I’ve always been a shy person, but by 20 years old this had built to the level that I stopped being able to leave the house for fear of getting in other’s people’s way just by existing.
I felt like I was a waste of space, and I constantly worried that I would inconvenience people somehow just by being in their presence. In my uni tutorials I found it hard to speak up and participate, despite feeling really passionate about the coursework. When I did speak up I would spend days, sometimes weeks, replaying it and beating myself up for wasting everyone else’s time with my opinion, which obviously wasn’t worth bothering them with. I found it harder and harder to go to classes the more I got to know people, and my marks and attendance really started to decline. This just served as more evidence that I was defective, a waste of space, and selfish. After all, my enrolment in the course was taking up the space of someone else who would participate and attend.
From a young age home was always a volatile place. Us kids never knew what mood mum would be in, and whether we would need to hide in our rooms. I mean she never hit us or anything, but her rages would last for hours if she was upset. Sometimes she’d lock herself in the bathroom or threaten to leave and not come back. I learnt to hide my emotions and put a smiling face on when I was around her – I couldn’t risk her getting angry and leaving us. I got really good at pushing my emotions down, and taught myself to shut off. At some point, I’m not sure when, this just became automatic. That’s what made it so scary when these bottled up emotions found their way out, and I would collapse into a ball crying for hours. This just reinforced the importance of avoiding emotions at all cost – they’re just so painful.
I feel this intense struggle inside of me of wanting to be close to people, but at the same time fearing this so much. Fearing that I’ll waste their time. That once they get to know me they’ll reject me. So I keep my distance. I’ve never had a boyfriend, and my friendships don’t last long because I tend to pull back and stop doing things with them. But it’s such a lonely place...
When I first started seeing my psychologist I really worried that me seeing her was stopping her from seeing someone who was more important and deserved it more. When I missed a session after a really intense session the previous week and I just couldn’t go, I felt like the most selfish person in the world. When my psychologist called me to check I was okay and offer me another appointment, I was confused because I had expected her to tell me I wasn’t welcome back.
When my psychologist diagnosed me with Avoidant Personality Disorder it was an amazing sense of relief – finally there was a way to put words to what I had been living. I still find it hard to fully accept the diagnosis, because I feel a strong sense of guilt that it’s almost like I’m trying to make an excuse. But with the support of my psychologist I’m beginning to recognise that while this way of thinking makes sense in light of stuff that’s happened to me, it is part of what keeps me stuck. It has taken months of my psychologist prompting me to recognise and acknowledge my emotions for me to start to accept that maybe my emotions are valid, and my experiences are real. Six months later I’m still struggling with this, but for the first time in a long time I feel hopeful that things might change for me. I have returned to uni, and I’m managing to get to most of my classes. I also recently started talking to this guy in my class that I’ve liked for a while.
I wrote this to help others like me to speak up and get some help - just talk to someone who is professional and you can trust! It is making a difference to me, and I hope it will for you too.
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