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Owner's Manual For Social Phobia


You'll have crossed a line at some point.  There's always a straw that breaks it, and yours will have been one moment of ridicule, one instance of someone mocking you for something you weren't aware you did wrong, and then it will all be over for you.  

You'll know when it's happened because then you will find that shyness doesn't cover it anymore, not because shyness is too small a word to cover what's inside of you, but because it's just not the right term.  It's something else, something you're not sure of, but shyness means being too timid to talk to people, and this is not that.  This is complete meltdown, every social skill you've learned flying out of your head at the mere sight of another person.

It's sad, really, because you will meet people, and you will want to reach out to them, make friends, but they will see you shrivel up, curl in on the space where you used to keep your words, and they will find you aloof or stupid or both, and you will stay as alone as you started.

And it isn't an easy thing to talk about.  People can understand shy, and if they're the right people they'll smile at you and hold your hand and say, "oh, it'll be ok, you can trust me."  They will tell you that they will break you out of your shell, and you will smile and nod, because you know they think they're being supportive, but inside you will scream, because if they break open your shell, they will not find some happy person who's been hiding all this time, they will find a void, and then what will they think?

Occasionally someone will understand, but understanding is not everything, and though you know they will comprehend the meaning if you say that you just can't do what they're asking, they will still feel hurt and you will know you hurt them, and it will sting you, and you won't say it, you'll never say it, because that's what this is, don't you understand, this is a life sentence of dishonesty.  You will lie to every person in your life from here on out, you will tell them you're ok with things that make you tremble, you will pretend you are the most boring creature in the universe to avoid mockery.  If you achieve something, you will tell no one for fear of being thought egotistical, and if you fail, you will wave your flag of self-deprecation high.

You will get very lonely.  You will find it a strange sensation, because you don't want to have company so you shouldn't be pining away for it, but you will close your eyes at night and imagine what it would be like to be the kind of person who can just, you know, talk.  You will interview yourself, holding two-sided conversations, asking yourself questions because you will be dying to talk, there will be a literal pressure sometimes when you're alone that will tell you that you need to talk to something or else your tongue will tear itself out of your mouth to find a new owner, and you will practice, you will pretend there's someone else out there listening, but it will do you no good, because real people will still chase what's real in you away.

You will be doomed to an existence as a perpetual infant, able to see the world, to observe it with wide eyes, but without any means of interaction.  You will sit at night and wonder if your words are ever coming back, you will make little shrines in your head to the girl you used to be, the girl reprimanded for constantly talking to other people when she was supposed to sit quietly.  You will wonder where that little girl went, and oh, it will break your heart, because you will think you found her but over and over again, she will prove to be a mirage, and soon you will forget what being that girl felt like, you will see no trace of her in the mirror.

One day you will realize that she's gone forever and that this is all that is left, a shell that is only full when no one else is around to see it, and you will withdraw on yourself more and more to fill that empty space, and you will learn that if there's nothing to you, if you act like the shell is all there is, like you are not a real person, only a background character in someone else's life, you can get by that way, and it will hurt and you will still want to be more sometimes, and be unable, but it's all you can do.

You have entered the world of the silent, the shivering, the tongue-tied.  This is where you live now, your existence.  You won't get used to it, not ever, it will always hurt, but eventually you'll learn to live with it.  You'll embrace your hollow life and you will wait patiently for it to end one day, for the person with the magic key to come and rescue you.  You'll wait for the special someone who will not scare you away, who will allow you to stay whole.

You will wait in vain.