m not extroverted in a world that celebrates people who talk loudly and talk often, I do like to talk but at my own pace. It is not my choice to feel anxious when I speak with people. I don’t choose to be nervous when I stand in front of a group. I don’t choose to struggle.
When I was younger, my anxiety did prevent me from living my life to the fullest. It made high school tough especially because of bullying and university started out challenging. But I have decided that will not define who I am as a person. I am learning to cope and find strategies to help me at school and in the wider world.
I can’t think when I get nervous so I need a little more time than other people. My lingering anxiety still makes me worry about saying the wrong thing but I’ve learned how to better control it and now my face doesn’t necessarily turn beet red the way it used to when I got nervous.
Other than medication and coping strategies, what has really helped me is technology – the ability to text rather than talk. Texting and emailing are my preferred ways of communicating with others. I am better able to express my feelings and thoughts through typing or texting. I don’t have to worry about taking the step to initiate conversation by calling someone or worry about how my voice sounds over the phone or wonder if my face is turning red.
The most important thing is that I don’t have to worry about what to say immediately after a sentence is finished. I don’t feel pressure to respond right away. Technology makes it much easier for me to communicate with others because time is on my side. I can take a breath and gather my thoughts before I text or type. That makes conversations less stressful, makes me less anxious and makes it easier for me to connect with people. That’s making a huge difference in my life.
See also: Family Ties – Bridge to Recovery