I don’t really know how to start this.
I guess I just do my best.
I want to tell you this because it matters. It’s important. It’s not the easiest topic to talk about, I get that. A lot of people don’t like talking about it at all. But I think they just don’t understand. So I want to try to remedy that. I’ll try to make sense.
I have anxiety.
I’ve always been socially awkward, ever since I was a little kid. Making friends was difficult. I’ve also always been a little OCD. That’s not the same thing as being a neat-freak, so don’t get confused. I’m actually a very messy person. My room is filled with scraps of paper harvested over years of writing and reading and drawing. I lose stuff under piles of knick-knacks that I’ve been saving since third grade. I trip over textbooks and shoes strewn about the hardwood floor. So I’m not a neat-freak. I’m just a habitual person. I hate, and sometimes can’t handle, when my schedule is changed. That means things like pep rallies, two-hour delays, SOLs, and snow days are hard for me. I have to set my combination lock back to zero before I can walk away from my locker. And that’s not even all of it.
Like I said, I’ve always been socially awkward. I’m not able to deal with small talk, introductions, talking on a cell phone, or group projects the same way that you probably can. I have trouble communicating, which is why I write. Things I say don’t always come out right. It can seem blunt, cold, sarcastic, or mean. I have an odd sense of humor, and that can be off-putting for people. A lot of that aspect of my life has improved since joining the Writing Center. I’m slowly improving my ability to express my ideas in a way that makes sense to people and doesn’t isolate me from everyone else.
That doesn’t mean I’m not still isolated. It’s much the opposite, actually. I let conversations flow around me, but I hold off from contributing. I watch Netflix and scroll through Twitter just like everyone else, but I’m still not able to talk about the Gilmore Girls revival or Donald Trump with them. Sometimes, I can smile and nod along. Rarely, I make a short comment that is heard, replied to, and promptly forgotten. And that’s okay.
However, my anxiety has also gotten worse. In recent months, my ability to talk to people has deteriorated. If I have a panic attack, my chest gets tight and I have a more difficult time breathing. I cry. A lot. I don’t care enough about myself. I let school weigh me down, causing late nights working and more stress. I had to push through fierce battles with people that betrayed my friendship and my emotions. In the battle against the universe, I found myself struggling to win.
The worst part was, I was mostly alone. People who used to help me gone. My older sister was off at school, not able to come home and comfort me. My old friends had stopped talking to me. My parents didn’t know, mostly because I was too ashamed to tell them, too afraid.
It got worse. I couldn’t control my personal struggle anymore, and I didn’t want my life to deteriorate. So I told my mom. I could tell she was hurt that I hadn’t told her sooner, but it’s not like it was her fault. It was mine. How could I be expected to tell her about this terrible monster that left me weak, tired, and miserable? A monster that wasn’t even medically diagnosed? In my head, telling her would be a submission to the beast, a confession that I am sick and unable to take care of myself. I didn’t want to be weak.
But she’s a mom. It’s her job to love me, no matter how weak I am at a point in my life. And love me she did. She did her best to understand, and I did my best to explain. But let’s look back at my inability to communicate. I also have a hard time processing what other people are trying to convey. I assume everyone is just really, really mad at me, and either hiding it or showing it. She was really just frustrated that she couldn’t understand what I was going through.
We had a lot of discussions, and piece by piece, I was able to explain exactly what I go through on a daily basis. I’m not going to explain all of that to you because it took a really long time, some of the comparisons are odd or confusing, there’s a lot to explain, and not all of it is your business. I mean that with no offense. You have your troubles, and I have mine. Long story short, living my daily life is hard, so we scheduled an appointment to see if a doctor could make it any easier. Ironically, as the days crawled towards my appointment, I was actually more anxious because of my inability to communicate and my tendency to cry.
The nurses were nice. The doctor was trying. She clearly didn’t like teenagers, and I clearly didn’t want to be there. What they don’t tell you is the questions you’re asked are mostly just to make sure you aren’t dying. I went to the lab to get my blood drawn. I’m scared of needles, so I’ll just let you imagine how that went. There are follow-up appointments to be had, results to be analyzed, and treatment to be decided upon. I’m not really going to explain any of that either. I’ll just say that the doctors have ways to help people in my situation, and they’re going to pick whichever one they think is best. Right now, I’m mostly just waiting.
My life didn’t change when the world found out. Nothing is different now that adults know. I guess that I became closer to one of my newer friends. He bought me gifts after my first appointment because he wanted to help and didn’t know how. I explained everything to him, and I guess he was sad that I hadn’t really told him sooner. He let me stay up talking until one in the morning. I appreciate people like that.
Getting the help you need takes courage. I wrote on the Courage Wall, hoping to get some. That wasn’t all it took, though. The movies Little Miss Sunshine and The Way Way Back helped a lot. So did the book Perks of Being a Wallflower. I also read the book Tease, which I think is a very insightful look at bullying in school and how important it is to get help. Most importantly was the novel It’s Kind of a Funny Story. That’s a book I hold very near and dear to me. It’s one of those powerful stories that everyone should read because it matters and it will really be eye-opening for a lot of people.
However, those movies and books aren’t substitutes for real people that can be here for me. I learned that the hard way. If you need help, you have to get help. There is always someone out there who cares about you.
I didn’t write this for pity. I didn’t write this to make a statement. This isn’t even one of those “there’s someone else out there” situations. We’re all different. What I go through will never be exactly like what you go through.
I wrote this for myself. Some things need to be written down, and for me, this was one of them. This isn’t the full story, but this is the closest I’ll get to writing it and sharing it with people other than myself. I can’t communicate well, but this is the forum in which I flourish. This isn’t my best work, nor is it my worst work. But it is my most important work. I need to be okay again. I’m doing my best. And I hope you’re okay too. Just do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you. If you feel like you don’t have anyone that cares about you, I’ll be that person. I care about you. You need to care about you, too. Get help if you need help, please. I did. I’m not better, but I am on my way. The universe is a funny thing. It’ll stack all odds against you, but in the end, you’ll still win. The stars are rooting for you. Look up and you’ll see them shining back at you.