To The Senior With Anxiety

To The Senior With Anxiety

If opening the Common Application makes you want to vomit, this is the place for you.
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You're the king of the school yet the helpless stranger of your mind. You stand out in the crowd with your shirt with the year “2018” plastered across the chest in gold spray paint and cheap puff paint, but you still feel smaller than the freshman who wore the wrong color on class colors day. Endless thoughts breath down your neck of the next steps you have to take in order to succeed. That SAT and AP prep book sits at your desk, staring at you with the eyes of utter disappointment. “Why didn't you use me for the past 8 months? I would have helped you!”

January rolls around and your best friend just got accepted to her top school AND somehow already has her prom dress bought. Seeing the people around you succeed gives you an unhealthy motivation to better surpass their accomplishments, but when you get home, the thought of leaving your bed makes you want to vomit. Welcome to the world of anxiety. We are more than glad to welcome you with open arms (and sweaty palms).

Hey. My name is Steph, and I am a college freshman studying psychology. The passage above is merely a snip it of how I would describe my senior year of high school: lonely, unwanted, stressed, small, depressed, and very, VERY, anxious. What made you guess? I am diagnosed with not one, but 4 different anxiety disorders. Yet here I am, a student who graduated in the top 30% of her class while battling the seemingly endless fight of debilitating anxiety. This is a letter about how I survived my senior year of high school with this condition and how you can too. So here it is, folks, an open letter to a high school senior with anxiety.


Hey friend,

I hope you're well today. You deserve to be happy.

Senior year is tough, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. You will face stress, adversity, options, and lots and lots of decisions in the next few months. Anxiety doesn't make these matters any better, but there are ways to not let this monster of your mind get the best of you during this process. It will not be easy or fun, but once you walk down that metal ramp come graduation night, all those puzzle pieces will fall into place, and you will feel complete and total euphoria. Here are the 5 most effective tools that helped me beat my anxiety around senior year.

1. Don't let other people influence your college decision.

College is all about YOU. This process is built to set you up for your life and place you on the right career path. It may be easy to pick a school just because your best friend is going there or because your parents are alumni, but if they are pressuring you to go or study something you're not comfortable with, ignore them. Self care is very important come college application time. By letting the thoughts and opinions nervously race around your brain eating each thought like a hungry Pac-man, you're not doing yourself any favors. Don't fear the words “no” or “I'm not comfortable with this idea” tear you down. Be pushy, bossy, and selfish! This is about YOU.

2. Utilize time management skills.

I remember my guidance counselor sitting me down in her office rambling off about all the different ways and times and types of way I could apply to college. The mental notepad in my brain could not write down this very important information fast enough, so as a coping mechanism, I cried. Yep folks, a 17 year old senior in high school who appeared to be good at everything and lead a perfect life had a full on panic attack in her school's guidance office. Mrs. Greenlaw looked at me with the most gentle eyes and comforting smile as I sat there in a puddle of tears and said “manage your time wisely, honey.” That stuck with me. That night, my high functioning anxiety kicked into full gear as I made chart after chart and read review after review about each school I considered applying to. I knew I wanted to apply early action (November 1-January 1 deadlines), so I prioritized a list of things to do to be on time for each school. My days has specific spots built in for college time, and I sure was a frequent flyer to the guidance office. By October 25, I had applied to 6 schools by simply managing my time.

3. Don't overthink your decisions.

Sure, it's important to research campus life and the cost of schools. Don't limit yourself to one or two schools; branch out! Maybe apply to a school you would never think about going to only to realize that you love it after you tour there (that's what happened to me). Also, it's okay to not know what you want to do and/or to change your major! I originally was a Marketing major, then switched to Education, and switched again to Psychology a month and a half before school started. To be honest, I'll probably switch it around some more once I get to school. This is completely normal. You're still young! It's okay to not know still. Plenty of people don't know what they want for a while; it's going to be okay.

4. Take care of yourself.

It's wicked easy to get wrapped up in the college application process and get over the top stressed about it. By taking care of your mind and body, you will feel happier, healthier, and more confident in your choices. Drink lots of water, try to get more than 6 hours of sleep a night, exercise (even if it's walking your dog around the block every other day), and do things that make you happy. My go to coping mechanism would be to get dinner with friends (by that I mean go to IHOP every other night). Try new things that make you happy and hey, if you need a day off, take it. I mean, you're a senior after all, no one is really going to mind.

5. Have fun!

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT! Join clubs you never thought you would join and take a night off from drafting college essays and go to that football game and drink hot chocolate with all your friends. Bleed the colors of your school and show pride in where you go. Be the school mascot, run for student council, join a play, play a sport you are not good at, do it ALL. This will be the last year with the people you have spent the last 12 years with. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and have the time of your life. When it's all said and done, it's the people that matter the most.

Anxiety sucks. Somedays are worse than others, but with a little optimism, it's more than possible to push through. It stinks you were the one in the line to get chosen to not have enough neurotransmitters in your brain to function like the rest of the world. This is totally treatable and you will push through. You will graduate. You will go to college. You will be happy because you deserve to be happy.

And let me tell you, if I can survive, anyone can. I would do it all over again in the blink of an eye.

Be gentle, be humble, be kind.

Best,

Stephanie, an anxiety bound girl who is now happy with her life.

Cover Image Credit: Juan Ramos

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Well, Here I Am Again Writing An Article At 2 AM Because My Anxiety Is Not Letting Me Sleep

My anxious thoughts late at night are horrible.

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Life is crazy and rough and sometimes sucks. My anxiety has been at its worst this semester, and if I'm being honest - it's driving me insane. I have lost sleep because of it. I have missed classes because of it. I have skipped out on being around friends because of it. The last one is the one that always confuses me, though. I'm at my happiest when I'm around people. I love it, but lately, there have been multiple days where I would rather curl up in a ball and cry.

I struggle to breathe. I struggle to keep up with life. I have all of these thoughts racing through my head. One after the other, trying to see which one will be victorious. However, all of them are victorious because they all have me wide awake. I haven't had a decent night of sleep in a while. At this point, I could probably say its been almost a year since I slept well.

It's yet another night. 2 a.m. and I'm wide awake, crippling with thoughts I want out of my head.

It's constant. It never really stops. I can hear it early in the morning, as I eat my lunch when I'm walking to class, and especially late at night. Right now, the thought screaming the loudest is "No one likes you. That's why you're here and not there." I know it's not true.

My anxious thoughts late at night are horrible. I hate them. They irritate me. They keep me up all hours of the night. I toss and turn for hours on end wishing for all of these anxious thoughts to end. I think about things from years ago. I think about things from yesterday. These things never seem to end.

My anxiety has been horrible lately. I haven't been able to get a proper night's sleep in months. I've averaged 3-4 hours a night. I hate it. My mind won't turn off. The racing thoughts never seem to end. I am sick of it. I want to get out of this, but I just can't. Why is this happening?

I have not been able to breathe properly in weeks. I have to physically stop, breathe in deeply, and practically yawn to catch my breath. Why? Why is this happening? I hate it. I'm so stressed from life. This needs to stop.

My body is weak. My mind is no longer concentrating. I want to run away from all of this, but I know that is not how I should handle it. This needs to end. My days can no longer be filled with hopes of a class being canceled or pretending like it is so I don't have to go.

Anxiety has overtaken my life, and I am sick of it. I am ready for it to leave. It won't though. It will continue to reside in my body. I hate it. I can't breathe. I want to cry, but I just can't. I'm sick of this. Anxiety can f*ck off because it has no business taking control of my life.

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