It’s the silent killer yet the loudest noise. I’m far too aware of its presence in my life.
I can remember the first time anxiety stepped in my life and took residence was in the first grade. [Although I didn’t know what anxiety really was until a couple years ago, looking back I can tell I had it all the way back then.] My family had just moved from New York. I was around 5 or 6 years old. There was a lot of change at that time in my life. I had no clue what “school” was. I had been surrounded by my family all day everyday up to that point. Suddenly, on the first day of school, they drop me off and I don’t see them for a good 8 hours. I remember one day after school coming to my mom and asking, “How long am I at school for each day?” She replied, “About 8 hours.” From that point on I would count each hour during school. It’s a practice I inadvertently continue to this day. “8 hours to go.” “7 hours to go.” “1 hour to go.” “45 minutes.” “40 minutes.” And this while I’m learning how to tell time.
School became easier as I got older, in the sense that I had developed some close friendships and great memories.
High school was a different story. I am very sympathetic with high schoolers. It’s one of the reasons I’m studying to become a high school teacher. There is so much change in 4 years. I hardly recognized my freshman self compared to my senior self. Between extra curricular stuff such as getting a license and getting a job, to planning for the future for college and SATs/ACTs, to just surviving each day, it’s a lot for a teenager. My anxiety grew louder and louder. I remember it became excruciatingly louder when I started driving school. That transition from simply depending on people for rides to becoming independent hit me hard. Probably harder than it should. It was the first push to make me independent. I was extremely nervous for my driver’s test. I’ll never forget the police officer that oversaw my test paused once we finished looked over to me and said “You nervous?” I glanced over at her and nodded, and she smiled and said “Don’t be. You passed!” It was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders (Tangent: it seems like my life can become a big cycle of me adding on weight and then it being lifted off.).
The next was getting a job. I had severe anxiety when it came to getting and keeping a job. I worked at food service for some time, and each day I had to interact with all different types of people. I would get so nervous I would mess up orders from time to time and then suffer the consequences. Thoughts like “I’m in control of the food they’re consuming. If I mess up I could make them seriously ill. I could ruin this chain’s reputation.” They were valid thoughts, but a bit ridiculous to be thinking over and over and over about. It got to the point that I stopped eating. The only time I’d eat would be at midnight when I got home from my shift and I’d eat a whole day’s worth of food. My parents noticed my anxiety at this point.
It’s funny, I wasn’t so worried about college. I had done well on all my college prep tests and all, so I just went into it like “Just another few more years of school, oh well.” Some things in my life had happened, and I decided I needed a break, basically a break from life. It turned out my sophomore year all my classes were offered online. “Perfect” I thought. I didn’t have a job yet I needed to pay gas so eventually I found a freelance job online reviewing websites and such. The money wasn’t good but with my low-maintenance lifestyle it worked for me. My sophomore year I spent the entire year at home. And it felt amazing… At first.
I got cabin fever after a couple months. I missed interacting with people. Social media was a huge problem for me, because all I’d do was compare my life to everyone else’s. “Oh fun, they’re out having a good time. I’m home watching tv. Again.” “Nice, they’re hanging out again. I’m still here, at home.”
I got very lonely. It hurt, a lot.
So I decided – with mustering up some courage and some prayer – I needed to get back out there. I needed a job again. Also I needed the gas money as I’d be going to Kent again almost every school day. I remembered my best friend said that his boss needed dishwashers, and I thought it would fit well. During my first few jobs, I would slip away and clean everything and let my other coworkers deal with the customers, what can I say haha. So I texted him and let him know I was interested. A couple weeks go by and I got the job. I was a little anxious at first but I warmed up to everyone and I think it’s a great fit for me. I’ve made some great friendships there.
This semester I’m back on campus. This semester is different. My core classes are done. Now it’s time for my teaching classes. First days are always overwhelming, with the teachers or professors telling you each and every detail you’d be doing for the next 4 months. This semester I’d have one foot in being a student and the other in being a teacher. I’d be going to different middle and high schools and shadowing, tutoring, and teaching. At this point I was very anxious. I noticed myself shaking. I didn’t think I could do it and work at the same time. I had never gone to school and work at the same time. I had texted a childhood friend of mine who we had recently connected and caught up again, and was like “Hey I could use some prayer, I’m really anxious, I got all this going on and these thoughts are getting really loud and I don’t think I can do this” and all this stuff. I was surprised with what she said. She said, “Wow, I thought I was the only one.” After going back and forth, I had found out this is her first semester living on campus and she was mentally in the same boat that I was. Now we check in with each other about once a week just to see how we’re doing and how we can pray for each other. I’m so grateful for that.
God’s really been showing me how to let go of my anxious thoughts. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m working on it, and I’m firmly believing one day He’ll set me free from it.
If you’re reading this and you’re anxious too, you might feel really alone like I did. I’m here to tell you you’re not alone, and talking about it does help, a lot.