Mauerbauertraurigkeit: On Social Anxiety

With trembling fingers, I delete an unsent text I spent hours mulling over.
I shouldn’t bother them, I thought.
I sifted through old texts, stopping only at the ones that confirmed my fears. My
stomach dropped as I concluded that none of my friends liked me. Clearly, they only talked to me out of obligation; out of pity.
Socializing was exhausting; it took every ounce of energy for me to merely smile at a
random passerby. They were probably judging me anyway. Their toothy smiles taunted me, as I wondered what they were thinking. Their eyes glared through my soul, and saw my faults.
I could not walk outside without all eyes on me. I was conspicuous in the worst way.
I just wanted to hide: under layers of oversized clothing, behind my glasses, in my room. I wanted everyone to just stop looking. I needed everyone to stop laughing, mocking, judging.
I needed silence, so naturally I withdrew. Alone in my room, I thought I was safe, but
the silence did not last for a second. My thoughts assaulted me; pointing out every blemish, ounce of fat, faux pas, eccentricity, flaw. My thoughts surrounded me and gained strength with every second.
I could not even sleep. I neglected my schoolwork–my essays would never be good enough anyway. I stopped wearing makeup–no amount of lipstick or mascara would make me beautiful. I stopped eating–I was too fat. I stopped exercising–I would never lose enough weight, and I did not have the energy to work out anyway. Finally, I stopped going out because I did not believe that anyone could genuinely be my friend.
Mauerbauertraurigkeit, a German word that means “the inexplicable urge to push
people away, even close friends who really like you” (www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com). For me, it meant projecting my own insecurities onto others; never letting anyone in because I feared that everyone was secretly judging me. I know now that people were not staring at me or mocking me. As I sit here, trying to explain the unexplainable, how it feels to live with social anxiety, I think of all the people who have stayed despite my habit of pushing them away, and as I prepare for the upcoming school year, I am thankful that I am no longer so self-critical that I push those away who truly care about me.

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