Hi, my name’s Ellie,
I have social anxiety
and you people fucking terrify me.
But it’s 2023,
time for an improved me.
This year I’ll face the fear,
or so I keep whispering in my own ear:
you can do it,
they’re only human,
you’re only human,
you’re not that swamp-dwelling monster
in your mind’s eye,
you have a face and a brain like them,
the mirror does not lie.
So here I am,
rambling before strangers,
hoping, praying, begging for acceptance,
fear’s hand tugging at strings that lift
my shoulders up to my ears,
and fear’s foot stomping at a pedal
that accelerates my heartbeat.
I can endure fear’s brute pressure
in the here and now,
I can act,
pretend my way to nearly normal,
but it isn’t just this present moment that’s a problem.
It is before.
It is after.
It is dread sitting heavy in my belly
in the weeks, days, hours before a social event.
It is shame clinging sticky to my skin
in the hours, days, weeks after.
What if I do something daft,
say something to hurt?
What if I did something stupid,
said something cruel?
This fear of you is a fear of me,
fear I’m repulsive,
fear I have myself all wrong,
fear I allow myself to take up breath that I don’t deserve.
And this fear infiltrates my whole world,
pulls black cloud
until I fantasise of leaping
into the River Humber
to escape it.
This is no way to be,
no way to go on.
I have had enough.
So I’m here.
Brink of tears.
enduring this fear
to prove to myself
that I can stand before strangers
and not die.
And maybe in doing so
I’ll learn how to live.