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 clothes to find the perfect outfit that told the story of a pretty and desirable girl. All I wanted was for them to like me, but I couldn’t find the words to speak to them. Instead, they thrust words back at me as I walked through the halls like “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 to leadership roles. 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 and wear the high heels and short skirts the other sorority girls wore. I drank 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 I no longer had to pretend to be.
Change isn’t something that happens overnight. 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 patient love of 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 me 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. 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 and 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 with her head high and her heart full … telling you.
Lindsay is a stay-at-home mom where no work day is the same. Her job description changes as she lives the adventure of who God is calling her to be. Some days it’s a photographer, a philanthropist, a teacher or student. Most days you can find her at home sitting cross-legged on her couch, mug of coffee on the side table, banging away at the keys of her computer. You can read more on her blog: www.achristianmomblog.com.