I’ve always been the quiet kid. I was always described as “shy” or “bashful.” I rarely volunteered to read to the class or present my project. I had to be strong-armed into doing a lot of social events. School. Church. Work. If there was going to be people there, then I was terrified to go.
When I was sixteen, I had a lot of trouble making myself go to school. I ended up fighting with my parents because they didn’t want me to be held back a year or get into trouble, but I was just so scared of going that I ended up getting sick a lot. I’m thankful that I had a great school counselor who worked with me, but it got to the point where it wasn’t enough. I was slowly slipping, and I felt helpless.
My parents took me to a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD. They thought the anxiety was more social than anything. I felt relieved to know that there was a name for that overwhelming fear I felt almost constantly when I was in a room with more than a few people.
It wasn’t as easy as going to see a doctor, though. I only took the medication for a few months before I just stopped. Within a year, I stopped seeing the psychologist too. I don’t know why I just refused to get help. I think I had convinced myself that I would never get better. I felt defeated and I had barely even tried to succeed in any kind of recovery.
As years went by, I slowly got worse. I tried to keep on track with my life. I knew that I was expected to graduate high school, go to college, get a degree, and find a job. I struggled more than anything to graduate high school. My junior year passed with only a few bumps in the road, but once my senior year hit, I was a mess. I missed a lot of days. I was so anxious that I shut down. I avoided homework. I avoided my extracurricular activities. I spent less time with my friends. It got to the point where I wasn’t even sure that I would graduate. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to. It was like I just stopped everything.
I managed to graduate from high school. I managed to find a job to help pay for my first semester at a college. I opted to take only online courses because I was terrified of having to go somewhere new and be around people I didn’t know. Which, in retrospect, didn’t make much sense since I took a job at the school bookstore. I only ended up working there for two months, though.
I ended up almost completely failing my first semester of college. I started with four classes, dropped one, and ended up with a C, D, and F. Failure brought around a determination to do better, so I retook the class with an urge to do better the second time around. And I did. But, I got a D. It turns out that art history really isn’t my subject.
The next couple of years were mostly uneventful. I had anxiety. I got depressed. I obsessed over things I wish I could forget about and I checked locks and my room over and over. I felt unsafe a majority of the time. I felt like I was constantly on hold. I was tense all the time and I could never relax.
Things took a downturn when I was only one class away from getting my Associate of Arts degree. I had to take a physical education course and was completely terrified. I kept reasoning with myself that I just needed to get through it and then I could move on to pursuing my education without worrying about any social aspect. I was required to attend one class at the beginning to get information about the course and get a baseline for how many laps I could do and other requirements. I didn’t realize that I would need to run in front of other people. I missed the email that told me to wear workout clothes. I would have to come back the next day and run. But by the end of the class, I was a wreck. I knew what was coming. I knew that the more I tried to stall it, the worse it would be. The second I got out to the truck where my mom was waiting, I broke down. I had a panic attack that seemed to never end. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like everything was just spiraling.
I never finished my degree. That was four years ago. My parents told me that I should look into getting help at that point, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t come to that realization myself until about two years later.
I became a mess. I was afraid to be in my home, but I was also afraid to leave. I couldn’t stay focused on anything. I never felt safe. I was barely getting about five or six hours of sleep a night. On really bad nights, I’d only manage about three. I obsessed over bugs because I have a fear of them and I was convinced they were everywhere.
I finally broke down and accepted help when I had a panic attack over a dead wasp in the house. They had been coming down through a fan vent in my parent’s bathroom, so being there was constantly terrifying for me. I went to therapy first. My psychologist told me that I had developed panic disorder. I was having panic attacks weekly for no reason at all. After a few sessions, it was recommended that I seek out help from a psychiatrist and I agreed. Simply talking about my problems and learning coping mechanisms weren’t helping me.
I started medication not long after and I was put on Zoloft, which gave me insomnia. Once I got my meds all straightened out with the help of a prescribed sleeping medication, I woke up one morning feeling clear-headed. I wasn’t anxious. I could think without my brain running around in circles over one topic. I didn’t feel depressed. I finally felt like I could breathe.
I continued going to therapy for a few more months and I still see my psychiatrist. Sure, it hasn’t been an easy road. There have been setbacks and days where I skipped my medication simply because I didn’t feel like taking it. But I’ve learned a lot through the process of recovery and I’m glad that I’m here. Two years ago, I wasn’t even sure that I would make it another day, but now? I’m positive that I can keep going if not for my loved ones, then at least for myself.
I am from Houston, Texas. I’m still pursuing my Associate of Arts degree. I’ve also been working on finishing my second book while attempting to get my first book published. Follow her on Twitter.