“Do you know anyone who suffers from social anxiety?” she asked me quietly, tears welling up in her eyes.
I was taken aback by the question. She hadn’t even acknowledged my presence beside her since I got on the trolley 10 minutes before.
“Well I have a few friends who suffer from anxiety but don’t know anyone with social anxiety. I’m sure it’s a thing though.”
Sure it’s a thing though? Come on Megan, how stupid do you sound right now!
“I’m sure me sitting this close to you doesn’t help,” I went on to say, “I could move if you want to me to.”
“No, no. It helps to have someone to talk to.” She went on to tell me that she’s suffered from social anxiety on the trolley for the last 10 years. Yes, she has talked to someone about it. No, it hasn’t helped. No, she doesn’t know what causes it.
I wished I had some comforting advice to give her. “I’m so sorry you have to deal with that,” I said. “I truly hope it gets better for you. Have a good day,” I stammered as I got off at my stop.
Her words and the look on her face kept coming back to me: the tears, the nervousness. “Do you know anyone who suffers from social anxiety?”
How difficult it must have been for her to talk to me, a complete stranger about it. Or maybe that was the easiest thing. I felt bad for judging her as rude when she ignored my polite, “Can I sit here?”
As someone who grew up with anxiety and depression and, eventually, suicidal thoughts and even an attempt, I knew what it was like to hold that in until, without a second thought, blurting it all out to a complete stranger. I hope her confession gave her a sense of release. I hope my words gave her some kind of comfort.
But, in the end, I’m sure she doesn’t remember anything I said. My words weren’t that important. The most important thing was that she dared to speak up.