Growing Up the ‘Shy’ Girl

‘Anxiety in children is normal. If your child shows signs of anxiety, you might just need to acknowledge her fears and gently encourage her. But if anxiety is interfering with your child’s daily life, you might need to think about professional help’ – Raisingchildren.net.au

I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. The earliest memory I have of this is being in childcare at the age of about 4; the bathrooms were unisex and there were four toilets along the wall with no cubicle walls separating them. I refused to use them. I did not want the carers and other children to see, and I ended up having to use the childcare workers separate single toilet bathroom. In which one carer did not approve of. Because of her disapproval, I learnt to hold on. It was not until I reached 19 that I could use public toilets… placing toilet paper in the bowl on top of the water so it would soften the sound of the urine hitting the water. I was 24 when I tried to not care using a toilet in public situations. The anxiety does still tend to creep up, so I put my headphones on and play some music in most cases.

Growing up, my family classified me as ‘shy’. When having an episode in a social setting that was always their reasoning. I wasn’t ‘shy’ exactly. They had no idea what was happening on the inside. They were silent panic attacks; my body shuts down. I try and speak and no words come out, my chest feels like it is crushing inwards, I can’t make eye contact. These emotions are so intense, that when asked why I was acting the way I was, the tears would come out, without any prompt or reasoning. I could not express the emotions, and this was the outcome. My voice would not work, the built up negative energy would pour out anyway it could. If I did speak, they would be jumbled, mumbled or I’d be missing key words.

The reaction to the tears was that I was a ‘sook’, ‘attention seeker’, somebody who overreacted. Nobody knew the real reason and I could not talk about it without the tears starting and the no sense sentences. I learnt to keep the emotion in, which ended up building up and being release over stupid fights and trivial matters, most which were with my sister. And really put a strain on our relationship growing up. We couldn’t talk to each other, I had my problems, and she probably had hers, which we’ve never discussed.

School was hard. I have never really related to people my age. Puberty was even harder; my body was reacting negatively to the symptoms of PCOS (which was discussed in my last post if you’re interested), and I was very self-conscious because of my body. I always knew that there was something wrong with me mentally, but I did not want to draw attention to it and ask for help. If I did I was scared I would have another label. I found refuge in friends that who also were alienated from others. Burnouts, emo’s, homosexuals and bipolar babes, it was nice to belong. It is true, crazy people attract crazy people. Like energies always attract.

It came to a point where I felt like I did not deserve them, or that they liked me out of pity or thought they could use me in someway. Growing up television ended up being my distraction. My thoughts were constant and my judgement on myself never ended, I could go out with my friends but had mini episodes almost constantly, mostly when meeting new people. I am not someone who can go out every day, I need rest days, my mind needs to repair. TV was the answer in my youth, because I was doing something that was switching my brain off, without it my thoughts would repeat awkward situations in my head or situations that were not big or noticed by other people, like the way I said something in a conversation or the way I walked, these were huge to me at the time. Without it, who knows where I would be today. The distraction kept me hidden.

Now when I look back, I wish that parents and society would look more closely at the shy child. Are they really shy or are they young and have anxiety. Diagnose early and be understanding.

Such big emotions for such little people.

Some of my biggest episodes were during school. One of them being in primary school which will always remain with me. In years three and five there was a mathematics and English test you would take to see what level your studies were at, and if you needed extra help. In grade three when I found out about this, I thought this was going to be based on my grades for the year and was already doubting my ability to pass. I had a big anxiety attack and missed the test having to complete it a few days later when I was finally able to come back to school. My mum thought it was nerves. I think a lot of parents think this and do not realise panic attacks can start this early. I was a sick bay kid, always finding ways to try and get out of school and go home. Some days were worse than others, and I would freeze and not be able to talk or concentrate. Home was my safe place. I do wish my parents had picked up on my anxiety earlier and found help for me or tried to understand it. It is a lot more common than people think.

Pay attention. Make the shy kids feel important, don’t ignore them. It’s a long battle. The longest I went without being able to talk except for a few words, was 8 days. I was 15, it was school holidays. My mum realised after the sixth day, she told my family that she thought I was ‘depressed’ because I was a teenager (ands that’s what we did), my dad told me to snap out of it and my sister said some really horrible things to me, that I wont repeat, in front of her boyfriend at the time who laughed. But again, I was ‘seeking attention’.

 

I still have never gone to see anybody about it, I am old enough now to know how to handle these attacks. And now instead of having these feelings about being different I embrace it. I may not socialise as much as people tell me I should; I like to be alone. I may not look a certain way, but I like to be different. It’s not for attention, it’s not because I was ignored growing up. This is how I feel comfortable, and this is how I am able to have the confidence I have today. I am happy I was able to find a balance and not rely on medications.

Five years ago, I promised myself I would be me. I would look the way that made me happy. And it made a big difference to the way I act around people. Most people would never even know. I have only told two people about being these attacks, one who is my best friend, who doesn’t judge me or my thoughts, accepts me 100% for who I am. And doesn’t get made at me when I need a day, weeks or months of space. Another was someone I dated, he had just gotten out of a marriage, was going to therapy and I was someone he could confide in about his fucked up life growing up. I told him a lot of things. But then one day, I guess it got to intense for him, and he disappeared.

Everything I have written, is my point of view, and how I believe I was perceived. If you asked my family they may speak differently about what I have written. But that’s ok, this is my truth, and how I witnessed it. There could be details I’m missing. Things they were going through that I do not know about. I know my family didn’t mean to ignore me and did not understand why I was the way was. It just happened. I’m not mad, or upset, I have accepted the past. It’s time to move on. And as I said this is my truth, not theirs. This is one side of the story.

I’m still battling anxiety today; my hardest situations are busy trains, talking to females (I guess this is because of attending an all girls high school, and were some of my darkest times) and family gatherings. Extended family gatherings are definitely the hardest, I don’t mean to shut down but I do, and I end up sitting there not talking, with not much expression on my face and having to do something with my hands like colouring.

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude. Sometimes I just can’t.

 

I am not…

… shy

…an attention seeker

… a drama queen

… self obsessed

 

But I am…

…aware

… a warrior

… a girl

…human

 

 

I am just another person, trying to make sense of what the world throws at me.

It’s ok to be a little crazy.

I mean, who isn’t?

 

 

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