When My Severe Anxiety Locked Me in a Castle Tower

Dear Social Anxiety

We’ve been together now for a little over 15 years. I don’t remember why or how you entered my life, but I do know that once you did, my world flipped upside down. Making friends became a challenge; the 8-year-old me on the inside was hidden and shamed by the invisible barrier you formed around me. No longer was I proud of myself. No longer did I feel good or beautiful. I felt second-rate and ugly, something no little girl should ever have to experience. You locked me in a dark tower, far away from other children, far away from soccer games, girl scouts, gymnastics and arts and crafts class. 

As we grew together, I began to rebel against your shield. I knew there was a light inside me that belonged with the outside world, not locked away in my mind. So I let down my long hair and branched out. I sought to make new friends, have new experience, and get a silly high school job. You didn’t seem pleased with my efforts. You cut my hair and placed a dragon guard outside. You encased me even deeper. I began thinking there was no way out. 

Fortunately, you didn’t see science and therapy ride in on their white horses to slay the dragon.  Unfortunately, the tower walls were high and thick. Each year you layered extra bricks around the tower to ensure no escape. I learned in the end I would have be my own knight and save myself; science and therapy could only slay the dragon and leave me with tools to plot my escape.  

At 22, I still have hopes for a grand escape, but as of now, we’ve come to a negotiation I’m content with. I get to leave the tower for days at a time, but I have to come back to visit as least once a week. A long-term solution this is not, but life is a step-by-step process. 

You’d think I’d hate you by now, but time is a funny thing. I’ve grown fond of you, Social Anxiety. Yes, you took away much of my childhood, but by locking me in a tower away from the rest of the world, I had massive amounts of time to look in. Though never experiencing the joy of aiding in a winning soccer game and giving my teammates high-fives and hugs afterword, I learned the art of poetry and writing and imagination.  Birthday parties and sleepovers were never a part of my childhood, but that allowed me to appreciate the company of non-human companions, a love that’s grown strong and continued with me.  

Now I have friends. Now I have a boyfriend. Now I’m graduating college. As much as you tried to prevent these things, I’ve realized that it was maybe not malicious. Maybe, just maybe, I was beautiful and good and worth love back then, and you just loved me so much, you wanted to lock me away all to yourself. Whatever it was, I made out OK. And I love myself, who I am and what I stand for. I’m also going to be OK. Social Anxiety, I know you will never fully be free from you because even when I become free from you, I will look back and know I was built inside that tower as a person. And that’s OK




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