To My Anxiety, You Will Be Left Behind in 2017

To My Anxiety, You Will Be Left Behind in 2017

From the girl who finally found her voice.
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I'm what you could classify as "high functioning" with my mental illness. I've had it for years. My doctors have warned my parents and me dozens of times that they suspected that something wasn't quite right.

However, I've always managed to handle the pressures with a relatively calm exterior.

I thought that meltdowns every few weeks alone in my room were normal. I kept myself busy with all of the nervous energy. One second I'd be handling it fine and the next my palms were sweaty and I couldn't breathe because I was suddenly overwhelmed with the idea that I wasn't good enough and that no matter how hard I tried, I'd never reach my goals.

I hid behind smiles and buried myself in my work and schooling. I never thought for a second that anything was wrong, however.

I never let myself show others that I had problems because there wasn't a reason to. I was still smiling, I still had a 4.0 GPA and had a bright future in front of me, and that's what mattered, right?

Wrong.

I've always had problems with trusting people. I've had one best friend my entire life and other than her, I never really trusted myself to love anyone until I had my first serious relationship in my junior year of high school.

Slowly, but surely, letting down my walls to someone caused something in me to release, causing my emotions to be a wreck. It started becoming harder and harder to control my emotions and handle the everyday pressures of life.

Since the start of my senior year getting into my car and crying at the end of the school day became a regular practice.

Why was I crying?

I honestly couldn't tell you.

I withdrew from my friendships, my relationships and my family. I pushed others away to avoid the fear of them treating me differently and seeing me as nothing more than my mental problems.

Instead of admitting to myself that something was wrong and seeking help, I let myself suffer in silence, hoping that someone or something would magically pull me out of the hole I dug myself.

They saw, but when they asked I denied it. When I did finally admit it, I refused to seek help. I didn't want a label on it, and I didn't want to accept the fact that I needed anyone other than myself.

I went from having a panic attack every few weeks to having them multiple times a week by the end of our relationship.

When my boyfriend and I broke up because I couldn't be around him without retreating into myself and becoming silent, I needed change. It took me breaking down in the middle of school and walking through the hallways crying to ask my mom for help, finally, and I'm so glad I did.

My doctor tells me I’m “high functioning.”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of success and reaching my goals. Teachers would tell my parents that I had a bright future and would do big things with my life.

It all started at the age of four when I walked into my living room and declared that I would teach myself to read and tie my shoes before I went into kindergarten. Sure enough, I was the only four-year-old in my preschool class that could read chapter books by the time I graduated.

Throughout my school career, I received straight A’s and had a 4.0 average. I got invited to dozens of conferences, study abroad programs and summer programs at colleges and universities. Still today, people tell me I’m “wise beyond my years.”

I was always able to produce high-quality work in a minimal amount of time and make even the hardest of tasks look effortless. From an outsider’s perspective, I had brains and was destined for success.

What they didn’t see was that I was constantly worrying about the expectations set for me from such a young age and that I was slowly cracking under pressure.

Cut to my junior year of high school.

In the first month of the year, I got a concussion at cheerleading practice in an unfortunate bear-crawling incident that rendered me unable to read paragraphs and write more than a sentence without getting a splitting headache and losing my vision for over a month.

I fell behind in my schoolwork, and my straight A’s turned into B’s, and in my mind, my future was over. I cried for around two hours after I received my very first “C” on a test.

Many of my friends were envious of me, and my biggest fear was being labeled average.

By the end of my junior year, I received the lowest letter grade I have ever gotten in a class (B) and the lowest weighted GPA out of my entire high school career (a 94.5, which is considered a 4.0). Eventually, my efforts burned out, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t perform how I had wanted to.

I distracted myself all summer. I hung out with my boyfriend, planned trips with my friends and ended up working two jobs by the end of the summer. I needed things to keep my mind off of the fact that come September, I would have to face the reality of underperforming for the entirety of my junior year.

Whenever I was alone and had to sit with that fact, I would end up crying and unable to breathe. Whether it was in my car on the way to or from work or one of the rare times my friends and boyfriend were unable to talk to me because of other commitments, I was a mess.

