From my earliest moments, I can remember not wanting people to notice me. I was never comfortable having to interact with people. Immediate family was OK, but other relatives or “company” made me want to hide in my room. Social situations were torture.
As the years went by, it got worse. I had very few close friends at school and a terror of being called on in class. When I started junior high, none of my friends were in any of my classes. I did make a few new friends, but not many. High school was the worst. By then, I just wanted to fade into the walls. Again, I had a couple of friends I felt somewhat close to, but they weren’t in any of my classes. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. Social situations were unbearable.
About the only place I felt secure was church, but even then it was extremely difficult to interact with anyone. I participated as little as possible in Sunday School. The church service was OK because I didn’t have to do anything except sit there.
In my senior year of high school I saw an off-campus counselor, who I became comfortable with and enjoyed my sessions with her, but it didn’t do a thing for my phobia with people. I don’t think anyone realized just how debilitating it was becoming. By the time I graduated I could barely talk to my own family.
I dropped out of Chico State and then Butte College because I just could not stand the thought of being in a class of total strangers. At that point, my parents knew something was wrong and sent me to a psychiatrist. They assumed he would be able to straighten me out and I would be a good girl and go back to school. Those first sessions with him were absolutely soul-numbing. My mind was in a howling darkness. I don’t remember what medication I was put on, but after several months I was able to talk to the doctor with a bit more ease. I still couldn’t function well in social situations. Even coffee hour at church was difficult.
After 2 years of medication and seeing the shrink I was minimally better so that when I met Marv I didn’t try to hide under a table. I still couldn’t talk much, but could answer questions. Marv was very patient and gentle.
Even after I got married and had kids I found initiating conversations very difficult to do. We made good friends at the church here and that helped. I also started forcing myself to interact in small ways. At the bank, I would force myself to say something to the teller, like what a nice day it was or that I really liked the blouse/tie that she/he was wearing. Little things like that. And it was definitely something I had to force myself to do.
I was almost in my 40s before I considered myself to be what others would call ‘normal’ in being able to function socially. And that was AFTER getting professional help. I consider the first 20 years of my life as a prison, the second 20 as a struggle, and the third 20 as freedom.
First and foremost, the credit goes to God. He saw me through the truly dark times. Dr. Popp and Dr. Raitt continued the journey. And for the last 40+ years Marv has been my lodestar. He’s kept me on course.