Everyone has fears. A fear of the dark, a fear of heights, or even a fear of the unknown can make leading an otherwise normal life difficult. But what if you were afraid not of the dark or of heights—but of other people? What if you were overcome with paralyzing terror and even pushed to the brink of sickness each time you talked with another person—even though you wanted more than anything to be with and enjoy the company of that person?
Babson College Junior Jonathan Kohlmeier has authored Learning to Play the Game: My Journey Through Silence, a coming-of-age memoir of his young life living with selective mutism - an extreme form of social anxiety.
At first, as a child being so afraid that he could barely speak outside of the home, Jon’s story of struggle turns triumph as he is eventually able to join the debate team in high school. From the start of his journey in kindergarten to his high school graduation, Jon chronicles his desire to be “normal”—whatever that means. But even more, he shares his desire to simply be himself.
With prose, text messages, lyrics, photographs, and even his mother’s own recollection of one of Jon’s most traumatic events, Jon offers a message to everyone—to the student who might have sat next to him in school, the student who might have made fun of the quiet girl on the bus, or the boy who sits alone at the lunch table: you either learn to play the game, or the game plays you. But the best part, which Jon now knows, is that once you learn the game, you can still be yourself.
What started out as a Senior WISE Project at Rockland Country Day School in Congers, NY, has become a memoir that can educate others about this disorder as well as offer insight into the larger world of mental health.
From the start of his experience in kindergarten to his RCDS graduation, Kohlmeier chronicles his desire to be “normal” – whatever that means.
Kohlmeier says he hopes that this book can offer guidance and support to any child who is experiencing any form of social anxiety.
As Kohlmeier states, “The point of the book is outreach. The more people that get to hear about mental health, the better.”