When I was taking riding lessons, there was this pony that had just moved into our stables. The pony was pretty isolated previously, and wasn’t socialized properly with other ponies or horses. The pony didn’t know how to act with the other horses and ponies in it’s new environment because of the lack of socialization. I felt so bad for this little guy, cause I knew what it was like.
I know when my OCD began, but I really wish I could go back and pinpoint when my social anxiety began. All I remember was before I was five, I was a pistol. At church at the children’s sermon, I would get in trouble all the time because I would run around the altar instead of sitting and listening. I definitely wasn’t shy then. I believe that was when we lived in Alexandria, IN. After that we moved to Mount Vernon, IL, and that I believe was the first time I attended Sunday school class by myself. I remember the anxiety of that. I wanted to go with my sister, but I wasn’t allowed to go to her class. I remember feeling very awkward and not saying much.
We then moved to Midland, MI. I remember not wanting to go up to the children’s sermons at our new church. Then I started Kindergarten. I remember starting out being pretty boisterous there. I had to sing the loudest, I sang while I colored, and I prayed bent over basically reaching my feet with my hands. Kids started making fun of me, and my Kindergarten teacher was pretty hard on me. I remember practicing for a Christmas play, and the teacher had us sit boy girl boy girl, and at that time I didn’t like boys so I wanted to sit next to a girl, and I let a boy slide over so I could sit next to a girl. Guess who got in trouble? The worse part of Kindergarten though, was my teacher made me drink all my milk. After lunch was nap time, and the kids who didn’t drink all their milk had to sit at the table and not participate in nap time until all their milk was gone. Usually I would sit out the whole nap time. It was me and another boy that took the longest. I think I even had a dream about it once. I remember her putting me and this boy in a closet to get us to drink all our milk. I believe this had to have been a dream. I never liked milk and I found out later in life that I’m lactose intolerant.
I also did make a friend in Kindergarten who was an odd duck like me, but he was held back the next year, so by the time I was ready for first grade I had no friends. I stuck to myself, and barely talked to anyone at my school. I did this for 8 years straight.
During those awkward teen years, I think that’s when I really started to self sabotage. That’s why I wasn’t successful at making friends with my best friend’s new friends. It wasn’t intentional, I just didn’t know how to get out of the rut. I wanted friends so bad, but I couldn’t figure out how to go about getting them. I would start to make a friendship, and then I would say something stupid or embarrass myself, and then I would go back in my shell. I didn’t realize you had to just pick yourself back up from your stumble and move on like nothing happened. When things would start to go sour I gave up. And why was that? Because I was nothing. When I was with a group of people I would stop and let them keep walking to prove, they didn’t even notice my existence.
I eventually moved to South Carolina. I would think this is it. Maybe I can finally get a group of friends. People there really wanted to befriend me, and I had even gotten my first boyfriend. I was actually looking forward to going to school in the morning, then I stumbled. The self sabotage started to kick in. All this self doubt would creep in and after a great 2 week relationship, I broke up with my boyfriend because he was immature once. It didn’t bother me at all to friend zone him because I really didn’t think he would be in love with me. Now that I look back I think he was, but at that time I couldn’t see it because I was unlovable. You’d be a fool to be in love with me. I guess I just thought he enjoyed my company.
Every once in awhile at that high school, a friendship would start to form, but then I would freak out because people would start to notice and I would have to start making friends with them and their friends and then I would just freak out and clam up. It was definitely a pattern. It was like I didn’t know how to make more than one friend.
Then the pattern followed me into adulthood. I couldn’t make friends on the job. I felt like a robot. When I had conversations with people my personality didn’t really show through. I would talk about things like toilet paper and swimming pools, and I felt as if people’s eyes would just glaze over. Then I would notice and clam up.
When I became an adult, I was still quiet, obsessing, and self sabotaging my friendships. I met my husband when I was 19. He was handsome, and charming, and the closest thing to mentally stable compared to the other boys who liked me. For some reason, I could open up to him even though I still couldn’t with other people. I remember going to functions with him, and I would hang out with him and the guys while the girls would be in their own group. My husband even mentioned, “Why don’t you hang out with them?” And honestly, I didn’t even know why I couldn’t.
I longed for close relationships with my husband’s sibling and their spouses, but I just felt like I would ruin them because I was too quiet and not fun. Who would want to hang with a loser like me? I was just so self conscious and judgmental towards myself. I would dwell on the stupid things I would say, too. They would come back to haunt me, and I would beat myself up. Sometimes in the middle of a conversation even. I would think I said something stupid, and then just withdraw as I would mentally over analyze everything I had just said.
It wouldn’t be until my late 30’s that I would start to overcome this. With therapy and just taking some bold first steps, did I slowly come out of my shell. I am still coming out of my shell to tell you the truth. I am an introvert so I am always going to be a more quiet person, and I really don’t have any desire to become an extrovert either. I am definitely learning about myself and accepting it. Instead of trying to be what people want me to be, I am being true to myself. So many thing have come together to help me to get to this point.
Now my husband no longer has to hear me ask him if I sounded okay or if I was too quiet. I can handle holding my own now in a conversation. I am also a good listener, and I think I am coming to realize how much people appreciate that, so being quiet sometimes isn’t a bad thing after all.
Oh and by the way, if you are shy don’t you hate it when people are so eager to point it out. Like “Oh my gosh, you are so shy. You never outgrew that.” And so on and so forth.