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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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.
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Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 A.M. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest,

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

SEE ALSO: 15 Things You Say To Your Roommates Before Going Out

The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old doom room is now filled with two freshman trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.


Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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Volunteering With The Elderly Taught Me That Neglecting Those Who Care About You Is Unacceptable

Never would I have thought that people I share nothing in common with could have such a major impact on me.
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I volunteer at my local senior center on a regular basis, and it’s an activity that I love to engage in. When I first started volunteering there, I wasn’t so keen on the idea of spending time with individuals infinitely older than me whom I shared virtually nothing in common with, and parental pressure was one of the major contributing factors as to why I started volunteering there. However, as I started to spend more of my time with the seniors, I began to enjoy their company and realized what I’d been missing out on the entire time.

One-on-one time is hard to come by with the elderly citizens, so I usually try to help out in fun activities or games with them. Actually, no, that’s a lie — I try to avoid one-on-one conversations with them at all costs because I simply have no idea what conversation to spark with any of them.

Earlier this week, I was helping out with a game of bingo. As usual, they consistently shouted at me to call out the numbers louder, and I continuously failed to pay heed to their directions. After the game was over, however, instead of solely saying my goodbyes to the group and proceeding to leave, I decided to stay back for a while, as my ride still hadn’t arrived. Turns out, that would yield to be one of the most significant decisions I’ve ever made.

One of the women in the group shakily hobbled up to me and proceeded to ask whether I’d care to assist her back to her apartment, and I obliged to do so. Nonetheless, what events followed were what I never would’ve predicted happening in a million years.

I proceeded to take her to her room as I’d promised and took a glance around it while I was there. It was comparatively smaller than I imagined it would be and simply consisted of a narrow hallway leading to a rather-cramped room and a bathroom. All that was in it was a surprisingly-neat bed, a bookshelf, some plants, a TV and a few tables.

As soon as I got in, I made sure she was safely secured in her room and swiftly made my way to leave, but she promptly stopped me.

“I can’t find my pajamas, can you help me?” she asked.

Of course, I couldn’t exactly say "no," so I tried to help her as best as I could.

After about 10 minutes of looking, I was just about ready to give up and make up an excuse for why I had to leave, but she stopped me once again. Keep in mind, this woman was a dementia patient, so she forgot her life’s events easily and randomly recalled moments from the past.

This was definitely one of those times. For the next 15 minutes, the woman told me about her life prior to coming to the senior center. From what I could gather, she used to live in Illinois, where she stayed with her daughter and her husband. After that, they moved to Georgia for her son-in-law’s new job. Both her daughter and her husband then “dumped” her in the senior center and promptly left her there.

Something about that story really got me thinking. Now, I don’t know for sure whether or not she was able to correctly recount all the details of her past, but if her retelling was accurate, then I genuinely hope that something like that never happens to me.

That woman had no idea whatsoever about what was going on outside of that miniscule senior center. She didn’t know how to turn on the TV, didn’t have any friends and couldn’t even remember where she kept her pajamas from that morning. If she were to walk outside at that moment, straight out into the real world without any guidance, she would have no chance of survival.

I used to think that placing my parents in a senior center in their elderly age was completely acceptable, but now, I’m not so sure. I may never know if the woman was ever telling the truth or if it was just the dementia and her hazy memory talking, but from what I understood about the situation, the only emotion she felt at the time was neglect.

The fact that her own daughter, who she probably cared for more than her own life while raising her, simply discarded her is a thought that makes me feel sick to my stomach. Although children may settle their elderly parents in a state-of-the-art facility, the numerous “fun” activities that are meant to be put in place to distract the seniors from their inevitable death simply do not fill the void in their hearts that can only be filled by the love of their children.

That said, her daughter probably had good reason to put her mother a senior center as it might have been strenuous to take care of what is basically another child, supplying her mother with her every need.

But this simply cannot serve as a plausible excuse for her state of affairs. Regardless of her situation, the fact remains that a destitute woman lies confined in that facility to this day, and there is nothing she can do to change her solitude.

So, to her daughter who resides in who-knows-where: come visit your mother once in a while, for that woman loves you far beyond what you can imagine. From the moment you were born until now, she's regarded you as the most crucial part of her life, something that she was never willing to let go of.

But you let go instead.

When the time comes for her to pass away, ensure that she leaves with what she unconditionally provided you with — love.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash / Christian Langballe

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