I used to think I was good at making friends.

I’ve always excelled in social settings of all sizes. I loved striking up conversations with strangers (sorry, mom and dad) and getting to know their quirks, their thoughts, their individual stories.

I lived for that conversational high — that feeling of, “Wow, this human is new to me and we have so much to discuss! I could talk to them for hours about…um…everything!” I took great joy in sharing my passions and ideas with others almost as much as I enjoyed hearing them talk about their own.

I loved big gatherings. I felt energized by the buzz of a lively room filled with mingling masses whose colorful banter bounced across the walls of the space it occupied.

But over the past few years, I’ve started to shut down sporadically.

Oftentimes, I feel overwhelmed at parties. Oftentimes, there’s this bizarre pressure — primarily self-inflicted but also a product of the social environment — to have a “good time.” Oftentimes, groups of more than 8-9 people depress me.

I stress the adverb “oftentimes” because aside from the fact that this happens more frequently than I would like, this isn’t limited to just parties. It applies to being in class, at work, or even in casual setting, like a coffee shop.

I start thinking too much: “How can I convince these people to listen to my words? Or that I’m more interesting than their phones? Is that even possible? Just look at me.”

And the worst part? I can never anticipate it.

I could be surrounded by people and be having a spectacular time, and then without any notice, I lose myself. My brain just shuts off, and my smile tapers  — like someone abruptly changed the channel.

“I want to be alone,” I say to myself. “No, I need to be alone and now.”

 I love being around people, but it’s torturous to me most of the time. It’s just not fair.

This is the life of a socially-anxious ambivert.

An ambivert is simply a person who is neither an introvert nor an extrovert. Though introversion and extroversion are typically presented as mutually exclusive traits, they really aren’t. More people are likely to fall under the category of ambiversion than we would expect.

Ambiversion is not a bad thing, but it can be when coupled with mental health problems.

Though I have been struggling these past few years, this semester in particular has been testing my mental strength: moving to Chicago, having to rely on/get the hang of public transportation (still pending), starting a new job, adjusting to the academic pace of a university (versus a community college), and leaving all of my loved ones back home.

I lost all of the constants in my day-to-day life, and most of the days I’ve spent at UIC thus far have been exhausting, but I’m still fighting.

My goal today was to spread awareness about mental health. There’s a good chance there are people in your life who are experiencing similar issues every day, so let’s all be kind.

If you have been able to relate to any of this, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that you’ve been struggling, but I’m so proud of you for fighting every day.

You’re so much stronger than you know, and you’re more capable than words can describe.

X,
Katerina

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