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.