A Day In The Life Of A Mouse

March 7, 2010
The date was May 31st, 2008; my eighth grade formal dance. I could feel the nerves beginning to rise in my stomach putting on my bright yellow dress that was layered like a flower. My hair was straightened, half up and half down. I wore a soft white sweater that draped around my shoulders. After I added my final touches with my glossy lipstick and high heels I walked out of my room. “You look absolutely gorgeous”, my mother exclaimed. Thinking it was just one of those comments mothers always say, I smirked and walked into the bathroom to the bigger mirror for a good look. I stared at myself and for once in my life I felt pretty. I believed my mom when she said I looked good and I just glowed from the inside out. I felt and looked amazing. I was satisfied, so I headed for the dance. The parents were allowed to stay for fifteen minutes to take pictures as I visited with my friends who also looked gorgeous. Then, this girl, let’s call her Maria, waltzed up to me. She was in the popular crowd and has made fun of me at one point. She told me, “Caitlin I love that dress! You look so beautiful!” I thanked her, astonished and she walked away. My mom then came over to me and asked,“ Who is that boy over there?” directing my attention to her right. There stood this boy I was quite fond of. I told my mom who it was and she replied, “ I just saw him just staring at you. He couldn’t take his eyes off of you!” I could not believe that I was actually stared at. My whole life I had felt like an ugly loser who should run away and never come back. I was in a trance throughout the whole entire dance. That night was one of the best nights of my life. I felt confident and not self-conscious one bit.

I guess you could label me as a goody-good kind of teenager considering my good behavior at home, going to church every Sunday, and my obsession with the Jonas Brothers. But ever since I started school I have been labeled the “Quiet One”. I am not exactly the shy girl who ends up warming up to everyone at school the first day and can carry on conversations without awkward silences. My version of quiet is a little different. When I was very little, my parents found out my older sister and I had an anxiety disorder called Selective Mutism (SM). This anxiety would affect me whenever I was not at home with my close family. At school, or any social situation, I would freeze up, break out in sweats and constantly have the butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling inside. If I was called on by a teacher and my answer was incorrect, I felt the intense mortification of someone naked in public. I would slouch and stare at the floor because the anxiety was so intense. I would not say a word to anyone and only answer questions with blank stares, which would often come off as snootiness to some. Smiles were foreign to my lips, but angry and terrified frowns were not. Though gears changed when I got home from school. At home, I was just an ordinary, happy, talkative little girl who constantly bounced off the walls. The beginning of preschool is a bit of a blur, but the painful memories remain. I would return to the same corner of the room, playing by myself and trying to believe I was somewhere else; like home. The situation was not any better with the fact that I was the only girl of all boys in the class. To about the middle of first grade, I roamed by myself at recess watching all of the other kids laugh and play. I remember how envious I was of those kids and walked around the playground aimlessly until recess was over. I soon started seeing a psychiatrist. My sister had gone to see her and so my parents thought it would be nice for me to see her as well. I remember the welcoming atmosphere I breathed in every time that made me less tense and feel at ease. I also remember not being able to speak a word to her. So for a while, we would just play board games.
Time passed and soon I was able to say hello to her and have small conversations. She helped me with every problem I had at the time and coached me through the whole process of solving my problem. In first grade, the bitter taste of loneliness faded away as I started to make friends. Before I started seeing my psychiatrist, I only had two close friends, to having the group of friends I have today. After I began to get help, I have slowly progressed quite a bit. Now I can answer people when they talk to me and even carry out a bit of a conversation. I can smile, stand without slouching, and staring at the ground. I still have quite a large hike to venture through but I know I can take the journey one step at a time.
Throughout this whole experience, I have learned to never judge a book by its cover. One day in sixth grade is so vivid to my memory I can still feel the gratitude I felt toward my best friend, who stood up for me. We had been doing partner projects in the previous class and my best friend heard some people talk about it. One of the people was Maria and her friend, who happened to be my partner for the project. Maria asked him who his partner was. He replied with a bitter taste in his voice, “Caitlin Hobart”. She smirked and said, “I feel so bad for you. She never talks”.
“ Yeah, she’s like mute or something”.
My best friend stormed up to them and angrily blurted, “Caitlin is my best friend. You don’t even know her so don’t ever talk about her again”. People don’t know what its like to have SM so they tend to make remarks. None of these people know what I go through, but have taught me the lesson of never making judgments if you do not even know the person you are judging. The only thing I would tell these people is thank you for teaching me such a great lesson. There is a girl in my grade that is fairly new. She wears glasses and baggy jogging pants with a sweatshirt. She stares at the ground as she feels the taunting stares brush over her like the rotten taste of a smoky breeze. Rejection is what she feels; the kind of rejection that feels like a thousand knives in your back. I was partnered with her one day in one class but I did not treat her the way others do. Flashing a big grin I said, “Hi! I’m Caitlin”. That was the only time I ever saw her smile.
One of the most challenging aspects of my shyness is accepting myself for who I am. Being a shy person is not a crime. I never get any detentions for talking, get along with everyone and usually behave myself. I always put myself down thinking being a shy person was bad because I do not have fifty friends to hang out with on the weekends. But I came to realize being shy made me an independent person. Being independent is completely normal and I love it. I can go for long walks and just have the feelings of serenity take over and I forget about everything in my life that causes anxiety and nervousness and just become genuinely happy.
I have also learned that it doesn’t always hurt to take risks. One of the biggest reasons why I never spoke was because of fear. Fear of rejection, humiliation, and imperfection. I was afraid to raise my hand in class because I always thought my answer would be wrong and I would be laughed at. I was afraid of talking to new people because I thought I would be rejected. I now know that taking risks can change your life in great ways. I have since joined all sorts of activities and I loved them. So next time I am in class and the teacher asks a question I will push aside my mouse-like qualities and raise my hand: because I could have the right answer.

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Escribo said...
Mar. 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm
I can relate. I'm really shy too. My friend once told me that one of her teachers (one I don't have) refered to me as "the dark and silent one". I thought that was hilariouse and we still laugh about it sometimes. I guess people must see me that way, but that's not all there is to me and i guess what we we see in others isn't all there is to them either. Keep writing. I love to here from a perspective that's not written from very often.
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