My depression is one leg of a three-legged stool. The second leg is shyness and anxiety, and the third is introversion. Depression, shyness, and anxiety are disabilities to be managed. Introversion is not a disability; it is an innate part of who I am and is to be understood and embraced.
Today’s post is about shyness and anxiety.
Growing up I was morbidly shy and anxious.
How shy and anxious were you?
I was so shy . . .
When I was a Camp Fire Girl in Seminole, Oklahoma and it came to time to go door to door selling candy, I would stand on the front porch and pretend to ring the doorbell, wait a few seconds, and leave.
Later, in Norman, Oklahoma my mother gave me a coupon from a beauty salon that offered a shampoo, haircut, and coloring all for $20. Quite a bargain, and money was tight for us in those days.
At the salon, the stylist gave me the shampoo and coloring but not the cut, and I was too shy to ask why no cut. When the shop then charged me $60 instead of $20, I meekly paid the $60 and was too shy to say I was supposed to get a discount. My mother had a hissy fit when I got home, because it was her $60.
When I was in a store looking for something, I would scour the store aisle by aisle rather than ask a clerk for help. If a clerk did ask, I would say “I’m just looking, thanks.” Anything to avoid talking to a stranger.
In a room full of strangers I would stand in a corner and hope not to be noticed.
I was so anxious. . .
I would lie rather than admit I’d made a mistake,
or done something bad,
or didn’t know something,
or couldn’t do something.
I feared I would appear bad or ridiculous or inadequate,
and quite likely provoke my mother’s wrath.
Hooray for Paxil!
When I started taking medication for depression in 1997, my doctor prescribed Paxil, which was developed initially for social anxiety, and later prescribed for depression. It proved a lucky choice for me.
A reaction many people have when they start depression medication is “I’m the me I always wanted to be!”
And so it was for me.
In addition to working on my depression, Paxil started eliminating my social anxiety. This was an effect I had not anticipated, and it surprised and delighted me.
I started asking for help in stores. I started cheerfully admitting it when I didn’t know something or had done something wrong. I even sometimes made small talk with strangers. An amazing transformation.
Being who I always knew I could be is so much fun.
So that’s the second leg of my three-legged stool. My shyness and anxiety reinforced my depression in lethal ways. Now my shyness and anxiety and depression still show themselves from time to time; they are, after all, thought to be at least partly genetic. Medication alone doesn’t fix everything.
But for me medication plays a big part in the way I can now manage these two legs of my three-legged stool. And, as Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.
Still to come: The introversion leg of my stool. Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading my blog.