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?
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.