Overcoming Anxiety One (Literal) Step At A Time
One of the first questions my husband asked me in all seriousness about my hiking the AT was “You know you will have to talk to people you don’t know? Camp with them? Go into restaurants & order for yourself?”
It sounds like a non-issue to most. But his bringing it up meant that he knew it would be a huge step for me to do those things and more on my own in unfamiliar places, with new faces, in strange settings, day after day. Social anxiety has been a silent shadow trailing me for most of my life. It’s been more than just being awkward in public or fearing talking to strangers or just being shy in general.
I avoid answering calls from numbers I don’t know. I dread having to set up appointments or go into my son’s school for anything. I constantly replay conversations from days, weeks, months ago and think of things I could have said, how I could have engaged more, smiled and nodded, cracked a joke.
I’m not so afraid of someone judging me as I am of saying or doing the wrong thing & believing there are repercussions that follow that. I want to love people, they just terrify me & make me feel so tiny in a world that is startlingly huge and loud and open.
I am far from anti-social. I love people in all their differences, their noise, the way their wheels turn but I have never been a loud girl. I am a Leo that whispers and tip-toes instead of roaring, prancing, and prowling but I am also a strong, stubborn lion in all that silence. More than anything, this trip has become a lion finding her roar that makes the world tremble.
A major part in over-coming this began with reaching out to companies in hopes of sponsorships. I had to learn to put my fears high up on a shelf, to sell myself and a dream. I’m not sure if many realize how out of the box that is for me. Email was simple but opening myself up and being able to say ‘you may reach me any time at this number’ was a huge and scary thing. There would come a day that I would have to speak, confidently, honestly, and without a tremor in my voice. I had to put faith in myself that my goals were larger than my fears.
I still have a hard time talking about what i’m going to do with people who aren’t close to me, who aren’t familiar and comfortable and safe. “So you are the nature girl? Do you think you will make it? That’s an awesome thing to do! I’m proud of you for taking this risk.” All things that make me want to run, to hide, to back out and away and put the AT back up on a dusty shelf and leave it forgotten.
But there are some things in life we simply can’t put away to forget. Some things are worth the risk. Some things require shouting about and I believe I will find my voice, one day at a time, one step at a time, one foot, one mile, one accomplishment at a time.
I am still a baby Simba, finding a voice in a cave of hyenas. I will learn to laugh louder, to stop doubting, to love the girl that no longer tip toes and obsesses and embrace the lion inside of me that screams, projects, is heard before she is seen, but mostly that roars without fear for a pride to hear.
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