Mentally Ill Since Childhood
Posted by KatyRockya
26th Jun 2014

One of the earliest memories I have is from preschool. It was free play time, and I was in the corner playing with a wooden snake. There was quite a bit of noise coming from the other kids, as would be expected, but I was completely silent. In fact, I was consciously trying to draw as little attention to myself as possible. I wished that I was invisible, so there would be no risk of someone trying to talk to me. Of course, there was little chance of that happening anyway. I was the weird silent kid, and I stayed in that role for my entire youth. It would be years before I knew that there was a name for what was wrong with me, and at age 29 I still struggle with many of the same issues.

Through kindergarten and grade school I had three friends, two of whom were required to hang out with me because we lived on the same street. The third was outgoing enough not to mind my episodes of silence. In school I did well, except for class participation. Not only did I never raise my hand, I also failed to answer when I was called on anyway. I don't mean that I would claim not to know the answer -- I was incapable of saying anything. I would freeze up and simply stare at the teacher until he/she gave up and called on someone else.

During this period, I also became increasingly angry. I was angry at everything and everyone, but my parents and especially my older brother took the brunt of it -- my parents became the target of my venomous insults and my brother took the physical attacks, leaving him with arms full of fingernail scars. I was also angry at myself, both for acting this way and just for being defective.

By the eighth grade, my few weak friendships had unraveled and I was entirely isolated. I was still unable to answer questions out loud in class, and I went through nearly every day of school without saying a word to anyone. Eventually, all of my teachers collectively called my parents in to a conference where they explained the extreme nature of my shyness and urged my parents to get me into therapy.

I have to give credit to Dr. Janie for not giving up on me after I was almost completely unable to talk during our first couple of sessions. Eventually I got more comfortable, and although I tended to freeze up during conversation role plays, I came to a point where I spoke to Dr. Janie more than anyone except perhaps my mom. I also finally learned that there were terms to describe people like me: I had Social Anxiety Disorder, aka Social Phobia, along with Selective Mutism (the inability to talk in one or more types of social situations). After working with Dr. Janie for a year or so, I was gradually able to start answering questions in class, and during tenth grade I actually found a group of friends where I felt comfortable.

Dr. Janie had also helped me understand that the anger I experienced was actually my way of acting out against a deep depression; I was feeling horrible and I didn't know why, so I blamed the people around me. Eventually, I ended up switching from Dr. Janie (a psychologist) to a psychiatrist who could prescribe me antidepressants, since I didn't feeI like I could get a hold on my depression without medical help. After going through a number of medications, I've found that Luvox really helps me. I don't feel that misery that used to dog me, and although I sometimes feel irrational anger, I'm able to recognize it and let it pass.

As for my Social Anxiety Disorder -- It still has a significant impact on my life. I have few friends, and I'm known as "The Quiet One" at work, but I don't feel that icy fear when someone tries to talk to me. I know I'm awful at people skills, but that's who I am, and I've come to accept it.

Besides, if it wasn't for my Depression and Social Anxiety Disorder, I wouldn't have met my partner (we connected on a site for people with mental illnesses, and his diagnoses matched mine). We've been together six years.

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