Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Quiet

I struggled many times with whether to write and then publish this post (and you'll soon see why). But I really believe that God wants me to.

I am a very quiet person. Shy. Painfully shy. Actually, it's been diagnosed as social anxiety disorder. Besides not being able to hold just regular conversation, I don't say anything in meetings, classes, etc. I think part of it is a defense mechanism because I've definitely been shot down in the past when I have spoken up. But it's been a problem for me for so long that I don't remember when it started.

I've been through therapy, including group therapy where I had to do embarrassing things in front of strangers (like try to weasel my way past the security guards at a local university dorm and give a speech on a topic I knew nothing about in front of people who were extremely rude on purpose). The therapy helped a little, but didn't really fix the problem for me. I don't really think that it can.

For years, I've dealt with my problem in different ways. Most of the time, I just tell myself that I'm a freak and different from most people, but that's okay because it's who I am and how God made me, and I just try to avoid situations that would make my differences obvious. But that only lasts so long. Eventually, I end up really depressed because I'm lonely and because I beat myself up mentally over it. I make very few friends on my own; most of my friends are through A or other existing friends. I never know what to say to anyone, and it hurts me socially and at work. I've had numerous people tell me at work that when I do speak up, I speak very intelligently and provide good insight, but I don't believe them. It's a source of strain at times in my marriage because I have panic attacks over social events that A wants to attend, and I'm terrified that it will affect R in some way. I'm much better with people one-on-one, but most of the time what happens is that I get nervous and monopolize those conversations with crazy stories about myself. I just keep babbling on about my own life instead of letting the other person share.

I work really hard to be better, and it's emotionally exhausting. I prepare lists of questions in my head to ask other people in conversation ahead of time, and when that doesn't work, I find some way to occupy myself (by tending to R and other little kids, helping in the kitchen, etc.) and, of course, make myself feel bad at the same time.

Anyway, suffice it to say that I've struggled for a long time with why God made me this way. What is the point of being like this, especially when Jesus calls us to minister and show love to others? How can I do that when I can't even have a normal conversation with anyone but my family and closest friends? It just made no sense to me. And, I don't think God wants me to be lonely with only him for comfort.

A few months ago, I really asked God for help. Because I've come to believe that he's the only one who can. Every morning, I'd ask for his help and I'd ask that he loosen my tongue and help me get over my fears. And, it was definitely helping. He put tests in front of me (like seeing a co-worker on the subway - I forced myself to initiate the contact and say hi), and sometimes I'd "pass" them and feel great about myself. But then I'd "fail" another time and feel like crap again.

Then I started reading "Captivating" by John & Stasi Eldredge, a book that my mom sent me at Christmas. And, in so many ways, it spoke to me. It's not about shyness, but it does talk a lot about how many women silence themselves after being hurt in the past. It lifts women up as the pinnacle of God's creation (because Eve was created last) and shows how God romances us through his creation and love. And how God sees our beauty. All of that made me feel loved and beautiful and wonderful and started to change how I saw myself. But through the book, and through many other instances and situations that I believe God has placed in my path (including church on Sunday), I keep getting the message, "Speak up - do not be silent!"

Another big part of the book talks about recognizing that the Evil One has a special hatred for women and that we must be vigilant in banishing him from our lives. Blaming things on the devil and binding/casting out spirits has always made me uncomfortable. Mainly because one of the churches we went to when I was growing up focused on that stuff way too much. We spent more time during each service casting out demons and talking about Satan's influence than learning about Jesus and God. So, all the services felt dark and oppressive instead of full of love and light. And, I think that human beings - and our inherently sinful nature - are to blame for most of the evil in the world.

But reading the book made me think about my own life more closely. Maybe this isn't how God made me. Maybe he does want me to have meaningful, fulfilling relationships with other people. And maybe there's some work that God wants me to do, but I'm being prevented. That somehow/something is making me believe that I'm a freak to keep me from doing what I'm supposed to do. So, I told God that I wasn't sure about this, but that I wanted to bind whatever was keeping me in this state because I believe that God has something more in store for me. And, any time I start to beat myself up, I shout in my head, "Get out!!! God loves me!!!"

I can't pinpoint a specific day or time when the difference started to happen. But I definitely feel that a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I've been more at ease recently with some people and I've been happier. A and I have been laughing more. I feel freer to be myself, to be silly and crazy. I mean, I'm not all of a sudden an outgoing person - and I don't expect to be - but I'm definitely feeling more relaxed. (Now, I could still be saying crazy things to people and making them think I'm a weirdo, but at least I *think* I'm doing better...)

But here is the truly powerful thing to me: Right after I started praying this way, and I'd start to take steps forward and feel good about myself, time and time again someone would mention to me how quiet I was when they first met me or they'd point out how I'm not good at social situations. I don't remember people pointing this out to me ever before - at least this bluntly. (They weren't trying to be mean at all - just stating the truth.) And, each time, it really hurt me. I'd clam up, be ashamed, and shut down for a little while. But then I recognized it and realized that something is definitely trying to keep me quiet - and that as I get closer to being who I'm supposed to be, the battle to keep me quiet gets more intense and more painful. So, as weird as it is to me, I really do feel that something/someone is working against me and has been for all these years.

