this is the first step

Since childhood, I’ve had anxiety. I’m not even sure what I had to be anxious about at age 8, but I got daily stomaches, headaches, crying jags. My parents thought I was just a particularly sensitive kid. Fast-forward to high school, my anxiety worsened. It caused me to cry and freak out at the slightest disruption to my routine. I had days where going outside seemed impossible, I had hoped that things would improve at Middlebury, away from my dysfunctional family, but I still have days where I spend hours obsessing about the future, concerned that I am not be able to fit in or succeed at college. My stomach ties up in knots when I thought about anything that could produce any type of emotions: ex-boyfriends, schoolwork, summer job, parents, parties. I end up being the first person to arrive to every class because I am so anxious about being late that I leave myself twice as much time as I actually need. I can’t drink caffeine, even a cup of tea, or I’ll feel anxious for the rest of the day (I have yet to learn if this is scientifically backed or just some idea that I got into my head and is now a self-fulfilling prophecy). I rip up pieces of paper into minuscule bits because the repetitive action soothes me. I pull out my eyebrows and eyelashes compulsively. I can’t have more than one dish in front of me in the dining hall at once. I wish I could explain what, exactly, anxiety feels like. The best explanation i’ve heard has been “it feels like being at the top of a roller coaster, all the time.” I do think that my mental health faced a huge challenge when I was raped during my senior year of high school, and my anxiety took on a whole new dimension. I run home from the library when I’m by myself at night, constantly checking over my shoulder and making sure that blur is really just my shadow and not an attacker. I can’t dance, really, because the feeling of a stranger’s hands on my body in a dark room is too much. I am, overall, incredibly conscious and skeptical of guys intentions, even if they are just making conversation or introducing themselves. I walk into a room and immediately gauge my personal safety and try to decide whether the men in the room are potential rapists or friends. I know this isn’t healthy. I know it isn’t good for me in the long run or sane or sustainable. But in the moment, what else can I do? I guess the strongest thing I’ve ever done, seeking help for my issues, I haven’t done yet. I guess the strongest thing I’ve done so far, has been writing this essay.

 

-Anonymous

Middlebury College, ’18

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