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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An Open Letter To The Girl Trying To Get Healthy Again

"I see you eating whatever you want and not exercising" - Pants
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Dear girl trying to get back in shape,

I know it's hard. I know the hardest thing you may do all day is walk into the gym. I know how easy it is to want to give up and go eat Chicken McNuggets, but don't do it. I know it feels like you work so hard and get no where. I know how frustrating it is to see that person across the table from you eat a Big Mac every day while you eat your carrots and still be half of your size. I know that awful feeling where you don't want to go to the gym because you know how out of shape you are. Trust me, I know.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Trying To Lose Weight In College


The important thing is you are doing something about it. I'm sure you get mad at yourself for letting your body get this out of shape, but life happens. You have made a huge accomplishment by not having a soda in over a month, and those small changes are huge. I understand how hard it is, I understand how frustrating it is to not see results and I understand why you want to give up. Being healthy and fit takes so much time. As much as I wish you could wake up the day after a good workout with the 6 pack of your dreams, that just isn't the reality. If being healthy was easy, everyone would do it, and it wouldn't feel so good when you got there.

Remember how last January your resolution was to get back in the gym and get healthy again? Think about how incredible you would look right now if you would have stuck with it. The great thing is that you can start any time, and you can prove yourself wrong.

Tired of starting over? Then don't give up.

You are only as strong as your mind. You will get there one day. Just be patient and keep working.

Nothing worth having comes easy. If you want abs more than anything, and one day you woke up with them, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying as watching your body get stronger.

Mental toughness is half the battle. If you think you are strong, and believe you are strong, you will be strong. Soon, when you look back on the struggle and these hard days, you will be so thankful you didn't give up.

Don't forget that weight is just a number. What is really important is how you feel, and that you like how you look. But girl, shout out to you for working on loving your body, because that shit is hard.

To the girl trying to get healthy again, I am so proud of you. It won't be easy, it will take time. But keep working out, eating right, and just be patient. You will be amazed with what your body is capable of doing.

Cover Image Credit: Stock Snap

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Trigger Warnings Are More Important Than You Realize, And Here's My Personal Story To Prove It

Your mental health can be affected in many ways, and it is important to remember that it is just as important as physical health.
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As it is Mental Health Awareness Week, I felt it was only fitting to recount one of the most difficult periods in my life. I think it presents another side to the conversation that is often overlooked and proves how multifaceted mental health is. You can’t confine it to a box because not everyone reacts the same way or has the same experiences.

Towards the end of my junior year in high school, my APUSH teacher decided to show us the film called “Iron-Jawed Angels.”

Initially, I was excited about it and found the film engaging and exciting, but I did not anticipate how deeply one of the scenes would affect me. This scene in the film revolves around one of the main characters being force-fed, and for reasons I can’t explain, this triggered me. The rate of my breathing accelerated, I started shaking, black splotches began appearing in my vision, and I couldn’t bring myself to calm down.

I was having a panic attack.

I remember looking around at my classmates and wondering why none of them had a similar reaction. I remember thinking that something had to be wrong with me—that I was weak for not being able to handle watching the scene.

And then I fainted.

This wasn’t the first time I had fainted. I’m no stranger to it, but there’s always an overwhelming wave of embarrassment each time it happens in public. I hate drawing attention to myself, and collapsing in the middle of class is one of those things that you can’t look away from.

I went home early that day. The school nurse forced me to head to the emergency room, and after being checked out, it was confirmed that there was nothing wrong with me. The entire practice concluded that it was a simple panic attack spurred on by the on-screen image.

This frightened me. I had never expected a scene of someone being force-fed to have such a negative impact on me, and suddenly, I was afraid to watch the shows that I would usually watch. I didn’t want to have another panic attack, and I did everything I could to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.

But this instilled fear wasn’t the only after effect.

I went back to school, hoping everything would be back to normal, and that year, it was—for the most part.

But I’d realized something: I was less motivated to eat what I usually ate. My mind had made a subconscious connection between the force-feeding scene and my everyday life, and eating my usual portions felt impossible. Thankfully, my mom realized, and we worked together around the problem. I could eat soft foods, so for a month, my diet changed, consisting of fruits and crepes that would be made that day.

After a month, I was able to wean myself back onto my usual diet, and I could eat without thinking twice, but I remember how stuck in that mindset I felt. That is terrifying. My mind had controlled me without my consent, and it proved how your mental state can affect the rest of your body.

Junior year ended, and I returned for the senior year. I had enrolled in a psychology class, and I thought it would be a class that I could breeze through.

Of course, I was wrong.

That fear of being triggered had returned in full force on the first day of the class, in which my teacher showed us a real 9/11 documentary with imagery of people jumping to their deaths and going through the trauma.

That first class reminded me of how I’d panicked so easily last year, and it became the only thing I could think of. Every day, I went to that psychology class (and my other classes) worrying about what she would show us in class and how I would handle it. It wasn’t just a side thought; it consumed about sixty percent of my mind to the point where I’d go home and sigh in relief that I’d made it through another day.

This anxiety had taken over my life. I tried convincing myself that all I needed was to “calm down” and that it was all in my head. This was the truth, but I’d underestimated just how complex the problem was. Looking back on it now, I wish I’d gone to see a therapist if only to talk about what it meant. I didn’t understand it, and because of this anxiety, senior year was miserable for me. When I finished classes, my first thought wasn’t “Thank God that’s over”; it was “now I don’t have to worry about having a panic attack in class again.” That is messed up.

But because my situation and my experiences were so unique, I didn’t know how to talk about it. I’d lash out at friends on days when it got worse. I’d started breathing heavily in order to keep myself calm. It was miserable, and it was torturous. But it wasn’t noticeable.

Now that I’m in college, this anxiety presents itself to me in different forms. But that’s a conversation for another time. I was reminded of how awful my senior year was earlier this semester in my speech and hearing sciences class, in which my professor showed us a video of a woman having a panic attack.

I had to leave the classroom. It felt like such a step backward, and I had hated myself for it. All of these old thoughts and feelings had returned, and there was nothing I could do about it. I went back to my dorm that night and watched Youtube videos in an attempt to calm myself down. Thankfully, it worked, but it doesn’t erase how disappointed I was in myself.

But I’m learning. No matter how dejected I felt that day, I’m learning to handle my mental health, and I’ve realized that the things I consider difficult will continue to be difficult until I make the conscious decision to challenge them. I’m in a much better and happier place now than I was senior year, and for that, I’m so grateful.

If there is anything you should take away from my story, this is it. Recognize that the limits of others are not identical to yours. Add trigger warnings to your content because you don’t know how much it’ll affect your audience. Understand that mental health is just as important as physical health. Be kind to others as you don’t know what they’re going through.

If you do struggle with mental health, remember that your feelings are valid and important. You are not alone, and help is always at reach. I believe in you. I hope you believe in yourself too.

Cover Image Credit: Carolina Mendes

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