Growing up Silent

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I was nine years old, and the fear of death was taking over my entire body. After somehow making it from my fourth grade classroom to the main office, I came to find that the door to the nurses office was closed, and there was no nurse on duty. A new dose of dread filled my veins as I walked up to an office aide. I tried to breathlessly explain my situation to her. “I..I feel really sick. I get…panic attacks…I think I might…be having a heart attack.” The woman was leaning over her desk in her attempt to hear me-I was whispering ever so faintly. I didn’t allow myself to talk out loud to her; I barley knew her. She directed me to a blue plastic chair where I sat while she murmured with some of the other office aides. A wave of dizziness hit me when I saw the principal murmuring with the rest of them, then she reached for the phone. “Should we call professional help…?” she whispered, but not quietly enough. I wanted to go right up to her and ask her to please get my mother, I just needed to calm down. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t talk to the principal, to the office aide, to any of them. Even if I had tried, no words would have come out. So I sat dizzy in the hard plastic chair, imagining an ambulance whisking me away, my heart pounding, until my mother was eventually called in.




I couldn’t talk to them because I had Selective Mutism. Selective Mutism is a childhood anxiety disorder in which a child feels so much anxiety in public places, like school, on a day to day basis, that they outwardly shut down. Most kids with SM don’t allow themselves to talk, smile, laugh, or make any kind of noise in public for fear of drawing attention to themselves. They may be able to count on one hand all of the people on the planet that they talk out loud and normally to, usually just immediate family and one close friend. Extreme anxiety goes hand in hand with SM, which is why I had such a horrible panic attack in the office that day. Now and then the constant anxiety of not being able to speak would mount into sheer panic with extreme physical symptoms which, as a child, were almost always interpreted as a heart attack or something dangerous, when really panic attacks are harmless.




When I think about these moments-moments where I was so frustrated, misunderstood, and afraid, it reminds me mainly of two things; how far I have come, and how far I have left to go. I overcame Selective Mutism when I was 13 and went to summer camp. After 12 years of silence and speaking only to family and close friends, I found that the people who were meeting me for the first time at camp, not expecting me to be silent, were quite easy to talk to. They did not gasp when I spoke-they were just strangers, how were they to know it was a big deal? I entered my first day of high school as almost a new person; a person with a opinions, humor, personality, a person with a voice.




But SM has not completely left my life yet, and nor do I ever want it to. All those years I spent as “the quiet girl” would be in vain to me if I didn’t pass on my knowledge and experience in an effort to help a new generation of “quiet kids” someday as a consoler/psychologist. I will know exactly how to help them, and maybe because of me, some of them won’t have to suffer through the same things that I did.





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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

JustinBieberGirl14 said...
Oct. 14, 2010 at 11:35 am
This is very brave and i have had similar experiences, but i would never be able to describe a situation like that as well as you.
 
sarahfara53 replied...
Oct. 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm
Thank you so much! It mean a lot. I hope whatever your similar expiereces are similar to this are long over.
 
JustinBieberGirl14 replied...
Oct. 16, 2010 at 7:13 pm
thanks they are for the most part!
 
Camps Kid #8 said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 9:29 am
This is a Fantastic piece of writing! It has great detail on how this affected your life. I couldn't imagine how you felt when this happened to you.
 
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