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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A Love Letter To The Girl Who Cares Too Much About Everyone But Herself

You, the girl with a heart full of love and no place big enough to store it all.

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Our generation is so caught up in this notion that it's "cool" not to care about anything or anyone. I know you've tried to do just that.

I'm sure there was a brief moment where you genuinely believed you were capable of not caring, especially since you convinced everyone around you that you didn't. But that just isn't true, is it? Don't be ashamed of this, don't let anyone ridicule you for having emotions.

After everything life has put you through, you have still remained soft.

This is what makes you, you. This is what makes you beautiful. You care so deeply and love so boldly and it is incredible, never let the world take this from you.

Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator

You are the girl who will give and give and give until you have absolutely nothing left. Some may see this as a weakness, an inconvenience, the perfect excuse to walk all over you. I know you try to make sense of it all, why someone you cared so much about would treat you the way they did.

You'll make excuses for them, rationalize it and turn it all around on yourself.

You'll tell yourself that maybe just maybe they will change even though you know deep down they won't. You gave them everything you had and it still feels as if they took it all and ran. When this happens, remind yourself that you are not a reflection of those who cannot love you. The way that people treat you does not define who you are. Tell yourself this every day, over and over until it sticks. Remind yourself that you are gold, darling, and sometimes they will prefer silver and that is OK.

I know you feel guilty when you have to say no to something, I know you feel like you are letting everyone you love down when you do. Listen to me, it is not your responsibility to tend to everyone else's feelings all the time. By all means, treat their feelings with care, but remember it is not the end of the world when you cannot help them right away.

Remember that it is OK to say no.

You don't have to take care of everyone else all the time. Sometimes it's OK to say no to lunch with your friends and just stay home in bed to watch Netflix when you need a minute for yourself. I know sometimes this is much easier said than done because you are worried about letting other people down, but please give it a try.

With all of this, please remember that you matter. Do not be afraid to take a step back and focus on yourself. You owe yourself the same kind of love and patience and kindness and everything that you have given everyone else. It is OK to think about and put yourself first. Do not feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You are so incredibly loved even when it doesn't feel like it, please always remember that. You cannot fill others up when your own cup is empty. Take care of yourself.

Cover Image Credit: Charcoal Alley

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The Comfort Beneath My Covers

Rolling out of bed and brushing my teeth has never felt harder.

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I used to feel as if I'd found a passion suiting me for the rest of my life. I felt I had a meaning. Time sped past me, yet I was living in the present. I grew with others around me and I was a force in each space I walked into. I spoke to others. They noticed me and they valued me. It was as if my words were shifting winds and could potentially move mountains and make a difference. On these days I felt whole, I felt centered. The taste of my anxiety was only a bitter remembrance on the tip of my tongue. I had no worries. I was careful, yet carefree. I was thirsting for more, yet I felt complete.

I haven't felt this way for a while now.

Now the days feel meaningless. As if I'm a ghost just passing through. Like every act of my being goes unnoticed. If I disappeared off the face of this earth, no one would notice a difference, and if they did they would not act on it. I panic a lot now. Breathing heavily, my eyes filling with tears. The only comfort I can find is beneath my covers, curled up, staring at a blank white wall until something inside me feels somewhat whole again. Time is still fleeting, but it feels as if I can't quite catch it. I try to chase after it, but the seconds, the minutes, and the hours continue on as I lay beneath my covers, panicked and glossy eyed.

I am not myself. My body feels like a cracked road in dire need of repair. I wait for something or someone to fill the cracks. In an attempt to fix myself, I continue forward, but it's as if my shoe has been caught in the cracks and as I stumble back to find it, my anxiety returns. The air I'm struggling to find mixes with the lump in my throat, creating a bitter, hollow taste throughout my entire body. I try to reach out for interactions with others, but I feel emptier with each word falling from my lips. On the outside, I appear normal. No one could imagine the war inside my head; the longing I feel for meaningful interactions with others. People continue to laugh at my jokes and conversate with me in passing, but a friendship is never fully established. Would they like me better if I were completely whole? Would I be able to form these relationships if I felt comfort within my own body? Would anyone ever choose me to be their friend?

I know the answer but I'm waiting for someone to change it.

You see, if I were a chocolate bar, I would be the last one on the shelf because only certain people have acquired a taste for me. Sometimes my emotions cycle faster than the little red hand on the clock counting down the seconds. Would they still call me obnoxious, loud, and annoying if they knew how hard it is for me to roll out of bed and brush my teeth each morning? Do they know how self-critical I am, how self-conscious they've made me? No, they don't. They will never know how I long for them to ask me how I'm doing. Not so I can put my problems on them, but so I understand I am not completely forgotten about or as hollow as I feel.

It never happens though.

So, I continue to lay beneath my covers in a cold sweat from the loneliness I feel. A single tear runs down my face. I search for my being, my passion, my future—something. My body is worn out from shaking. My brain is tired from the unceasing questions it cannot answer. My eyes flutter shut, and I am asleep before I can make any conclusions, or worse, sense another attack coming on inside my head.

When I wake, I will notice three text messages from my mom and a missed call from my dad. If I could go back and be a child, I'd run into their arms and feel complete again. Still, I feel hollow within, this time with puffy eyes, a headache, and stomach cramps. I am reminded of how many positive areas I have in my life, but the hollowness swallows them up and I am unable to fully appreciate it. Will I ever feel passion, meaning, or importance? Someday maybe it will happen. With a couple more cups of green tea or a few more friends-- at least that's what I tell myself.

Yes, that's what I tell myself as I stare at the blank wall, wishing for sleep to hold me in its arms, at least for a little while. At least until I can roll out of bed and brush my teeth.

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