Forever alone


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“Fifteen minutes of yelling and tears one night my second semester of eight grade shifted everything, a truth I was very hesitant to admit for years. I am not the same and I never will be.”

Jenna Culpepper, Head Editor

I take one deep last breath and remind myself that once I get there it’ll all be okay.

“It’s just a couple hours,” I say as I look in the mirror. I smile weakly at my peculiarly unfamiliar reflection and pull my shirt down to make it look less wrinkled. Soon I’m in my car slowly inching forward as I calculate what time I’m going to get there.

“Not too early because then I’d be the first one there,” I continue my calculation. “But not too late because if I’m last then I’ll have missed way too much. Plus my on-time is early and everyone else’s on-time is late so I have to account for that.”

I stop my car in my driveway and consider leaving a few minutes later, but I carry forward and tell myself I’ll just drive the speed limit so I’m “casually” late like the rest of my friends.

After a blur of playing through different conversations in my head, I park in the cul de sac and glance at my lock screen nervously before looking around and seeing familiar cars.

I text my mom I made it safe and find a reason to sit there for a few fleeting moments before getting out of the car and walking towards my friend’s house.

“Hey, I hope I’m not too late,” I say sweetly as I brace myself for a stinging or sarcastic remark, but it never comes. I carry on with some joke or sarcastic remark, put on my usual act, and continue forward.

Then I genuinely enjoy being with friends for a long while. We laugh and talk and I wonder why I was ever nervous, but––with little warning––silence wraps around my brain and I feel my head start to drift. To focus and assure myself I have control, I bite nails and tap my foot rapidly against the cracked concrete. This is where the thoughts creep back in.

“Don’t you think that if they wanted you to stay here, they’d be talking to you now?” I hear a voice echo in my head as I glance around at my friends’ smiling faces. “Look how happy they are; not a problem here except for you. Maybe it was that dumb story you told an hour ago.”

Eventually I lock those thoughts in the depths of mind until I leave when they are all unleashed again as I drive home. I breathe deeply and attempt to enjoy the warm, familiar surroundings of my car while my doubts assault me all at once. Usually I play music to dampen my brain as it reflexively attempts to rewind and remedy the hundreds of things I did and said wrong.

Since eighth grade I have struggled with social anxiety. It’s never been crippling, but it has hindered and continually changed me for years. It’s been a low grade apprehension that makes me question many things I do and conversations I have. It’s been an underlying disquiet that keeps me up at night.

Fifteen minutes of yelling and tears one night my second semester of eight grade shifted everything, a truth I was very hesitant to admit for years. I am not the same and I never will be.

I have, for literal years, been feeding myself lies. I tell myself I have no friends because then it’s easier when they reject me. I assure myself it is normal to constantly backtrack and say “It’s okay” or “I’m fine” because then I won’t have to be vulnerable with people who may hurt me. I shut my mouth because I believe that no one wants to talk to me anyways.

Most people are not truly aware of the sea of unease and fear that fills my mind. I may have a jovial or witty demeanor much of the time, but many days I’m not fine. Many days I’m drowning, but I try my absolute hardest to make sure no one sees. 

The chronic overthinking, loneliness, and doubt in who I am have become a part of myself and I choose to hide because I don’t want people to believe I’m weak. I learned to cope by wearing a friendly mask and questioning myself instead of through being honest.

It’s hard in my mind to pinpoint why anyone would care to read this which makes me even more terrified, but for once I’m okay with it.

I want people to know just because someone acts happy all the time, that doesn’t mean they don’t have baggage too. And of course that seems obvious, but on many occasions it’s hard to believe some people are suffering when they just seem so perfect.

Each of us experience every excruciating stretch of our highs and lows, but––because we so often lack seeing the weaknesses of others––we feel as if we’re the only ones who are hurting.

I think that’s what my anxiety has steadily taught me: it’s okay to be broken because, at the end of the day, we’re all battered and bruised; and you’re never really alone no matter how bad it gets.