#SIMTalksWithMiriam

Welcome to the first ever SIM Talk with Miriam. And I couldn’t have found a better one to start off the series. Thank you so much, Jess B. Moore, for your frank and brave personal account, one that probably resonates with many people. And for your brilliant novel, The Guilt of a Sparrow, of which more below.

Social Anxiety

Jess B. MooreAs a child, no one ever said the words social anxiety to me.  People called me shy, quiet, mature beyond my years.  I knew I spent more time inside my own head than other people, but it didn’t occur me it might be something more.  I preferred to be alone, or with one close friend, never a crowd. 

Adulthood means I know and understand my social anxiety.  I grapple with it daily and try not to let it take over.  With my children watching, I’m hyper-aware of the behavior I demonstrate.  I have two sons, one who has shown social anxiety since babyhood, and the other an absolute extrovert. 

Every phone call triggers a response in me to turn away and not answer.  A knock at my front door leads to my hiding in silence, in hopes who ever is there will go away.  When I sat in my car, unable to exit, in the parking lot of an oil change place, I knew I needed help. 

Here’s what happened:  I pulled in, eyed the three buildings, myriad of cars and people, the small lot, and had no idea how to proceed.  Where did I enter?  Should I park first?  Or did I pull my car into the bay first?  I pulled into one of the few parking spaces, sat gripping my steering wheel, and couldn’t face it.  In the end, I pulled away without getting my oil changed. 

My diagnoses of depression came at seventeen.  I didn’t ask my doctor about anxiety – in general as well as social – until my mid thirties. 

I can remember my mother retelling how she told a doctor once she had both depression and anxiety, and her doctor saying you couldn’t have both.  At least we’ve come away from that illogical belief, and I am able to better manage both my depression and my anxiety. 

The Guilt of a SparrowIn my first book, The Guilt of a Sparrow, the main character Magnolia Porter suffers from social anxiety.  This is evident from page one, when she’s walking through a busy town park to attend an event, hoping to make it to her spot on the sidelines without notice.  When she’s approached and needs to make idle conversation, her heart is pounding, hands shaking, mind reeling.  She goes blank and wants to escape.  This part of Maggie is me – it was easy to pull upon my own experience to write her social anxiety. 

I recently shared a photo on my Instagram of a mug reading “Awkward is my specialty.”  I posted it as a joke, because I’ve always known I’m awkward.  But when it comes down to it, feeling awkward isn’t always funny.  Sometimes it’s the reason I don’t go to meet new people or join in on activities.  I shy away. 

What I always considered low self-esteem, is actually my social anxiety.  I’m talking about an intense fear of being judged, avoiding being the center of attention, and worrying about humiliation.  My worst nightmare is being the center of attention.  Even answering a casual question in front of small group. 

I started teaching yoga and found I could go up in front of a group and lead the class without falling apart.  It was different – knowing what to do and say, rather than coming up with my own words or sharing something personal.  Writing has been a good outlet for me as well.  I can tell my stories, all while hiding behind the ink and text, finding a safe way to express myself. 

Thank you, Miriam, for having me share my story of social anxiety.  I hope others can relate and feel better knowing they aren’t alone.

Thank you, Jess. I’m sure others will relate, and helping others to realise they aren’t alone is a big part of my passion to raise awareness of social anxiety. I was shocked by what that doctor told your mother – that you can’t have both depression and anxiety. Yes, we’ve come on since then. But a lot more needs to be done.

You can find Jess on Instagram, Facebook and her beautiful Website.

Jess’s booklinks are The Guilt of a Sparrow and Fierce Grace. There’s another book on the way.

And, Jess has a brand new book subscription box.

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Remember, you can take part in this series, if you want to write or talk about one or more of the three topics. Do get in touch after reading this post.

Next week, I’ll welcome Val Penny back to the blog. I wonder what she’s decided to talk about.

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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.