We will have a great time.

I’m super excited!

Actually, I feel a slight headache coming on.

It’s a little hot today, so maybe that’s why.

Whatever it is, I don’t feel so great all of a sudden.

Maybe I should stay home?

Wait, wasn’t I super excited just a few minutes ago?

These are the thoughts that are going through my head shortly before departure. It’s not a long trip – just a few blocks away at our local craft store. My friend set up a play date with a bunch of other moms and dads. Our kids will be creating holiday-themed projects.

I am very tired, but that is not unusual. It’s actually pretty common for me – a person who worries about so much on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter how often I’ve been placed in the same situation. It’s still there.

After the embarrassment of realizing just how silly my behavior’s been, we leave the house. I’m already sweating. I know there will be quite a few parents and kids attending today, but I am missing some crucial info.

How many people will be there?

Do I know them?

I feel quite dizzy.

The walk is exhausting. For me, there’s no such thing as a nice and pleasant stroll. If I have to be out, I am uneasy. Because…people.

This is not the way I intended it to be. After the birth of my daughter, I figured I would settle into my cute little neighborhood and make friends right away.

It didn’t matter that I was painfully shy.

It didn’t matter that I was terribly self-conscious.

Mommy friends would come in time, I told myself.

I was right.

For the past few years, I’ve been pretty good at playing the game. My initial mommy meet-ups involved alcohol. Drinking was my secret weapon of sorts. It helped to relax me. It helped make me outgoing. It was also very exhausting at times.

I always felt afraid I’d be “found out.” What if they figure out my secret? What if they realize that I am quite terrified of other people?

In college, I was diagnosed with social phobia, also known as “social anxiety,’’ and given a prescription for the antidepressant Paxil. They had finally found a term for it. Before that, I’d always been told I was shy or introverted.

As a kid, I was the one who never raised her hand for fear of being laughed at. As a teenager, I sought to stay alone. It was very lonely, and painful, too.

In college I discovered drinking. It did help. But the next day I always crashed and worried about what I might have said or done. Embarrassment was my enemy. I spent my life trying to avoid it – often with no luck.

Interestingly enough, the mommy “cliques” are not that different than the ones in high school. Many of us feel the need to “keep up” and live vicariously through our children. Luckily, I’ve escaped this trap.

I know that I am far from alone. I’ve met other moms who are introverted like me. The struggle is real.

Some days, I anticipate immense stress. Those are days that I know will require a great deal of socialization. The massive worrying can start days in advance. It’s not uncommon to lose sleep as well.

In those instances, I remember who I’m doing this for. My kids are my world, and I would never want them to feel that they missed out because mommy felt uncomfortable. That is, perhaps, my strongest motivator.

This year, I expect a full calendar and a nervous stomach. I am praying for a smooth season. I don’t expect the anxiety to ever go away. More than likely, it never will. But I’m not giving up. 

On a recent trip to my son’s school, I became sentimental. It was a beautiful autumn day and the air was crisp. I thought about all the precious moments that had been altered due to my social phobia – from avoiding the local coffee place after pick-up to the bad headaches that always seemed to pop up during parent/teacher conferences.

I am learning to be gentler with myself.

My life is too short and I deserve happiness. I will take each day as it comes. “Just do it” has become an appropriate mantra.

With age, I’ve learned to relax a bit. With the stress of managing a family and household, I have concerns outside of myself. In many ways, that has been the perfect preoccupation.

One thing I’ve noticed is how strong I feel after conquering the fear. I feel relieved. I feel grateful that I survived. I now understand that being an introvert is not a character flaw. I am learning to embrace my introverted side. It has made me who I am. And that is more than okay.