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  • Writer's pictureAva Marie LaMonica

My Experience as an Introverted, Obsessive-Compulsive, Old Souled Third-Grader

Photo by M.T ElGassier on Unsplash

From the time I was young, I always felt sort of different from everyone else.

I know, how original right?

Sounds like every coming of age teenage novel.

You know, the one where the girl is an outcast who writes dark poetry and listens to bands like The Cure, wears a blue streak in her hair to emphasize her “differentness”, and finally utters the classic and cringe-worthy, “I’m not like other girls.”

Well, leave it to Hollywood for that stereotypical interpretation, but here was my different:

An introverted, obsessive-compulsive third-grader who immersed herself in black and white movies, musicals, Tim Burton films, and nostalgic music while everyone else had their room covered with posters of Hannah Montana and Justin Bieber.

Not to say later in life, I didn’t go through the 2010 pop phase and didn’t have my room covered head to toe in posters from J-14 and Bop (let’s face it, modern-day pop music was in its prime back then).

However, I always felt a disconnection from everyone around me based on my interests, personality, and perspective of things.

In high school, you can usually find a certain minority who relate or understand (which I did).

In third grade, not so much.

My school described it as something negative…as something seriously abnormal.

My numerous teacher and school counselor evaluations would describe me with words like:

“Extremely shy and stoic”

“Different and eccentric”

And phrases like:

“I worry about her socialization skills going forward in life.”

Of course, they would throw in a few half-hearted compliments along the way like “intelligent” and “sweet”, but still, their “evaluations” ultimately deemed me as anti-social and downright odd.

This, of course, led me to think that my differences were flaws…that something was wrong with me, which in turn, caused my anxiety to worsen because I was now even more self-conscious.

Despite the struggles I endured with socialization and fitting in, I would later learn that what my school thought of as weaknesses may very well be strengths.

The truth was:

  • I was an introvert.

  • I had obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  • I was an old soul.



I have written quite a few articles about my struggles as an introvert and perspective on introversion as a whole:

Being an Introvert Is a Disability and a Gift (

Being an Introvert in the Performing Arts (

5 Things Introverts are Tired of Hearing (

In the years prior to third grade, I would never describe myself as a chatterbox, but I certainly was more talkative and could easily make friends.

When I reached third grade, something changed.

I became reserved and socially anxious — what most people call “shy”.

As much as I wanted to make friends, I isolated myself.

When I did start to become more comfortable in class and tried to make friends with others, we either had very little in common or they would expect me to be loud — something I was not and never will be.

As much as my teacher expressed her concerns about how she wanted me to make new friends, her strategies only made my social anxiety worse.

If I were to so much as crack a smile, the entire class (including the teacher) would clap and exclaim things like, “Oh my god, she smiled!”.

As someone who despised being the center of attention, this was a nightmare to me.

I still remember one occasion of this happening that completely threw me over the edge.

I hid behind my folder to make it blatantly obvious to the teacher that I was not fond of this celebratory reaction to simply showing emotion.

She didn’t get the cue.

So, from then on, whenever I felt the urge to smile or laugh, I held it in.

To this very day, I still remember how painful that was.

I would later learn that although I have social anxiety, I was naturally a reserved and introverted person. And the funny thing was the school’s interference to overcome my “shyness” did far more harm than good.

When I broke free of the judgments and labels from others, I could fully embrace my personality and as a result, my confidence increased.

Thirteen years later and I now consider myself an ambivert, but even if I was my same, super introverted self, it was always a strength.

Third grade was also the first year I started feeling uneasy in public school. The crowds of students and the big size of the school were overstimulating to me and made my anxiety even worse.

After that awful year in third grade, I began attending a private school, which made me much more happy, comfortable, and lessened my daily anxiety and dread of going to school significantly.

That’s not to say that it stopped. I was still my introverted, timid, anxiety-ridden self, but the small classroom setting and focused attention on each individual student made it easier for me to make friends and gain better social skills.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

I still remember when my OCD symptoms began.

Second grade is when I was first diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and began attending therapy, but third grade is where my symptoms began increasing.

On top of therapy, I began in-school occupational therapy for my handwriting, and speech therapy for my socialization skills (I was told soon after that speech was something I did not even need).

I still remember the rush of joy I would feel when my OT or speech teacher would come to the classroom twice a week during school and rescued me from the constraint of that third-grade class.

It was the only light in the darkness of that awful school.

My symptoms were often more physical at this time, whereas now they are more mental.

I remember one of my compulsions was to tell my doll Samantha (if any of my American Girl Doll fans remember) everything I had on the agenda for the day. I would also have to repeat specific phrases or numbers and position the coasters, shoes, and toilet paper in a specific way to the point where it would become extremely distressing and overwhelming.

I thought the classic, “If I don’t do this (blank) will happen.”

Although I do not remember my symptoms affecting me in school during this time, the immense anxiety and distress it caused would often carry out in other ways making my experience at school all the more miserable.

Therapy was something I always looked forward to as well.

Since OCD was uncommon among other children my age, it was only another thing that made me feel more insecure and isolated from others.

My first therapist served not only as a friend to me, but she allowed me to have a safe and comfortable place for spilling my thoughts and compulsive rituals.

Without ever seeking therapy, I truly do not know the place I would be in today.

OCD is truly one of the most misunderstood mental disorders. To this day, it is and always will be a part of me, but years of therapy have helped tremendously. If you also struggle with OCD and feel frustrated with its portrayal in society check out my post:

4 Things Society Does Not Tell You About OCD (


Old Soul

People often say “I’m an old soul” just as much as people say “I have OCD” when they do not actually fit nor understand the title they are giving to themselves.

From the time I was little, I was a highly creative person. I found comfort in musicals and watching my favorite movies over and over again.

My love for writing began the day my third-grade teacher gave us our class journals.

I immediately poured my heart and soul into my journal, writing not only the assignments she would give us but also other things that were on my mind.

I was hooked.

I began writing stories, series, scripts, poems. I even rewrote the scripts for movies and books that had already been written, that was how much I adored writing.

I would sit for hours and hours at the kitchen table until my hands were sore and calloused.

I would also listen to sixties and seventies music introduced to me by my parents.

I embodied myself as characters from the musicals and movies I admired.

My class journal was decorated with cut-out pictures of Abbot and Castello, Sweeney Todd, and Fiddler on the Roof.

The only person who commented on it was a male, middle-aged school lunch aid.

That says it all.

My differences made it so difficult for me to relate to anybody my age. After all, this was the era of The Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana. Interests I wanted to have, so I could relate to everyone else, but just could not get myself to be interested in.

I felt ostracized and that famous overused word, different.

Learning more about old souls, I realized that is what I truly am and always will be.

Yes, old souls are different, but they are unique and give a fresh perspective on the world through wisdom and a high level of empathy.


I believe that everyone who felt different or like they did not belong growing up can look back to a time where it all started.

For me, it was third grade.

For years, I looked back on third grade with anger and animosity towards the teachers and students.

Now, I can say that third grade was a period in my life that, although unhappy, taught me important things about myself.

It marked the start of my individuality, something that would always stay with me and manifest itself in magnificent ways.

I did not need to be like everyone else. I was meant to be different.

And I can now proudly say:

  • I am an ambivert (but still reserved).

  • I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (but managed).

  • I am an old soul (but with even more passions).

And none of these things I had to change, only adjust, or slightly alter to make me more content and fulfilled.


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