Speaking Up

[Image description: A drawing of a girl wearing dark red lipstick. Only the bottom half of her face and her neck is revealed. The top half of her face is hidden in a mix of swirls, stars, and red flowers.]
By Jazmin Diaz

I have struggled with social anxiety my whole life. Growing up I would receive the same recurring questions from friends, family, or strangers: “Why are you so quiet?” “Why don’t you just speak up?” Today, I continue to hear these comments, but the older I get the less it bothers me. Many people do not understand how difficult it is for a person with social anxiety to speak up, especially when that anxiety is mixed in with past traumas. I used to feel self-conscious when people would make comments regarding my anxiety, but I am slowly realizing that it is not something I should feel ashamed of. I created the piece above after a close friend mentioned that I was way too reserved and should just try being more expressive. The blooming flowers represent the beautiful personality that can lie within a person who not only suffers from social anxiety, but from other mental health conditions as well. There is more to a person than a diagnosis, but it may take time or a change of situation to finally see that. Criticizing people for something they can't change only does more harm than good. One can often feel disconnected to people with mental health issues but making an effort to learn about them can strengthen a relationship. It is easy to become frustrated with a friend or family member who may have issues with their mental health but there is value in being patient.