Experiencing anxiety is a common response to everyday stressors. However, having an anxiety disorder takes minor issues to extremes. If not properly controlled, being diagnosed with a mental illness can consume one’s actions and thoughts. Fortunately, anxiety disorders can be managed, and patients can function normally in society. Although I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder, I overcame my illnesses in a life-changing way.
What began as a normal day in tenth grade English class turned into a nightmare as a choking feeling accompanied with shortness of breath sent me to the nurse in fear that I was going to vomit or faint. At the time I thought I had a simple illness. However, after days of intestinal distress, my parents took me to multiple doctors who concluded I had acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome and put me on a dairy-free, gluten-free, and plant-based diet; still there was no relief of my symptoms. The experience left me frustrated because I felt out of control and could not function as my true self. I became an expert at making excuses to stay home to avoid feeling ill at school. I felt most comfortable being in my bed, even though it resulted in strained friendships, where I cried by myself for hours to relieve the pain of isolation.
When I did attend school, I thought I was prepared to complete the day’s work. I contributed in class and worked with my peers, even encouraging them to stay focused to achieve our daily goals. However, my grades continued to drop due to my inconsistent attendance. As my grades declined, I became discouraged and desperate for help. I had yet to discover that I was too consumed by my undiagnosed mental illness to truly focus in school. When I finally acknowledged that I had an anxiety disorder, I was done letting it control all aspects of my life.
In September of 2014, I consulted a therapist. Literally, after one visit, I already felt a new sense of comfort. The therapist helped me realize that these feelings were in my head. Once I got past my fears of experiencing anxiety in public, the road to success began. Therapy was successful for six months until I started to feel my anxiety resurfacing. My psychologist suggested going to my regular doctor who could prescribe anxiety medication. I was hesitant to the idea at first, but I realized it was similar to taking medication to treat strep throat. People take medication when they feel physically ill; it is no different for those who suffer from a mental illness. This was a logical plan for me to fully recover.
I was determined to be the student I knew I could be, focused and successful. My grades climbed as my thoughts shifted from my anxiety to my academic goals. Feeling a newfound confidence, I took a job at a local restaurant on the weekends and started babysitting for two new families. My undying spirit was so prevalent that I was offered jobs at places where I did not even apply. By the summer I worked at a spa as a front desk assistant and the concession stand at my town’s pool in addition to my other jobs.
The busier I was, the happier I felt. I became my school’s biggest cheerleader by attending every home sporting event and participating in school functions and fundraisers. Recognizing my passion, my teacher appointed me chief of the special effects makeup crew for all school musicals. During these hard times, I explored my interests and discovered my love for business, especially marketing because it allows me to think creatively and solve problems through business strategies. My suffering allowed me to realize what I want to do for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I persevered through my anxiety disorder and not only achieved academic success, but social confidence and personal growth.While attending Montclair State University, I look forward to gaining the knowledge and connections I will need to be successful in the workforce. Currently my major is undeclared, but I strive to be accepted into the business school to begin my major and fueling my drive to learn. Once I am out of school, I strive to work for a successful company in the marketing department doing market research. As the years go by, I am confident that my love for business and creativity will grow, while I gain a clearer outlook on which direction I want my life to head.