Sienna (Pt 2) – I’m A Miracle
If you missed Part 1, go back and read it! It will only take a few minutes but to quickly recap: we’re about to explore my journey from a child, who could barely speak to non-family members, to an adult, who I’d say is only semi-shy…
And get this, my job requires me to talk…a lot…to everyone! Clients, colleagues and strangers. And it’s not just talking to people either. A key part of my job is building relationships with people, selling my company’s services and presenting and communicating well. This was not a career that any 13-year-old with severe shyness would have chosen naturally! But God saw what I could be become and planted the idea in me anyway. Like I said last time, I’m a walking miracle.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. As we’re about to see, my journey of overcoming my crippling shyness, was actually a battle of so much more. Let’s go!
I have no idea where my shyness came from. I don’t really have many early memories, but from what I can remember, I was never a social butterfly and never the outgoing type. I didn’t have a lot of friends (usually just one) and I don’t remember going on playdates as a child or asking my parents to have birthday parties (maybe that’s why I’m not a fan of cake!).
What I do remember well is that, below the surface, I often felt alone and very much the odd one out. I was the youngest of three so, automatically, my siblings were each other’s first and best friends in the family. They shared a room growing up, so they spent much more time together than with me. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but it was the beginning of a pattern that I found would continue in my life. Always the lone wolf, or the outlier in a group. Never someone’s best friend or first choice. Not by design or malice, but just because that’s life.
I remember having one friend when I was very young. I’m not even sure how I managed that to be honest; I think it was because our parents were friends, so we had no choice! But for some reason, our parents stopped talking and I lost my only real friend. I think it was from around then that the pain, fear and anxiety of any social interaction became my norm, even with people I knew. (It might surprise you to read this, but even now I get nervous before meeting some of my closest friends!) But, even more than that, this change was the start of my struggle with loneliness.
People hear the word loneliness and think of times when they felt alone. Maybe starting a new school or a new job, or moving to a new city before they settled in. That feeling like there’s no one there, like there’s no one who truly gets you, was a deep-seated feeling for me from a very young age and persists even now.
Let me break it down a little bit more for you. Picture “your person” (any Grey’s Anatomy fans?) – your partner, your best friend, a family member – whoever it is that you go to first to share good news with, or to lean on during the hard times, or to just sit with happily and chill for hours on end. The person that you speak to every day, or every week. Now try to imagine your life if you didn’t have that person in it…if you never had that person in it.
You come home from work and they’re not there. You want to call someone and complain about your day and they’re not there. You have great news to share and they’re not there. That painful ache you feel in this moment is what I have always felt consistently just beyond the surface. It’s my lifelong struggle. It doesn’t go away just because you’re surrounded by people and seemingly enjoying yourself. It doesn’t ease up because things are going well in your life. It doesn’t fully loosen its grip on you, even as you build relationships with people. It weighs you down, it makes it hard for you to connect with others, or even try to, and it can become overwhelmingly present. It makes you shrug off people who make an effort to befriend you. It tells you that you are worthless and that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. It tells you to bury your head and isolate yourself because it’s just easier to accept the pain than to try and fail. It has you doing the very things you shouldn’t do when you struggle with loneliness.
My loneliness has taken me through some very low times. There have been nights on end where all I could do was cry for hours, wishing that life was different, that I was different. There have been times where I consistently isolated myself from as many people as possible, but just doing enough so that no one really knew just how bad things felt. Loneliness makes you take things more personally than you should because you are over-sensitive to social interactions. You see silence as rejection. You see rejection as your fault. It makes things like Christmas and New Year holidays feel kind of sad underneath the surface level happiness. In fact, it makes it hard to know when you are truly happy, if at all.
Sounds pretty hopeless and bleak right? I mean, I do still struggle with this after all, so where’s the happy ending I hear you ask? Well remember, this is my journey – my end has not been written yet. But what I can tell you is that I have seen progress through my life. Roll back a few years and I wouldn’t even be able to write this without being a blubbering mess. Now, there are no tears in sight as I temporarily let the pain come to the surface to put pen to paper (well…fingers to keyboard!), but it doesn’t destroy me like it used to. That in itself is a miracle!
(Part 3 coming soon…)