by: Meghan Meuchner
From what I remember, 2010 was a crazy year: Lady Gaga’s outrageous fashion trends, the debut of the Old Spice man’s hilarious commercials, and the infamous, all-American, Bed Intruder Song. This was also the year that I developed my anxiety.
Anxiety is a strange concept; especially for a thirteen-year-old girl who had no idea what the word meant or what the illness entailed. This thirteen-year-old girl just thought she was having asthmas problems because she felt like she could not breathe properly.
Stress, fear, and nervousness are emotions people feel in their life. Everyday, we spout off sayings like “Oh I am so stressed over this test!” or “Man, wasn’t that a nerve-wracking conversation.” Sometimes people feel these emotions when taking huge tests or walking in an unfamiliar part of town without a GPS (I particularly know this feeling). These emotions and feelings are a part of life; they make us human. This stress and uneasiness is healthy. This apprehensiveness towards certain situations warn us, whether they are difficult or dangerous. Typically, people’s fears are gone after the situation ends.
But for millions of Americans and myself, anxiety gets to the point where it becomes unhealthy. At this point, the constant nerves cause anxiety to become a disorder. Living with anxiety truly can affect someone’s life. Some people cannot function normally in certain situations with this disorder.
There is a common analogy people use to put the feel of anxiety into words. In primary education (and sometimes even now), students love to live on the edge. These daredevils would try to tip their chairs balance on the two legs. After lingering for a second on the balanced legs, fear flashes through the eyes of the student as the chair starts to fall backwards. Once the students realize that they are falling backwards, he or she tends to catch him or herself before they fall (I bet we have all went through this once in our life). This mini heart attack as the chair starts to lose balance is what anxiety feels like, but it never stops.
There are about four different types of anxiety that can occur. There is Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Phobias, and Generalized anxiety disorder. For me, I have situational anxiety, which I classify under general anxiety disorder since my anxiety sparks form situations that I think I should not be worrying about at all.
In certain situations, my anxiety can become really bad. Normally, I get very shaky, I start to sweat, and even worse, I get a shortness of breath. My anxiety can get out of control in some situations, causing me to have panic attacks. For anyone who has had a panic attack will tell you that these are not fun. Panic Attacks can cause shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and the overall feeling of going crazy. For me personally, these panic attacks cause situations to be worse. When I get shortness of breath, it leads to me thinking that I am dying because I cannot control my breathing. Then, I get even more scared because I think I am dying, which makes my heart rate increase, and in turn, making my lungs need more oxygen. In general, this constant cycle is not fun.
It was not until junior year of high school when I truly realized why I had anxiety. After thinking about what could have caused me to feel this way in certain situations, it finally all made sense.
My anxiety sparked by a certain situation back in 8th grade. Let me forewarn you and say that this story will bring second hand embarrassment.
But here we go.
The big Washington D.C. trip was what kids looked forward to when hitting the eighth grade. Only a select few students could go on this trip since it was school based. A few kids were selected, and myself, based on grades and his or her attitudes toward the trip. Lucky me, this trip was all about history (which would make sense because it was held in Washington D.C, the nation’s capital). This trip was great for me; I felt like a big kid! I was going across the country, without my parents, and my best friends! What could ruin this moment? It was not until the flight over to Washington D.C where everything went downhill.
I threw up on the plane.
And thanks to Delta airlines, there was no bag for me to puke in so where did the puke go? It went all over my brand new jeans.
Now, I know this is gross but, when I look back on the situation, I realize how I got to be so worried about how people perceive me. For thirteen-year-old Meghan, it was a big deal. Everyone laughed and me and I felt judged. For the rest of the trip, I felt as if everyone was staring at me.
Ever since that trip, I had a fear of being physically sick in public. This constant worrying grew into a bigger problem, which today is my situational anxiety. This problem affected my school work, and overall my attendance at school up to sophomore year of high school.
I always have the fear of doing something wrong. If I don’t do this, then this will happen. This is a constant struggle for me.
I will meet people throughout my life who always question me about my anxiety. They ask how did I have gotten this way or why I cannot think past the worrying. I understand that these people do not comprehend what I am going through because they have never experienced the situations I am going through.
But why is there is a big stigma against anxiety and mental illnesses? What is so different between and mental and physical illness? How is it any different that when a person breaks his or her arm, people come running to help but when someone has a mental breakdown, people do nothing?
Most people tend to not see the illness for what it truly is. People are unable to see the illness, unlike physical illnesses, and with this, people find it harder to be sympathetic towards people suffering from the mental illness. People with able-minds are unable to understand the mental illness, because they have never experienced it before. These people don’t know how it feels. Everyone thinks that it is “all in the head”.
Saying “Oh its okay, you’ll be fine” or “Don’t be a baby and do it” to someone who has mental illness can really be hurtful. Maybe the person is trying his or her hardest in the situation that is uncomfortable for them but the illness is holding them back.
Many people living with anxiety, like myself, are embarrassed with themselves because of this illness. They are embarrassed to tell there loved ones, which leads them to not getting help. Having to live with that feeling really affects someone.
Over the years, I was able to tell my parents how I felt, and this communication led to them helping me during certain situations. I am thankful for that. I am thankful for them understanding who I am.
I have missed so many opportunities because of my anxiety. This included not being able to do what I love which was musical theatre. From eighth grade to my junior year of high school, I couldn’t get on that stage because I had the fear of getting physically ill on stage. Thankfully, I am able to handle and somewhat push my fear aside to perform. Hopefully, my schedule opens up in the future so that I can double major in Theatre sometime soon.
Even though I suffer from anxiety, this mental illness does not define me. Anxiety is a part of my life and a part of me. I am a normal girl, who enjoys normal activities. I am a huge theatre nerd, and I love playing hockey. Because of my anxiety, some situations are harder to get through than others. I am thankful for the support I have surrounding me.
One of the most exciting things is happening to me this summer. I finally get to go to study abroad in a place I have wanted to go to since I was a child. But, since I have anxiety with flying, hopefully this trip won’t be too much of a hassle. I know I will be able to comfort myself enough to get thorough the flight. I am a pro now.
England, here I come.