My name is Julia, I am 18 years old. I have suffered from social anxiety for quite some time, and I recently wrote a letter to a stranger that will probably never know it was them. This letter is a very accurate representation of how social anxiety impacts my life. Here is my letter to a stranger:
Yes, I heard that you have just said hello. I know that you are noticing the way my hands are shaking and my cheeks are flushing. I haven’t responded yet, and I know it’s been a whole thirty-two seconds, I’ve counted them in my head. Do not be alarmed, I am not sick, I am not contagious. I will not bite, but I will not talk. And if I do talk, god forbid, I am internally critiquing myself in extreme detail. Yes, I know my voice is shaking. I know I am not making eye-contact. No, I am not being rude. Please don’t roll your eyes when I don’t respond to your questions. I would really like to start a conversation, I just can’t.
Today is a hard day for me, I have those days sometimes. I cannot engage in casual conversation with you, stranger, and I cannot ask the man who gave me tuna-salad instead of egg-salad to make a new sandwich. I guarantee you that on a day like this, I had a difficult time climbing out of bed this morning. Today is not the day to ask me how I’m doing, unless you’d like to hear an extensive dialogue about how my brain is moving a million miles an hour and I didn’t study for this class and I’m worried about failing the test now becauseIamtryingsohardIreallyreallyam.
I’ve just started counseling, and I’m trying new ways to control my thoughts and avoid having a panic attack… But some days I just cannot speak. And I am sorry that all I could say back was a weak “hello,” and I am sorry that we didn’t get to talk about how confusing this chapter is. I’m sorry I didn’t ask for your phone number to start a study group. I’msorryyouseemverynicebuttodaymyheadismovingamillionmilesanhourandIjustcannotspeak.
I’m sorry that today was not a good day for you to say hello, but I promise you I’ve thought about that hello about one-thousand times today. I cannot be gracious enough for that hello. But today is not the day that I will answer your questions. Today is not the day that I will ask for your phone number to start a study group. Today is not the day. But thank you. And I hope you will tell me hello again soon.