It has taken some time, but I’m finally becoming invisible.

Recently, I came across a video of my family from when I was about 5. Some time ago my parents had old film footage converted to video cassettes and gave copies to us. One part showed my family entering a relative’s house on a holiday. My 4 older siblings entered first looking excited to see our cousins, followed by me and my folks. I looked very uncomfortable and intimidated. I remember being very self-conscious entering places like restaurants, stores or church when I was young. The size of my family drew attention to us, which made me nervous. Even as a teenager, I remember dreading the 30 seconds or so that it took from the point of entering a restaurant to being seated. I also had an aversion to being seen smiling. Very young, I remember being praised by my mom and a photographer for finally smiling after he snapped a picture of me in a cowboy outfit.

As an adult, I came to understand this part of my nature better, developing coping methods and discovering options to deal with my social anxiety. Alcohol helped in some social situations. I learned that beta-blockers masked the fight or flight response that over-loaded me when I performed or spoke to a group. With anti-anxiety meds I could feel at ease around people, allowing me to reveal more about myself. I learned to trust the positive way people responded to me more than my feeling that people didn’t receive me well. All these things helped me manage socially, but didn’t change the essence of who I was.

These days, I’m understanding the ways social anxiety has influenced the course of my life. It is a fundamental element of who I am. I realize now that it’s not being looked at that gives me discomfort, it’s being thought about that causes it. This tension produces an aura around me. It is a tangible gravity that pulls on me and pushes out from me. With just minimal engagement, people will instinctively tend to give me space, regarding me as private rather than aloof. They are cool with me leaving only the faintest trail on their radar. But this also means my creative efforts are offered from a distance to an audience focused on many other things. My creations sail off into the void and are devoured by the vacuum. No sound or light reflects back. No echoes or murmurs in response. No acknowledgement or acclaim.

I am getting what I wished. I have almost achieved invisibility.




Author: Eric Schuurman

Eat your vegetables.