I’m a senior in high school and pretty much all of my life I have lived with worry and anxiety. I can remember when I was still in grade school when I was out of school for weeks due to a stomach ulcer. I remember worrying ALL. THE. TIME. Everyone would get annoyed with me because any little pain in my body, anything that felt out of the ordinary with me and I would freak out. Everyone just thought I was a worry wart, when in reality I went years undiagnosed with anxiety disorders. In seventh grade I remember I had been going through a lot in my life. I’ll never forget one night I was sitting at our kitchen table doing my homework, when out of nowhere I got really hot, I went and sat next to my mom on the couch, and then I started having difficulties breathing. Which in turn made me freak out even more which made it even more difficult to breathe. My mom and dad had me lay down, and my entire body was shaking. I thought for sure that night was going to be my last. I literally thought that I was going to die. My parents didn’t know what to do, but they stood by my side that night and helped me the best they could. And when I went to the doctor the next day He told me I had asthma. Asthma!?! really!?! Looking back now, I just want to smack him!!
Anyway, I didn’t really have any huge attacks like that again until I was in high school, but all through middle school and freshman year of high school I was constantly on edge and nervous. Back then I would gag randomly and quite often, and looking back now I realize it was a part of my anxiety. Sophomore year is when the panic attacks started to get really bad. Before every band performance I would end up on my hands and knees gagging, or super hot feeling like I was going to faint, or having trouble breathing. I missed many performances that year due to my panic attacks. However at the time, i still had no diagnosis.
I went all summer between sophomore and junior year, and I hibernated in my room. I hung out with maybe 2 friends the entire summer and probably only once each. I was afraid to leave the comfort of my home. I had developed panic disorder with agoraphobia. I was afraid to go anywhere, in fear of dying, in fear of having a panic attack, in fear of anything happening to me. It ruined my life. I was depressed all the time. It finally got to a point where I couldn’t live like that any longer, and I reached out for help… I finally went back to my therapist, and this time I got the courage to truly open up to him. I told him that the anxiety was severe, so bad that I was afraid to even sleep through the night in fear of dying.
I was finally diagnosed with panic disorder, and I was also finally seeing a new doctor that was willing to work with my therapist and get me on the right medicine. the years prior I was terrified of medicine, and I often would just not even take it. So, this time my parents had to make sure I was actually taking it. I can actually say that I’ve not taken any really long breaks from seeing my therapist like I used to. And I’ve been taking my medicine like I’m supposed to. I’m on the road to recovery.
So why did I tell you all of that information? Why did I tell you all of the background stories? I wanted to get them out there because I just know that there are others struggling with the exact same things if not similar to mine, and have not had a proper diagnosis. Having a proper diagnosis and parents who push you to get better, and a really good therapist who specializes in mental illness is so very important. I’m a senior in high school now, so it’s been over a year since I went through all of that and since I finally opened up to my counselor. And honestly I can stand here (well sit here) and say that I’ve done a complete 180 degrees.
My self esteem has improved because I actually fought it and took my therapists advice and I “went towards my fears” in order to grow. Which was never easy. I got my license, got a job, got accepted to college, and those were all things I never thought I could do because I was so afraid. I’m participating in youth group regularly, as well as small bible study groups. I’ve gone on retreats, I’ve stayed over at friends’ houses, and I’ve had friends stay over. Which for over a year I never ever did because I lived in fear.
If you are a person struggling with these issues, if you suffer from random attacks of anxiety, or maybe just anxiety in general: you are not alone. Please get the help you deserve. If I wouldn’t have reached out when i did, I probably wouldn’t be here today. The mind can play so many tricks on us. Don’t let it win. There is always hope. It was definitely not easy by any means at all and still isn’t easy to fight the panic attacks, to deal with them when they happen, to have to take medicine to help control them, to go towards my fears to conquer it, and even to open up to my therapist… but I can tell you that it is SO worth it to get your life back, or to even get the life you’ve always wanted. Do NOT let anxiety and panic attacks control your life. Get help.
And if you’re a parent, I have some tips and advice for you as well. If you want your teen to overcome their struggles with anxiety, keep in mind it may be something they deal with forever, but if you want them to get it under control… it’s not going to be easy for you either. Have patience and understanding, because they don’t like it just as much as you don’t like to see them have it. You’ll have to push them to do things their brain is telling them not to do. Things their brain is saying that it’s too scary, or that something bad might happen. If it’s in their best interest you need to follow through for them, guide them and help push them. They may fight back on you about it. Trust me I fought my parents a lot when they would try to push me to go towards my fears and to do the things that my brain was telling me not to do… all the time. But I promise it will be so worth it to get them help, and to help them by pushing them.
It IS possible to get it under control. You are not alone. With a great therapist, great parents, and a great psychiatrist my anxiety is under control. Do I sometimes have something that will trigger a random panic attack, yes of course. But I’m not struggling with them daily, and i can now live my life to the fullest. I’m going to College this fall to study mental health counseling and social work because I want to help others the way I’ve been helped. I know how vital it is to get good support from a good therapist. And I can’t wait to be that for others. I hope my story can help someone, anyone in need. Thank you for reading and for the opportunity to share it 🙂 Anxiety In Teens is a great resource for teens and parents, share your story here. Research can also help a ton!