By the time my senior year rolled around in September 2017, I was no stranger to mental breakdowns multiple times a week. For the entire month of October, I drove out of the school parking lot crying every single day.

Despite regaining my straight A’s, I was worried that I wouldn’t get into any of the schools I wanted to. I became extremely depressed, and when I would realize that there were deadlines I had to meet and responsibilities to fulfill, I would kick into overdrive, put on a happy face and walk around like nothing was wrong despite the fact that I couldn’t breathe and felt the urge to cry wherever I went.

I didn’t tell anybody how I felt.

I isolated myself in every relationship I had, which turned out to be detrimental. I felt alone in my school of 2,000 students. I cried during school more in the first three months of my senior year than I did during the entirety of my elementary school career. I was a hot mess as the kids would say.

My biggest mistake was letting my trust issues take over. I didn’t tell anyone how much I was struggling; I didn’t want them to view me differently. The few people that did know never knew the extent to which I was hurting because I never let them see.

I would walk around in silence until I had to put on a show for the other people around me. People would make assumptions, and I let these assumptions control who I was and how I viewed myself. I didn’t want any labels on how I felt, and I certainly didn’t want help from anyone else.

I’m independent, and I like to do things on my own.

It took me breaking down in the middle of the hallway and walking to my journalism class crying in my friend’s arms. I texted my mom.

I needed help from someone other than me. My anxiety was controlling my life.

In 2017, I fell in and out of love. I was somehow both the happiest and saddest that I've ever been, and I learned a lot about myself and my relationships. I lost people I never thought I would and met people that I can't imagine life without right now.

In 2018, I'll officially become an adult, and I'll be moving to college three hours away from where I've grown up my entire life. I have no option but to move on.

I refuse to let my anxiety control my life ever again.

From the outside, I looked like I had everything together. I had great grades, was involved in school and I had great friends and a great boyfriend. When I lost it all because I let my mind control my life, I didn’t know how to react. I ignored it until it refused to shove to the side.

I’m still working on things. However, I’m happier. I’m more at peace with myself, and I refuse to let something define me that wants nothing more than to ruin my life.

In 2018, I’m accepting the fact that sometimes, you need other people. I’m embracing the fact that I’m more than my mental illness, and I’m working towards making my tomorrows better than my yesterdays. In 2018, I’m leaving my anxiety behind in 2017.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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To The Girl Who Had A Plan

A letter to the girl whose life is not going according to her plan.
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“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” - William Ernest Henley

Since we were little girls we have been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We responded with astronauts, teachers, presidents, nurses, etc. Then we start growing up, and our plans change.

In middle school, our plans were molded based on our friends and whatever was cool at the time. Eventually, we went to high school and this question became serious, along with some others: “What are your plans for college?” “What are you going to major in?” “When do you think you’ll get married?” “Are you going to stay friends with your friends?” We are bombarded with these questions we are supposed to have answers to, so we start making plans.

Plans, like going to college with our best friends and getting a degree we’ve been dreaming about. Plans, to get married as soon as we can. We make plans for how to lose weight and get healthy. We make plans for our weddings and children.

SEE ALSO: 19 Pieces Of Advice From A Soon-To-Be 20-Year-Old

We fill our Pinterest boards with these dreams and hopes that we have, which are really great things to do, but what happens when you don’t get into that college? What happens when your best friend chooses to go somewhere else? Or, what if you don’t get the scholarship you need or the awards you thought you deserved. Maybe, the guy you thought you would marry breaks your heart. You might gain a few pounds instead of losing them. Your parents get divorced. Someone you love gets cancer. You don’t get the grades you need. You don’t make that collegiate sports team. The sorority you’re a legacy to, drops you. You didn’t get the job or internship you applied for. What happens to you when this plan doesn’t go your way?

I’ve been there.

The answer for that is “I have this hope that is an anchor for my soul.” Soon we all realize we are not the captain of our fate. We don’t have everything under control nor will we ever have control of every situation in our lives. But, there is someone who is working all things together for the good of those who love him, who has a plan and a purpose for the lives of his children. His name is Jesus. When life takes a turn you aren’t expecting, those are the times you have to cling to Him the tightest, trusting that His plan is what is best. That is easier said than done, but keep pursuing Him. I have found in my life that His plans were always better than mine, and slowly He’s revealing that to me.