But I know that I've got God on my side and that I can get beyond this with his help. I'm already doing it, and he's got the strength I need. No medication or therapy could do this for me. Only he can.

I think he's been poking at me for awhile to write this post. For me. To help me heal. Believe me - opening my heart this much to the world is terrifying to me, mostly because I've always told myself that no one would really care what I really thought about anything. And, it's even more terrifying for me knowing that people I know outside of blogdom in "real life" will read this. But it's also a relief in some way, too. Hey, world, this is why I'm such a freak! But God is helping me be better. Because he didn't make me a freak. And, I'm probably making him sad by calling myself that.

So, with his help, I'm discovering that I'm worth knowing. And that he can teach me how to get to know his precious other children.

I can't be quiet any longer.

10 comments:

LEstes65 said...

Oh my goodness I want to fly back up there and just hug you forever!!!

I for one have NEVER heard you ramble and blab on and on. Probably because I was too busy monopolizing the conversation. I have never heard anything out of you that would make me think you're a weirdo or freak. But then, who am I to judge (ha!).

I love you for braving this post. I love you for putting it out there and giving the testimony. Know it will bless someone whether they tell you or not.

And I'm so sorry for always bringing up how your quietness used to freak me out. It was never a comment on you. It was always a comment on the verbal vomiting I was always doing.

You are so freaking beautiful. And I will join you in your prayers that God keep this work growing in you. If I could do a Vulcan mind meld with you to let you see how *I* see you - you'd never doubt yourself again!!!

I love you.

sandwhichisthere said...

Sweetheart,
I don't know if I am right about this but here goes. I read your post and it was like looking back on my own life. I was always trying to be accepted by whatever group I was with. You sent me a card that identified the problem. "Dad it seemed like you always had the answers no matter what, and now that I'm grown up I realize You were bluffing, weren't you?".
You start off early knowing more than your peers simply because you learn and remember things. You get in a group situation and make a relevant comment. The comment does not agree with the group feeling and the group ridicules or ostracizes. That is the way groups behave. You learn to keep quiet.
After high school I met one of my ex-classmates. After a long conversation she said " I never realized you could be so engaging, we always thought you were a snob.".
The Kristen I remember was quiet but when it was important, she could lash out vehemently. Do you remember your valedictorian speech? I was so proud of you that day. I also experienced your ire personally and was proud of you then.
O.K., the meat. You are a Swede and behave just like the other Swedes. You have your own knowledge and, when others have erroneous knowledge, you let them go their own foolish way. It does no good to try and reason with them, they are just waiting for you to take a breath so they can insert their own silly opinion. The same goes for conversation, they are just waiting for you to take a breath so they can be enchanted by the sound of their own voice. "Tellwiddum.".
The world considers Swedes to be quiet, peace loving, rational people. Lurking below that facade is the racial heritage of the beserkers. Why do you think that no one has messed with them for five hundred years? They are like nitroglycerin. Quiet,innocuous,unassuming, but if you mess with them, there are going to be consequences. It may be relevant that it was a Swede that finally tamed nitroglycerin. He may have learned it at home.
I am sorry about the depression. I went through the therapy and pills. The final diagnosis was TYPICAL SCANDINAVIAN DEPRESSION! You end up living in your own little world, judging yourself by your own standards not by some one else's.
It is not your fault that the world is teeming with imbeciles. Let them go their own way. Above all "To thine own self be true.".
It was hard to write this, it is a secret feeling that has long been buried. Why? Because that deep yearning to be accepted is still there. Voicing an opinion that is different from everyone else still makes you part of a set of one.
The latest fiasco was when I tried to explain to someone that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I got the group response, everyone believes what they see on television. They have never looked into Matrix Churchill. Tellwiddem!
Look at yourself. Do you like yourself? You are a marvel of love, politeness, and intelligence. You have taken the path less travelled, you march to a different drummer, because you are not an imbecile it is going to be lonely. If you ever get the chance, read The Sirenes of Titan by Kurt Vonnegaut. It is an explanation of how a group treats extraordinary members. I think the carpenter's son would recognize the plot.
As you can see, you get the babbling genetically,
all of my love, always, daddy

dreadpirate said...

As someone who's known you in "real life," I've never thought of you as a freak. In fact, I always appreciated the fact that you knew the value of silence. Maybe it's because I'm a quiet (read: shy) person myself, but it seems like so many people feel the need to fill the gaps in conversation with mindless chatter.

You never did — and when you did speak, it was because you had something really interesting to say.

I think many people would give anything to be able to express themselves as well with the written word as you — your blog is yet another example of how your thoughtful, insightful and sometimes terribly funny prose has a greater influence than you might think. If feeling nervous about spoken communication has made you such a terrific writer, I'd say that's something to be thankful for.

