When I moved from my twelve-student sixth grade class into an 800-person combination middle and high school, I got hit by something I never expected: crippling shyness. I had never been the most outgoing child, but on the first day of seventh grade, separated from my elementary school friends, I found myself at the edge of a terrifying spiral into the next six year of my life.
To this day I’m not quite sure how I got through middle school in one piece. Unable to bring myself to speak to anyone unprompted, girls my age found no interest in being around me. Too afraid to wait in the school lunch line with so many others, I brought my own lunch and ate alone at a corner table where I was sure everyone was watching me. When doing this was more embarrassment than I could handle, I took my lunch into a classroom where I could read. Then, when teachers took pity on me and offered to buy me lunch from the cafeteria so I could sit with everyone I was trying to avoid, I stopped eating lunch altogether. After two years of lonely self-induced torture, I switched to a high school that many of my elementary school classmates were attending for a much needed fresh start.
To my dismay, a new setting did not change what had now become a deeply ingrained part of my personality. Talking was not easier, and it took me a few close friends and four more years for me to figure out that I would need to work around what I saw as a flaw if I wanted to be happy. After years of people telling me to be more outgoing, points deducted for lack of class participation, and crying myself to sleep because I couldn’t fix my shyness, I swore I would do whatever it took to be happy when I went to college. The first year was not easy; it never is. Adjusting to a new school and workload was hard to manage in addition to having to work hard to meet people. But now, a few months into my sophomore year, I feel like I’m really living life. I have a great group of friends, including forty sorority sisters, and I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have before.
I often see articles and movements for debilitating mental diseases like depression and, more often now than in high school, anxiety disorders. While my shyness has been a contributor to both of these things over the years, I almost never see anything about shyness itself. At first, this led me to believe that it was something I should be able to easily overcome. After all, if there’s no medication to fix it, it can’t be that hard to get over. That is not the case, and I have come to believe that although it is seldom talked about, I can’t be the only one. I’m positive I am not the only person in the world rendered mute by the mere presence of another person. I can’t be the only person seeking refuge from a personality trait that has the potential to be a major downfall. If I’d realized this earlier on, I could have focused on everything I had the ability to do, rather than what extreme timidity made nearly impossible. Today, I hope I can get this across to others that are living with this struggle, and give a few people hope about what the future holds.