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Explainations come too late

October 17, 2013

To a childhood friend,

I was thinking about you today. I was thinking about the last time we spoke and asking myself if you ever wonder what happened. Did you do something wrong? Did you say something offensive without realising it? Did you miss some hint that would’ve told you that our friendship was over?

The answer to all of these is no. You deserve an explanation as to why I never replied to your last text, why Facebook messages have gone ignored, why I’ve never been around to meet the man you’re about to marry. It’s hard though, to let you in, to admit to something which I’m only recently realising isn’t my fault. I suffer from social anxiety. Severe social anxiety.

I know that it’s hard to understand why that should mean I wouldn’t talk to you, and I can’t explain it in terms that a ‘normal’ person would understand, all I can say is that I’m sorry that I let it affect my relationship with you.

You remember how I was at school? Within our group I was verbal enough, I had a structure that I was comfortable with and I could be myself, or at least as much of myself as I was comfortable letting anybody see. But did you see me around anybody else? You should have seen me during history class; I didn’t know anybody when we started in year 10, and by then I was too far gone. I didn’t know how to talk to people who I didn’t already know. I didn’t know how to make friends. I didn’t know how to be me.

When we left school I was sure that I’d keep in touch with my real friends, you especially. But then college happened. I couldn’t handle it, the social aspect, meeting so many new people, trying to create some kind of a relationship with them based on nothing… it broke me. I walked out after three weeks and never went back.

After that I spent too much time by myself. I thought everyone was too busy with their new lives at whatever college they had gone to to care about my problems, and too embarrassed to admit that I had chickened out. I didn’t understand at the time that what I was feeling wasn’t my fault, that I could get help and learn to be better around people. So I stayed alone.

I kept texting you for a while. Texting was safe, I could plan exactly how to react to everything you said, there was no pressure to be ‘me’. And then you said we should meet up. ‘It’s been waayyy too long’ was the jist. And I couldn’t do it. One of my best friends and I couldn’t see you. I didn’t know how to explain to you the overwhelming panic which I felt at the thought of seeing you, or anyone else, in a social setting. There was no consideration finding a way to do it, how it would affect my life and happiness if I didn’t make the effort with the friends I had then. So I ignored you.

I never responded to your messages because what could I say? I don’t want to see you? The thought of meeting up with you makes me shake with fear? No, I put off responding because I didn’t know what to say.

That was nearly six years ago. Six years is too long a time for me to reply now, so instead I’m writing this letter. You’ll never read it, never know that this is my apology. But it’s out there, and maybe one day I’ll meet you again and be strong enough to tell you the truth. Maybe you’d understand, maybe you wouldn’t. I don’t know how to understand a time in my life where I couldn’t even go to family events because of the mind crippling fear. But this is the first step. Telling you about it here, now, maybe I’ll start to understand it better myself.

I’ve missed you and I’m sorry.

With love,

from an old friend x

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