I am 15 and I struggle with Anxiety
There is something I deal with everyday, for every hour, and every minute of my life. From when I’m walking around the campus with a backpack on my back to when I’m alone in my bedroom at 2am staring at my white painted ceiling. You can’t see it; it’s not physical like a broken bone with a colored cast, and sloppy signatures or a string of stitches you got in the emergency room. This is something completely hidden from sight, even from me, but it’s just as present and real as any other illness. It impacts my life just like any physical illness would.
So what is the name of this invisible illness? Well it goes by anxiety or panic disorder. But I can also call it depression or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). This is just for me of course. Others may call this invisible illness bipolar disorder or ADHD or schizophrenia. The invisible illness has hundreds of names depending on who you are. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, about 1 in 5 youth between the ages 13-18 experience a mental disorder some point in their life. But majority of these people never get treatment. Mental health tends to go unnoticed, and there is not much awareness behind it. So this is why I’m here, to share my story and help people understand what I and others go through on a daily basis. I’m here to use my story as a tool to help others get the help they deserve. I want to bring awareness and thought to this community so, here’s my story.
My life got turned upside in 2011, when I was 8 years old turning 9. My Dad passed away on March 7th, that summer my Mom battled cancer so I became dependent on myself, and later that year I was forced to move schools for fourth grade. This is when my struggle with thoughts started. I had anger outbursts and had trouble expressing how I was feeling to others. It wasn’t until 7th grade I had my first panic attack. I sat in the office with shaking hands, the world around me dizzy and faded. With every breath took, it felt like the air never my lungs.The voices around me echoed as they thought to call an ambulance.
I began with short-term therapy, with the thought that this was a minor situation. At the end of my twelve weeks I wasn’t in any better shape than when I started. In fact, my anxiety worsened. I spent my freshman year in cognitive behavioral therapy every week on Tuesdays. Around April of 2017 I was doing extremely well. My panic attacks lessened to one every few weeks so I quit therapy thinking I was better and well. I was wrong. The thing about mental disorders is that they don’t go away like broken bones or fervers.
On October 1, 2017 I was rushed and admitted to the hospital as the paramedics who came to my house from a 911 call weren’t able to calm me down. From there things went downhill and I had a relapse. My panic attacks increased to a dreading three times a day, I struggled with obsessive thoughts that not only controlled my mind but also my actions, and my sleep and appetite worsened. This not only put strain on me but my relationships with others as well. Eventually, it pushed someone who means so much to me to leave (something I beat myself up about a lot). As I feel deeper into depression and started having thoughts of worthlessness and dying, I was put on three medications; 100 mg Zoloft every night, 75 mg Trazodone to help me sleep, and Propranolol to take when needed. As the psychiatrist prescribed these medications, he reminded me that these pills don’t cure and suddenly make everything go away, they simply just help.
A concept that people aren’t mindful of is that mental health is strongly connected to physical health. After this incident in the beginning of January I lost my appetite which lead me to lose 10 pounds in a month. I weighed 87 pounds at my lowest and I’m still recovering from the significant weight loss. In addition, another physical toll I take is rubbing the skin off my knuckles when I feel anxious and fidget. This causes me to wear Band-Aids so I don’t pick at the wounds when I’m anxious all over again. The most alarming physical toll I take is cutting. This past month was the first time I self-harmed, leading to cuts on my left arm that live underneath the sleeves of my hoodies.
It’s crazy to think that what you are thinking aren’t your thoughts; that you aren’t in control of what is said in your mind. It’s like being stuck listening to an annoying person who won’t shut the hell up. But as much as you don’t want to listen to that person, you find yourself influenced by them constantly. I think this is where people get stuck in trying to understand and relate to me. It’s a concept that is hard for not only others to wrap their head around but it is also difficult for me as well.
As mental health is undermined, insurance companies tend to not cover the necessary things for a person to get help. It costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars (maybe even thousands) to be able to seek the right treatment. It blows my mind that it costs so much just to able to live with your own mind. I am extremely fortunate and grateful that I am able to have access to these treatments but I know others are not. It frustrates me that these people are suffering just because it is embedded in our minds that to be sick, there should be physical symptoms present. This is definitely not the case.
So, I am fundraising for Project Semicolon. I want to be able to help these people get what they deserve; I want to help people be happy. I want to call this The Semicolon Project because to me a semicolon is when a writer could’ve ended a sentence but didn’t. As someone who has contemplated ending my “sentence” but hasn’t, it is a great reminder.
If you enjoyed Alicia’s story, send a bit of encouragement in the comments section below or share this story with others.