My guest on the blog today is author Miriam Drori. Miriam writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her own experiences with social anxiety (something I am all too familiar with, myself!) led her to writing a book about the disorder. She has also written short stories and romantic fiction. Miriam lives in Jerusalem and is a keen dancer. She also has a degree in maths, which I find completely awe-inspiring since I can barely add two and two together! Here’s Miriam with her five photos. ( I think this first one is just adorable!)
The Rocking Horse
I was three or four. I loved going to the kindergarten, because the kindergarten was full of children my age, while at home I was the only one. I didn’t really have any friends there, but that was okay. Most of the children didn’t, at that age. Only Irene and Natalie were always together, running off hand-in-hand, giggling. Whenever we played outside and they brought out the equipment, I made a beeline for the rocking horse. It always stood there, patiently waiting for me to mount; perhaps they all left it for me. I loved riding it. Did I imagine riding a real horse as I swung forwards and back, racing through open country, free of the shackles that tied me down? I can’t remember.
This photo was taken on the festival of Purim, which is the time for fancy dress. I’m dressed as Queen Esther, who helped to save the Jews of Persia by begging her husband, the king, to spare her people from the wicked Haman. And, of course, I’m on the rocking horse.
As it happens, it’s Purim again, a few years later, and I’m dressed as Queen Esther again. I’ve included this photo because it symbolises, for me, what my school years were like. Unlike kindergarten, school was a place where children formed a social circle and I was always the arc on the outside. I was bullied from age five to age seventeen. One of the reasons for that was that I was quite immature, and being the youngest in the class didn’t help. Can you guess which of those children is me? Yes, that tiny one at the back in the middle. I’m not short now.
It was the bullying that led to the visitor that never left. Social anxiety began with a conscious decision to keep quiet to stop the bullying, and turned into something I couldn’t switch off when I wanted to. It’s been a big nuisance in my life and something I’d much rather do without, but social anxiety also drove me to start writing and led to my non-fiction book on that subject, Social Anxiety Revealed. Every cloud has a silver lining?
Hiking and Family
Things gradually improved for me after leaving school. I emigrated, got married (forty years ago and we’re still together) and gave birth to three lovely children. David and I have some different interests – he’s into art while I like dancing. But we both love to go hiking and did our best to pass on this love to our offspring, with partial success.
Our most favourite country for hiking is Switzerland. There, the paths are well marked showing not only where they lead but also how long it takes to walk there. Public transport is so good that we don’t have to hire a car and walks don’t have to be circular. We travel by train, boat, bus or cable car to the starting place and take other transport from wherever we end up. And we rent an apartment, which makes the experience cheaper than people think.
This photo, taken on holiday in Scotland in the year 2000, covers those two parts of my life: family and hiking. Everyone was laughing because David was slipping on the rock as he tried to get into the picture on time.
We have also been to more exotic places, like India and Japan. If I were to add a sixth photo, it would be one of me climbing a vertical wall in Ethiopia. My sensible husband chose not to attempt that one.
Did I mention that I like dancing? I do. And for several years, I’ve been able to feed that yearning to move to music on a dance floor by attending Israeli folk dancing sessions once, twice and even three times a week. Israeli folk dancing is dynamic, and not only in the sense of making you move. New dances are created all the time. This is good because it never becomes boring, and because it’s important to keep going in order not to fall behind. Dancing is great exercise for the body and the soul.
Does social anxiety affect my enjoyment of dancing? Not at all. When I dance, I’m not self-conscious or self-critical. I think I dance fairly well and have nothing to be embarrassed about. Talking, though, is another matter.
On a technical point, it’s hard to capture a moment in a dance, and I tried to take this one from a video that was blurred to start with, but there I am in a purple dress with a white band. Here’s the video, which for some reason got conveniently blurred when I put it on YouTube. “Conveniently” because it’s probably good that you can’t make out the faces.
My other great love is writing. I’ve always known I can express myself much better in writing than in conversation. I haven’t always known I can be creative. My school experience told me the opposite, but the truth is I just wasn’t ready for the books we had to read or the pieces we were expected to write. I’m making up for that now. Here’s a selfie of me, writing in the garden. What bliss!
Thank you, Miriam. I adore that picture of you on the rocking horse! So cute. I’m very glad your own story has had such a happy ending. Thank you for sharing your five photos with us today.
About Miriam Drori:
As the jigsaw piece that never fitted the UK puzzle, Miriam Drori finally found her slot in the smaller but more complex Israel puzzle. There, she married and raised a family, working in computer programming and technical writing before turning to creative writing.
The only problem was that when she left the UK, the unwanted visitor called social anxiety insisted on accompanying her and has never left her side since. However, since realising it’s here to stay, she has learnt to tame it and make friends with it… most of the time.
Apart from writing, Miriam loves reading, hiking, travelling and dancing. She also likes public speaking and gets a thrill out of standing in front of an audience.
Fear of other people? Most of us feel this occasionally, when giving a presentation or being grilled in a job interview. This is not social anxiety disorder.
Fear of what other people think of you? We have all felt this, too. It is why we dress as we do and generally try to behave in a way that is expected of us. This is not social anxiety disorder either.
But when those fears become so prevalent that they take over your life? When they cause you to hide away, either literally or by not revealing your real self? When you keep quiet in an attempt to avoid those raised eyebrows and the possible thoughts behind them? That is social anxiety disorder.
And it is much more common than you might think. In the mental health table, it comes third – after alcoholism and depression – and yet most people don’t even know it exists.
If you have social anxiety disorder, this book is for you.
Even if you don’t have social anxiety disorder, you might have a friend, a relative or a work colleague who does. You might see it developing in your son, your daughter, or a child you teach. This book is for you, too.
Social Anxiety Revealed is created by people who yearn to ditch all these problems and live their lives to the full.
Can you help?
You can buy Social Anxiety Revealed here.
To find out more about Miriam and her writing, visit her website.