—RR

Johanna said...

My heart is bursting with love for you right now.
I have always admired your social prowess! I think we all don't see in ourselves a true reflection of what is there, we doubt ourselves, we judge ourselves harshly, but if anyone ever had a spirit that just... well, I don't want to get too weird. But you, to me, I just see you as pure sunlight. I'm down with the anxiety, BELIEVE ME, and it seems to be worse since having kids, there is so much more to berate ourselves about. But I,(and I can't freaking believe it, after the Spencer's), have hissed "Satan, get out of here!" and it seems to work sometimes. I never know for sure. I think it tells us a lot that Ericka and I also have similar anxiety disorders. But I don't really feel that God wants me to be this way. I actually was rereading "The Midwest Center For Anxiety And Depression" literature today. I admire you so much, and please realize that although your fears and misgivings are real, and I've struggled with mental crap for as long as I can remember, I can see as an observer that you never present yourself as weird or terribly shy, or, whatever. You come off as sweet and kind and nice. And that is who you are. Your agonizing over these issues shows that too. But I am also really proud of you for facing these issues, I know that I want to be different, myself, so that my kids don't grow up avoiding some social situations like I tend to do. I want to be the best mom I can for them, and the best, well, me, for God. But there's a reason for the widespread prescribing of social anxiety disorder drugs, you are more "average" in your anxieties than a plucky, confident person who never doubts themselves. I hope that all made sense, and I love you so much that it hurts. I can't wait to see you. There are going to be some REALLY long poolside conversations after the kids go to bed(or not, in AJ's case..)

Kristen said...

Thank you, everyone. I'm really overcome by your comments. I didn't publish this post to drum up nice comments about me, but boy do your words touch my heart! I love you all very much, and I'm so blessed to call you my family and friends.

shaun said...

Kristen,
I think you are pretty cool . I also think in varying degrees we all have some of this social anxiety you describe. I also was very shy sometimes. I am in new social situations. I have very few close friends and I am usually faking it when I seem confident.
What I find very interesting is how this ties into what our pastor was talking about this past week. How we all for most of our lives feel very alone and we are trying to break through to a common place where we can actually commune with one another.
That's so cool to know that maybe I(or you )am
not the freak as I see my myself as. I think it is a part of our fallen nature.
I will also give you this :
,"Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: [and] he that shutteth his lips [is esteemed] a man of understanding." Proverbs 17:28
Peace be with you and much love

Trish Ryan said...

Oh sweetie, you are so brave for posting this! And you're right that there's someone who wants to quiet you. But you're even righter (not a word, but whatever) that God is bigger than that, and that He created you to be awesome, groovy, and fun. And I, for one, am grateful.

Anytime you want to grab a bite or a glass of wine with someone who never ever would have guessed this was going on because you were so much fun to hang out with, count me in :)

Wanda said...

Kristen: I'm sorry I didn't read this sooner. Sometimes when I see a long post...I think for sure I will come back when I have a little more time..and then I don't always do it. Forgive me for that!
Now, with that said. I like all your other friends think you are aswsome for writing this honest post. To be transparent is to be where God wants us.
I barely know you...only through blogging, but I have always thought you one of the most caring and sensitive ones I read.
You are a treasure and of so much value. I'm so glad you learned so much from the book and now the Holy Spirit is leading you into deeper truth... Praise His Name. I will continue to love and pray for you.

Stef said...

I only just read this post today. My heart goes out to you, and I'm sending you big hugs across the miles!

I NEVER thought of you as weird or a freak, and it saddens me that you would even think of yourself that way for one milisecond. You are an amazingly loving and kind woman, K!

I also don't see quiet as a negative. Quiet can be peaceful, thoughtful and wise. Having a friend like you with those gifts is a blessing!

I admire your strength in posting such a personal blog. I'm thankful that you are just as God made you! Lots of love!

Suztash said...

Kristen,
I am so sorry I haven't been on the computer for days and only read your blog today. I am so thankful that you are being blessed and touched by God. I understand so much of what you have been going through....all the agonizing over inadequate performance in groups....I still find my mind a blank when it comes to making conversation beyond "Hi, how are you?" All those negative things we come to believe of ourselves DO come from the one who is constantly on the prowl...seeking to destroy, to divide us from each other, alienate and keep us from communicating with and understanding each other. God has created you to be your own unique beautiful self. You are His masterpiece! He looks at you, holds you in His heart, takes pride in you, LOVES YOU! When you look at your little one, you fill up with love, wonder, and pride...and you didn't design him! God intentionally created you and is still in the process of creating. Satan is THE LIAR. He is the one who wants to destroy the beauty of what God has made. Anytime you have negative thoughts about yourself, commit them to God. We are told to "submit to God and resist the devil". God is working in you and whatever needs tweaking, God will do it...so just rest in His unfailing love and grace and don't worry about any perceived lack or imperfections. God will take care of that in His own loving and tender way. I love you with all my heart and am so overwhelmed at your beautiful spirit. God continue to bless you.