Strands of social awkwardness

Social awkwardness is a general experience that many students feel, whether they have actual social anxiety or not. Social awkwardness is prevalent on campus, but there is no one way in which students experience it. This is the first of a series on Anxious in which I will be speaking to students at UCKAR about how they navigate this space with their social awkwardness.

Nikita-lynn Ruiters (2nd-year, English and Psychology)

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This year has been a challenge for Nikita. Her social anxiety has heightened since last year’s student protests, as she was caught in a stun grenade attack, leading her to experience PTSD. Music and writing have helped make her world a little calmer. (Photo: Guinevere Shapiro)

“Social anxiety makes me more aware of certain things. If someone is having a panic attack, I will be able to help them through it. I see the world differently to someone who doesn’t have it. I’m weary of people, so I don’t get attached too easily. Continue reading

Booze and boundaries

I picture it: the sting of the liquid, clear as water, as it fills my glass. I top it with something sweet and fizzy, spinning my straw around to stifle its unforgiving burn. The crowd rumbles on, a slurry of mismatched.conversations, gestures, and hot air. My chest feels tight and I lean in closer towards my friends, clutching my drink, fingers icy. Within minutes my glass is empty and I sit back, awaiting the calm that follows the burn. It feels like nothing is happening; then suddenly the words are streaming from my mouth like glitter, and my smile becomes laughter. I shrug my anxiety off and turn my back as it slinks off to a corner.

I have used alcohol to rid myself of a prominent aspect of my identity. Be it one drink or three, I’d usually feel lousy in the morning after having returned to myself. Continue reading

Enlightening reads

Get to know me a little better by exploring the list below:

It’s All Absolutely Fine: Life is Complicated, So I’ve Drawn it Instead by Ruby Elliot. Orion Publishing Group, London, 2016.

From It’s All Absolutely Fine, pg. 72

Ruby Elliot shares her experience with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and bipolar through raw, brutally funny cartoons. This is more of a comic book than anything else, but it features short yet poignant snippets of writing in each chapter as Ruby shares the trials and small triumphs of mental health problems. There is a likeness between her written anecdotes and her drawings: they don’t have happy endings, and that makes them all the more relevant. Continue reading

The quiet kid finds her voice

During my childhood and in the early stages of my adolescence, my mother recalled a phrase that will never leave my mind. Whenever I felt lost or frustrated, she would bring forth these words, her voice firm with conviction: Put the drama on the page. I swear by it now, though at the time it left me scowling. How could my vexation be softened simply by setting pen to paper?

In grade one, I wrote my first proper story, one with a plot, a host of characters, and a climax. On the top shelf of my cupboard at home, that story sits, accompanied by two crayoned witches on broomsticks. When I realised what I could do with a pen, I was delighted. I devoured books; with my newfound ability, books let me in on their secrets, and I learned that I too could create stories. I could share experiences and thoughts and question the world, all without saying a word. For the first year or so, my hand refused to stick to the margin as I wrote. The words edged a little closer to the right side of the page with each new line, transforming each story into a tornado of grey lead and thought.

Writing is my secret weapon. At school, each new year welcomed a fresh wave of anxiety; I mumbled and stammered my way through presentations and class discussions. Yet once finding the opportunity to place pen to paper, letters joined forces to create pieces that lit up my teachers’ eyes, which then fixed on me with approving curiosity. The more I read, the more ways I learnt to put the drama on the page. I heard writers’ voices in their characters – I laughed out loud at Holden Caulfield‘s cynicism, explored the mathematical mind of Christopher Boone, cried for Lennie Walker. Books assured me that being silent doesn’t mean you can’t be heard.

Speech is intimidating. You cannot approach a person the way you would a page. There is little time to gaze at them, head cocked to one side as you arrange your ideas, trace and retrace your verbal steps. You cannot hammer your finger onto the backspace key, moulding and packaging sentences until they’re ready for sharing. Shyness hides in my throat. It clings to my voice with cold, clammy hands and my words tumble out as they fight against it, an internal battle that chooses Um as the leader and allows I don’t know to end the procession.

Nearing the end of grade one, I told my teacher that when I grew up I wanted to be an author. I still marvel at the confidence that coursed through me as I shared my vision with her. At age seven I only knew and loved children’s fiction, and the term writer seemed far flimsier than the established title of author. I now know that I do not have to publish a book to satisfy the dreams of that quiet kid. Simply, I must write.

Photo credit: Guinevere Shapiro