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When I was at school, people would ask me why I didn’t talk. Over and over again they’d ask me the same questions, and every time I’d just sit there and wish for the school day to end so that I could go back to being me because I didn’t recognise the person I was at school. They wanted answers that I didn’t have. I wanted to run away but I was surrounded by people who didn’t understand. I didn’t even understand myself.
By asking the ‘why don’t you talk?’ question over and over again, they were implying that I didn’t talk (I actually did, just not around them), and that I knew why (if I knew, why would I have sat there listening to them asking me the same question every single day?). It was horrible.
Fast-forward to the present, where I can now talk (with varying degrees of success) to most people I meet. It had been a very long time since I’d been asked that dreaded question, until last weekend where it popped up out of the blue: “Who do you take after in your family, because you don’t talk?”
We were sitting at the table after dinner at the time and I had nowhere to run. It was just an innocent question, asked by someone who doesn’t really know me (not many people do), but I was instantly transported right back to school again; with that feeling of being scrutinised by curious passers by. The panic started. Luckily, time and experience can do amazing things and instead of sitting there not being able to say anything, I tried to smile. I answered the question, and then I got up and walked out of the room.
I was alone in the kitchen putting the plates in the dishwasher (and trying not to cry) when someone else walked in, but luckily they weren’t there to ask more questions. The woman who had walked into the kitchen looked at me sympathetically, and told me that they were very shy too when they were my age. She said she had been in the same situation and it was overwhelming. So then I did something I very rarely do and I opened up, telling her that I’m not very good with people. It was only a very short conversation as more people started coming into the kitchen with glasses and bowls from the table, but it helped drag me out of a low mood that I could have easily slipped into for the rest of the day.
It made me realise that it’s ok to not be ok. It was like I’d found a kindred spirit; someone who shared the same ‘anxiety secrets’ as me. But most of all it made me feel not alone. And that’s the best thing that anyone can ever make you feel.