Social anxiety

You Can’t See Me

This post was inspired by Catherine Hughes. It took great courage for her to post about all the things that people don’t see.

Like Catherine, but for very different reasons, I feel invisible. People look at me and see a normal person. They don’t realise what’s going on inside me. They may not notice anything at all in that first conversation. They certainly can’t hear what the voice in my head keeps repeating while the conversation is going on and after it: “It won’t be long before she realises that you’re not worth talking to, before she jumps to incorrect conclusions and moves on to lusher pastures.”

What are those conclusions? Mostly that I don’t want to talk. That I’m happy to remain on the side lines rather than joining in. That I’m shy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I love to talk, even though it’s hard. I love to be the centre of attention. And I’m not shy. No matter how “obvious” that seems to everyone, I’m not, believe me.

Erika, according to a recent Facebook status, is a “lonely, handicapped prisoner”. That’s because she broke her ankle and has been forced to stay at home for six weeks. I commented, “Then you know how I feel all the time,” even though I hadn’t broken anything. Why?

I feel lonely because I like company. I’ve always liked company. Yet mostly, I push that company away because I’m sure it doesn’t really want me.

I feel handicapped because I struggle to do something that most people take for granted. The words come out wrong or not at all. My thoughts can’t escape my head.

I feel like a prisoner locked inside invisible walls that I built in no time and have been trying to knock down for ever.

My main worry, when I’m with other people, is that they’ll think I’m weird. So I do anything to avoid that, including keeping quiet rather than saying something they might be surprised at. But keeping quiet is also weird behaviour, so I’m under constant pressure to talk and that makes my mind go blank and then they think I’m stupid – or I think they do.

I know I’m not capable of explaining this in a conversation. Even when I write it, I worry that people won’t understand, that they’ll think I should be able to snap out of it. Sometimes, even I wonder why I don’t manage to do that, and I live with it.

Catherine put it so well, here: “I hide in plain sight.  You can see me, but you cannot see within me.  You do not know what effort or courage it has taken me to set foot in the outside world; you cannot discern how I feel.”

Many things in my life are good. I’m not trying to deny how lucky I’ve been. I just wish I could solve this problem, which bugs me no end.