This summer I turn 29. I have suffered from generalized anxiety presumably my entire life. The panic attacks started in high school as did the bipolar mood swings. I was chronically suicidal but even more so, I was stubborn. Until senior year of high school, I did just enough to skate under the radar. I got into frequent screaming matches with my mother (the closest object to take out the irritation caused by bipolar) and generally kept myself busy with online forums and anime. I held a job and, in fact, tried many different professions.
Originally I was adamant I wasn’t going to college as the idea of more schooling was abhorrent. The only academic class I enjoyed was German as I was determined to become fluent. It wasn’t until a friend of mine told me it was possible to major in languages that I changed my mind about college. I would become a German teacher!

I decided to abandon the idea of going out of state at the last minute and settled for community college for a year. I had panic attacks that lasted for days at the start of each semester. I tried anti-anxiety medication which helped with the social anxiety; for the first time I could walk into a crowded room and still breathe. The panic attacks still persisted at the start of the semesters.

At 19, with the emotional maturity of a 14-year-old, I left Jersey for a small town in Minnesota that offered German as a major. I absolutely loved that campus. I attempted therapy for depression but it was a friend of mine who convinced me to change the way I see the world. I can say I finally beat the cloud of depression that hung over my head for at least 6 years. Still, I was experiencing extreme panic attacks especially during my German class which was frustrating as well as disappointing. I wasn’t in the right level and I struggled with the grammar I had never been able to grasp in high school. At the time, I didn’t know how to handle the situation in a productive manner so I dropped the German major and changed psychology from a minor to my major.

During the drive back for the second semester, as had become par for the course, I panicked the entire drive, got to my dorm, packed my bags, and left Minnesota. I decided to finish an associate’s degree online in liberal arts with a concentration in psychology. After trying to go back to college twice for different majors, I decided upon a different route. I got a cosmetology license, packed my bags, and moved to California where my best friend had been living for the past few years.

I was officially in California 10 days before I turned 25 with an opportunity for a new beginning. I had plans to become a stylist and go back to school because I heard California was a great place for those over 25 to get a degree. I didn’t tell anyone my real plan to go back to school a fourth time and, dammit, I was going to finish this time! Instead, I now understand the expression “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

The next two years of my life would be the worst hell I’ve experienced. My plans to transfer my license and get a job did not go according to my plan. It took me a few months to find a part time job cashiering, it took 8 months for me to transfer my license to California, and it was difficult finding a full time job to begin my career as a stylist. My living situation was (unintentionally) detrimental to me and I had plummeted into a major depressive episode. I gained 14 pounds (I’d never been over 126lbs in my life) and considered suicide daily.
Again, I’m stubborn and knew I’d commit myself before I attempted suicide. Around October, I decided that I would go back to Minnesota and fulfill my degree for the start of the Spring semester. My friend’s convinced me to stay through the New Year and then leave, which I complied.
Just before Thanksgiving, I found a job in a budget salon and moved in with a friend on a day’s notice. I still hadn’t fully decided to stay in California but the mood stabilizers enabled me to mentally get back on track and feel like myself again.

It was that year that my life has truly started. I worked in the salon for a year but I decided that I would take a job making more than those jobs combined, working with my very good friend and still current roommate. Knowing that online classes work very well for me, I applied to ASU online as an English major. If it turned out that ASU wasn’t an option for me, I was ready go to back to Minnesota but, as it turns out, it has been a fantastic experience and I am set to graduate next spring.
Despite the challenges that I have faced, I had a great support system through my co-workers, customers, and friends who will never know the many ways they saved my life. I am now happier than ever. Therapy has been tremendously successful in managing my anxiety and I have been medication free for almost two years again.

I’ve still had many challenges and have thought about going back to Jersey or Minnesota until I finish my degree and move to Germany but, things are finally at a tipping point for the best. Being on my own has enabled me to grow emotionally and become more prepared for a career as a teacher. With a stable environment, I can manage my bipolar and my anxiety. I’ve since been able to travel to Germany and enjoy the little hidden gems that California has to offer. They say when you’re going through hell, keep walking. You’ll eventually get out.

Nichole is currently a customer service representative and dispatcher in a nice little office.Before moving to California, she worked with emotionally disturbed teenagers in a residential treatment facility. Aside from holding two cosmetology licenses, she is a Reiki master, has a bartending certificate, and wants to change the world to be more compassionate and kind where everyone coexists. She wants to teach high school on a military base and travel the world. She is currently going to school for a BA in English and then plans to get a Masters in eduction with a licensure or credential program (probably through a California school) and then move to Germany.