The end of your plan isn’t the end of your life. There is more out there. You may not be the captain of your fate, but you can be the master of your soul. You can choose to be happy despite your circumstances. You can change directions at any point and go a different way. You can take the bad and make something beautiful out of it, if you allow God to work in your heart.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Patiently Waiting With An Impatient Heart

So, make the best of that school you did get in to. Own it. Make new friends- you may find they are better than the old ones. Apply for more scholarships, or get a job. Move on from the guy that broke your heart; he does not deserve you. God has a guy lined up for you who will love you completely. Spend all the time you can with the loved one with cancer. Pray, pray hard for healing. Study more. Apply for more jobs, or try to spend your summer serving others instead. Join a different club or get involved in other organizations on campus. Find your delight first in God and then pursue other activities that make you happy; He will give you the desires of your heart.

My friend, it is going to be OK.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Beavers Photography

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Change, Change, Go Away...

Come again some other day!

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Change sucks.

I've gone most of my life convincing others (and myself) that "I love change!"

Or saying "I like to think I'm adaptable, so spontaneity is something I love."

To give you the cold, hard and honest truth: All of that is a bunch of shit. Aside from when I still wore diapers, I have never been more full of shit than when I say these things.

There comes a time in life when we grow tired of our own lies and until that point, nothing generally changes. Except, change sucks, right?

I like when the weather changes from freezing cold to invitingly warm.

I like when someone else changes my sheets for me and I don't have to jump and sprawl my 5'3" body to secure the fitted sheet onto the farthest corner of the bed (which generally ends unsuccessfully).

I really like it when the stoplight changes from red to green (because I have a need for speed).

I even like when someone asks to change seats with me on a flight because the reality is that there is no such thing as a good seat on a flight. If you're on the window, you can't get up easily (but you can rest your head) and if you're on the aisle, you can sit there and get up as much as you want, as long as you don't mind your elbow being taken out from under your head while you sleep every time the drink cart passes by.

The point is, these trivial changes are fine, expected and some can even be enjoyable.

It's the changes that we do not expect, the ones that go against our status quo and our life flow, that knock us off balance and send us into a spiral of confusion, excess chocolate consumption and challenge.

As I've mentioned in previous articles, I am a big believer that all stress is a result of something being different than what we want or expect.

Big changes are no exception to this stress.

The coolest, most amazing, incredibly awe-inspiring part about life is that change is possible. Everything around us, at all times, is constantly changing. Unfortunately, this means that we too are subject to this change.

So, what kind of change am I talking about?

Am I talking about the change in your pocket you thought you lost and then found? No.

After all, nobody likes to lose anything besides weight these days.

And to that point, our bodies are constantly changing too. Our hair, our face, our skin, everything physical about us. These are the types of changes I'm talking about. Our relationships change, our jobs, our friends, our understandings of life, all of this changes. These are the big guys, the "uh-ohs," the "I didn't want to learn another life lesson this week" kind of changes.

However, despite the fact that I am 21 and those of you reading this are a range of ages (which I am so grateful for), one of the many qualities that unite us is that we have all experienced change.

Individuals of all ages experience loss and grief. Death plays no favorites and spares no ages. Physical changes happen to all age groups too. Life changes that alter our emotions and mental states are constantly happening to everyone, at all times.

The last three years of my life have been laden with changes. More specifically, the last six months have mentally worn me out but there's a quote that I keep going back to that my mom shared with me over the summer, it says: "an arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it's going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming."

If you want to rearrange it, you've got to change it.

My hope is that we realize that we don't have to love change. In fact, we don't even have to embrace it because some changes are just too tough. What we do need to do is hold on and keep aiming and acknowledge the fact that we all are constantly going through changes.

Whether we talk about those changes or not, they're present because they are a sure fact of this wildly amazing life we live. One of the few things that remain constant in this life is the fact that things will constantly change.

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