Chapter 1: “I have what?” Hello High-school

Ch 1. / Ch 2. / Ch 3. / Ch 4.  / Ch 5.

Confusion / An Unknown Future

For my social anxiety to make sense, this actually begins a few years earlier. Around age 11, my outlook started to change. There had been a negative person in my life as I grew up, and I wondered if his attitude was correct, both towards me and the world. Also, I began to question if the positive people were being so, out of pity. I questioned my appearance, my personality, my voice, pretty much everything that could potentially annoy or disappoint others.

Highschool came. My first time ever switching schools.

Spinning classrooms while I sat still. Walking down a hall, it’s floor felt made of balloons. Not being able to breathe. Sometimes it looked like everything got brighter, and I could barely feel my body. Chest pains. Heart palpitations. Panic attacks, feeling like I “had” to get out of the room, as if a Tsunami was about to hit. I had an average of 7 anxiety/panic attacks a day during 9th grade.

I quickly developed a groin hernia from the tension. It popped up by the end of the day, keeping me company on my bus rides home.

We weighed in for phys-ed, September and December. My weight went from 99 lbs, to 80 lbs. This was caused by the adrenaline of anxiety, and not wanting to eat much from nausea.

At home, the anxiety lessened but did not go away. I felt embarrassed and concerned about my day, of course I worried about the next day when I’d have to face it all again. I remember sitting in a dark hallway before school started, totally blind-sided that I had anxiety problems. What did this mean for my future? Was I crazy?

I couldn’t escape it, not even in my sleep. I had nocular attacks (panic attacks in your sleep) I’m glad no one could see my bedroom window. No matter if it was the middle of Winter, if a nocular attack hit? I threw almost all my clothes off and stood in front of the open window for relief.

I tried going for walks after school a few blocks from my house. Being outside caused shallow breathing, heart palpitations, and loss of feeling in my legs. Then of course I’d have to act like I was perfectly fine when passing people on the street. Needless to say, I had Agoraphobia going on as well (fear of leaving one’s house)

Once your body is use to something like anxiety and panic attacks, it’s so hard to make it forget.

Anxiety is very sub-conscience.
It begins before you realize. Automatic thoughts are difficult to control.

I was shy. Quiet. Mildly bullied (names, the occasional apple sauce on my lockers lock) Simply being me (or the very shy version) made me feel like a disappointment or unwanted. I didn’t mean to do whatever was causing me to be the disappointment.

In obsessive compulsive style, I wrote on my calendar each day – what I wore, and exactly how I did my make-up – to see if anything visually caused problems socially.

I should’ve seen it coming, but I lost touch with friends, and of course, myself. Shrinking away socially and emotionally will do that.

Thankfully, the school allowed me to do my work in one room through-out the day, instead of trekking as herds from class to class, or speaking in class.

I recall a (then unknown to me) coping mechanism my system took upon itself to materialize. A combination of: Depersonalization (feeling as though you’re outside yourself) and Derealization (feeling as though something is wrong with reality) Sitting in this classroom at the end of the day, I suddenly couldn’t feel the pen in my hand, nor the rest of my body. I knew I was looking at a gray wall with a window above it, but wasn’t thinking anything else. It was a very welcome, overall calm. It only ever happened once.

My high-school years got slightly easier each year. In my perfectionistic head, I never did reach “average life of a ‘normal’ student”. I’d like to note, I didn’t try medication during high-school.

Two things that helped me out of my initial “am I crazy/what’s going on” phase, were learning (a) What anxiety and panic are. Why mine may’ve started. And (b) I’m not the only one who deals with it.

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. As a nervous disorder, it’s characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

Symptoms include:

Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
Problems sleeping
Cold or sweaty hands or feet
Shortness of breath
Heart palpitations
Not being able to be still and calm
Dry mouth
Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Muscle tension
Nervous cough/Tickle in throat (this is one I had, yet never saw listed as a symptom)

Panic Attacks are quite simply.. many anxiety symptoms at once, causing major panic.

What happens during an anxiety or panic attack: When people feel stressed, their sympathetic nervous system revs up, releasing energy and preparing the body for “Flight or Fight”. The parasympathetic nervous system then steps in, and the body stabilizes to a calmer state. If the parasympathetic nervous system is somehow unable to do its job, a person will remain fired up and may experience the heightened arousal characteristic of a panic attack. It is basically.. over-exaggerated natural fear sensations, firing off at times they aren’t necessary.

Well known people with anxiety-related problems (past &/or present): Ellie Goulding, Zayn Malik, Christina Ricci, Jonathan Knight, Donny Osmond, Johnny Depp, Barbara Streisand, Robin Mead, and more!

I’m ending this chapter with something that came along in 10th grade that proved helpful. I always wanted to go to New York City (a 7hr bus trip away) I had my chance, and could take my Best Friend with me. So out of frustration, curiosity, and desire, I said “I’m doing this”. I have no idea how I managed! I found I love New York City, and when I returned home, I felt very confident. Inspired. The great new feelings shriveled down to my usual hometown feelings, unfortunately. The trip had a positive effect. Good to know!

Ch 1. / Ch 2. / Ch 3. / Ch 4.  / Ch 5.

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