I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a fear of sleepovers. I actually had never slept over at anyone’s house without one of my parents until after high school. At that time, even thinking about going to a sleepover caused me anxiety. I was afraid that if I went to a sleepover, I would become sick and throw up, that my friends would make fun of me or not want to be my friend anymore if they found out I didn’t like sleepovers, that I would never fall asleep or not be able to go home if I got too anxious.
From elementary school through high school, I had numerous opportunities to sleepover at my friends’ houses. Whether that was for a birthday party, a trip to a cabin or just a random weekend, I became a pro at making up excuses as to why I couldn’t go. I didn’t want to tell any of my friends about my anxiety surrounding sleepovers because I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. At the same time, I didn’t want them to believe that I didn’t want to hang out with them every time they invited me to stay overnight. I realized that my anxiety was negatively affecting my social life so I decided to try to change that.
Eventually, I got up the courage to try sleeping over at my friend’s house in seventh grade. I packed up my overnight bag and went there in the afternoon. I felt totally calm until we decided to watch “The Princess Diaries” before going to bed. All of a sudden, I started feeling anxious. I started thinking about the reality of all of us going to bed soon and I panicked. I started sweating and shaking. I felt like I was going to throw up and went to the bathroom. I didn’t throw up, but I spent a long time waiting to feel better. I tried breathing to calm down, but it didn’t help. I eventually went back to watch the movie thinking that it might help to take my mind off of how I was feeling, but it didn’t. I went back to the bathroom two more times convinced that I was going to throw up. I started feeling like I was going to die.
I told everyone I was going to bed early and I went to my sleeping bag and tried to fall asleep. My friend’s dad must have heard me crying and he came in to check on me. I told him that I felt sick and wanted to go home. I called my mom and she came to pick me up. My friends were concerned and said that they were sorry that I felt bad. It was nice to know that they cared, but I felt embarrassed. Once I got in the car with my mom, I instantly felt better. After that I became depressed and disappointed with myself. It seemed like everyone my age had been to tons of sleepovers and that only toddlers would share my same fear.
I cried every night for so long. I saw a few psychologists, but I was hesitant to talk to them about my anxiety. When I got to college I started seeing one of the school’s psychologists determined to overcome my anxiety. She helped me immensely. We talked for months before I tried to sleepover at my friend’s apartment. I told my friend about my struggle with anxiety surrounding sleepovers and she was very supportive and willing to help. I practiced the breathing exercises that my psychologist and I had worked on on the days leading up to the big day and I’m proud to say that finally, at 21 years old, I successfully slept over by myself! The next morning I felt incredible. I felt like I could do anything! It was a tremendous weight off my shoulders. Now I don’t have to miss out on amazing opportunities like I did in the past because my anxiety isn’t holding me back.
If I could go back in time, I would have been more open with my friends about my struggle with anxiety and continued talking to a psychologist when I was younger because I may have overcome it sooner.
I hope that my story can help other teens struggling with anxiety realize that they are not alone. If I can overcome the anxiety that I felt for the majority of my life thus far, ANYONE CAN!
By: Olivia S., AiT Contributor