Social Anxiety- Mom’s Letter To Her Daughter
Social Anxiety–that’s what the therapist called it as I sat across from her on the mahogany leather couch. Her office was devised to look like a living room, to make me feel at home, but all I could think was, “I wouldn’t be here if I was normal.” The list of my oddities lay like the stacks of magazines, recklessly piled for bored fingers to flip through at the doctor’s office. “No friends, no one calls, head down, ignores people, anxiety attacks…”
At 14 I couldn’t talk to boys. I spent hours in the mirror painting my face with makeup and changing to find the perfect outfit that told the story of a pretty and desirable girl, because all I wanted was for them to like me, but I couldn’t find words to speak to them. Instead, they thrust words back at me as I walked through the halls like “bitch” and “snob.”
At 16 I sat on the toilet with my feet up on the stall door to eat my lunch because I was too embarrassed to eat in front of people. I bounced from cheerleading to school plays, and leadership. I went through my days doing the things that would construct a shell of an outgoing, well rounded girl in a charade to convince people I was “normal” and “acceptable,” but inside, I felt hollow.
At 21 I let others tell me who I was in exchange for their approval and validation. I forced myself to go to parties, to wear the high heels and short skirts the other sorority girls wore and drink the tasteless foam beer that numbed my pain and slowed my racing thoughts. I would return to my apartment and cry myself to sleep.
I can’t tell you when I started being the person that no longer had to pretend but could just be. Change isn’t something that happens overnight, but it happens in sunrises and walks on the beach, in hard lessons, and cups of coffee shared over real conversation.I changed through the ache of letting people be careless with my heart. I changed through the tears of joy I shed when I married your daddy and in the streaks of tears I could trace down his face as he watched you come into the world. But most of all I changed through the patience, and love of the people that wouldn’t let go of my hand, and never lost sight of my heart.
I still get caught in the riptides of others’ approval. As I get swept away, time and time again, God restores me back to the solid footing of His foundation. God is still molding me and teaching me lessons. When I’m lonely and vulnerable, I still find myself hungering for a false fulfillment in the opinion of others. But rather than getting caught in the current of others opinions and expectations, God reminds to anchor myself to Him. My identity as His child isn’t something that can be washed away with a dirty look or an unkind word, but rests securely in His hands.
I don’t need to hide the scars from my past. I’m not afraid to tell my stories, even the shameful ones, because I’ve learned that my words aren’t something to be ashamed of. As I get older and my past becomes my history, I’ve learned that God weaves my stories, and my words into a beautiful song worth singing–even if I can’t carry a tune.
I want to tell that shy, anxiety ridden girl to lift her chin, to smile, to speak the words on her heart. I want to hug her close and kiss the top of her head, to wipe the layers of makeup off her face, and to tell her she only needs to live for an audience of One. But my child, that little girl is now your mother, head high, heart full, telling you.