I was always so shy growing up. Luckily my childhood best friend was the opposite and I always leaned on her. She often spoke for me and she always knew what I feared or needed without me having to say a word.
It’s crazy really how two 5 year old kids can understand anxiety better than most adults can. Jessie was always my rock growing up, my voice when I didn’t have one, the solution to all my problems.
To this day, even when its been months since we last spoke, when we get together it feels like we were never apart. Growing up we grew apart but for a long time we grew together and you can’t undo that kind of friendship.
Being shy was difficult for the obvious reasons, but as I got older I found that often my shyness would be mistaken for rudeness, and I suppose that’s understandable.
As a teenager I watched different groups of friends joining up and mingling, but I felt trapped. I had so much to say but never could get it out.
It was easy to come across as rude, unsociable, the one that doesn’t say anything.
One thing I found really hard to understand growing up was how one group could know me as the loud one, always up for fun, for anything and another group could know me as the shy one, the rude one, does she ever talk?
How was I these two different people? Was there something wrong with me? Did everyone feel like this?
Once I was awkwardly shy around a person or a group of people then that was it. Every single time I would see them all I could think of is the time I was awkward before, the time I didn’t speak or the time I did speak but it came out wrong and I was too shy and awkward to correct myself. The time I saw them in Tesco but assumed they wouldn’t remember me so didn’t say hi, then coming across rude because they did remember me.
Why wouldn’t they? I was the same as them. It just took me years to figure that out.
I’m sure there are people reading this thinking “oh I remember her and she wasn’t shy, down on the beach every Friday with two bottles of wine” and they’re right.
I started drinking far too young and far too much. I used it as a crutch to help with my shyness and often got far too drunk, emotional and angry.
I was waking up remembering what I said the night before and wishing I hadn’t, “Ahhh did I really tell them that?”
It just made everything so much worse and now I definitely could never see them while sober again. That’s how I thought. Often in larger groups my night would be worked out by how much I have to drink. In any group there are always a few more popular people, I’d never make it over to them until near the end of the night when the second bottle of wine was finished.
Luckily for me this never developed any further. I actually don’t drink very often at all now. Although I did lean on it for years and created a tonne of embarrassing memories because of it, once I learned about my depression and anxiety I got it under control.
Nowadays I am in no way perfect, 10 years later and yes I’m able to go out without a drink, I can chat and I am comfortable but after 7 Gin & Tonics I can still become that girl again.
It’s like months of months of shyness just burst out and depending on the weeks preceding that night out, what is released could be anger, sadness, worry, who knows.
The difference is that I can control it now. Before going out I can decide “Ok tonight you can’t be that girl, watch yourself and your drinking” and I still have a great night.
There are nights where I just decide that I deserve one of those nights, ”Fuck it Shauna just go and do what you want”.
I know there are a lot of people reading this thinking of a night where I was that drunk girl and that used to keep me awake at night worrying about it. But the people that really matter, the people that really care about me, I know they can say “It happens to everyone” because it does…
If you knew what it took just to get me up and dressed in the morning I think you would encourage me to have more of those nights. Some people are not so lucky. Leaning on alcohol to get past shyness can turn into a proper addiction and I feel very lucky that I’m not one of those people, everyday.
This is much harder to write than I ever thought it would be.
Anyway, to all those people, from my teenage years, my early twenties that are reading this and thinking you were one of the people in one of the social groups, I did care, I did want to talk but I couldn’t.
There are people out there that I know think that I don’t like them when in fact I think they are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met but I guess they will never know that. There are so many instances I remember, where I didn’t say anything, or said the wrong thing that I replay over and over again in my head.
At times I’ve wanted to go back to each of them and explain, explain that I did like you, I did want to talk, I did want to go for that coffee, I didn’t say that about you,
this look is fear not hatred, but over time I decided that I cant, I have no idea whats going on in these peoples lives now.
I have no idea how it might affect them but maybe after reading this, the people that need to ask, can ask, “What happened here?” “Where did you go?” don’t be afraid to.
Every day is still a struggle but a much easier struggle than it was before. I have a job I love, a boyfriend I love, a great family and plans for the future. For so long I couldn’t begin to imagine planning a future because I never thought I would get that far. Mental health is a much more talked about subject now which makes it a lot easier.
I tell people now if I am not feeling ok. It’s ok not to be ok.