The Anxiety-Ridden Confessions of a Nervous Talker

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I have this major fear sometimes that I have no idea how to speak to other human beings.

I seem pretty normal on the Internet, right? And I am. But hear me out.

I've worked from home for half a decade now, which means that on an average day, I only verbally engage with: my boyfriend, one or two baristas at the coffee shop next door, & maybe a singular video chat with my NYC-based coworkers, though even that's not a guarantee. On a really big day, I go to Target! I know, my life is bananas.

But so much of my time is spent alone. I am, frankly, a very adept writer, & I have mastered the art of communicating solely via email - friendly, succinct, normal-sounding. In person, though, when I meet with someone new... cue the panic.

It's not the extreme, brain-on-fire panic that, like, sends me running for an inhaler & a Xanax. It is, in some ways, a more insidious panic. It's the slow, low-level kind that sets in mid-conversation, when I listen to myself talking - as I'm talking - & think, "Why are you saying so many words? Stop talking so fast! This person didn't need to know that about you. You're too informal. You sound stilted. You are a total weirdo. Let them talk. You're rambling. Stop. Go crawl in a hole & only email forever."

It's not a self-esteem thing; it's just an "Oh my God, am I doing this right?" thing. I know I'm a pretty personable person. I like people, I'm friendly, I can carry a decent conversation, & I'm actually not a weirdo... but because I'm so not used to talking to people on a regular basis anymore, I can't help but worry that I'm completely dropping the ball when it comes to the art of engaging with other human beings.

I know, I know. That's sort of crazy because carrying a conversation is... like riding a bike. Or easier than that. It's not something you forget. And yet, there I am, halfway through a conversation with a perfectly lovely stranger, & it's like my brain folds in on itself & starts asking whether maybe I'm doing it wrong. And it's not even just with strangers! It's with my friends, too!

The worst part, I think, is that there's no real way of knowing if it's real or if it's all in my head, aside from my own anxiety-ridden assessments (which are obviously a little biased). Most people are too polite to be like, "Yo, shut up, you're nervous-talking something fierce," so I'm left trying to convince myself that my rambling is charming, not bizarre.

How's that for a personal tagline? "I'm not bizarre, I'm charming."

Compelling, I know. Don't you want to meet me?!

I try to remind myself that plenty of charming people are also bizarre, like Lady Gaga, or my hairdresser with the green hair & KISS tattoos, or the quirky, flamboyant photographer down the road who talks a mile a minute & will tell you the story behind every single picture he's ever taken. Nervous talkers are people, too. It's OK!

But man. I sure do wish my brain would get on board & quit throwing me off mid-conversation.

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