I was living the dream in High School, so I thought. I had it all together, so I thought. Or rather, I was very good at pretending I had it together.
I began my last two years of high school with a passion for the arts – choir & theatre. It was something I truly enjoyed and loved improving upon. Was I the best singer? Or actor? Absolutely not. This is something I really had to work at, and it took great discipline on my end. The word “college” was always floating around in the air, and I really had no idea where I wanted to go OR what I wanted to study. But, I think it’s safe to say that this is the year I knew the arts had to be a part of my future. I started 11th grade with a lot of anxiety – in a class of over 1,000, it was a little intimidating with a ton of new faces. Not only that, a lot of my friends at the time were a grade ahead because of a relationship I was in, which fueled my insecurity and the need for approval. I was never the one to “party.” It was just not my scene. I think I tried to act like it was sometimes to fit in, but I was always very cautious due to multiple warnings from my doctors and family about drinking with the medication I was taking. And, I had also seen the consequences of drinking, and I was just scared of it. I would say I was friends with several people in each “group,” if that makes sense. I had friends who were cheerleaders (several of which I was close friends with since middle school), on the drill team (including my best friend, Stephanie), choir, theatre, sports, etc. But, it was impossible to know EVERYONE!
Dating someone in high school who was a year ahead of me was quite a challenge. He was in a band and began to enjoy the party scene. I played along, like I was fine. Constantly being picked on by his friends with incredibly mean and hurtful comments, I began to believe these things about myself. But, I was convinced we were going to end up together, so it was justified. Unfortunately, there had always been a lack of honesty & trust, and this relationship came to an ugly end going into my senior year. Looking back now, it was painfully obvious that I idolized this relationship. I remember losing so much weight during this time, because I couldn’t eat due to anxiety. So, I started my senior year with many mixed emotions.
Toward the beginning of the year, I developed PTSD after a doctor’s appointment. I passed out, which was typically common when I had shots, but this time that wasn’t the case. I also urinated, and it apparently looked like I had a seizure. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I went to my regular doctor after that to discuss what happened, and just talking about it triggered me to almost pass out again. This led to a panic attack. This vicious cycle of panic attacks only got worse over the next few weeks. It got so bad, in fact, that I wouldn’t even walk in to my psychiatrist’s office. I stayed in the car. I made the assumption in my head that anything medical would trigger me to have a panic attack, and I now associated all doctors with something extremely scary and negative. I decided to try a new psychiatrist, but I still would hardly go into the office – or talk. I thought talking about it would trigger me to have a panic attack and pass out – the cycle kept happening (in my mind). If you’ve never experienced a panic attack, BE GLAD! I felt like I was completely out of control of my body. I would shake, and I felt completely helpless. It is, to this day, one of the most terrifying things I have experienced. This was only the beginning.
One of the first things this doctor said to me was that I needed relief to be able to function. That was for sure. I was beginning to feel paralyzed by the day-to-day activities and was desperately trying to hide it. Only my Mom and Dad were aware of the situation in its entirety – mainly my mom, because she basically accompanied me everywhere. I started to feel ashamed, and I had to increase my medicine by 2/3rds! It was only a daily sedative to help me get through. Was I numb? Not quite. I still got nervous. But, I wanted to be. I wanted to hide from these feelings, and I truly didn’t know how I would come out of it and be able to be “normal” again, especially if I couldn’t go to the doctor, go to class, etc. So, I didn’t tell any of my friends. Maybe one or two, but I knew nobody would truly understand all these irrational thoughts. I didn’t even understand! So, I became busy – very busy with school, shows, and rehearsals. I typically stayed at school until 11pm due to rehearsal. I also think I became very selfish – selfish with my time, idolizing comfort and all things ME! I enjoyed all the recognition I was getting, and I used that to fuel my happiness – a new boyfriend, president of choir, in all the theatre shows, All-State Choir, specialty groups like Music Corporation and Chamber Choir… it seemed like my life was going well, I guess. I pretty much got anything I wanted somehow. But, I was a nervous wreck all the time and didn’t handle it well. I was supposed to continue going to counseling, but I was always too “busy” with school and, honestly, talking about something that would cause me to have a panic attack was the LAST thing I wanted to do.
But, I definitely had some good distractions – for that year at least. I somehow made it through. I also auditioned and got accepted into some colleges, but I still had no idea what I wanted to do. And, the thought of leaving home was terrifying. My “trigger” list was building up, and home was my “safe” spot. Honestly, I don’t think I cared too much about the future at that point. It wasn’t a priority. I just wanted to get through each week, one day at a time. I know there were times I could completely forget about all my worries, but it didn’t last. I know my anxiety affected many of my friendships by canceling plans (which only got worse), and I developed some very bad habits when I was trying to cope. Truth is, I didn’t have a clue on what I was to do, or how to do it, or how to make it better, etc.
Senior year was not all gloom and doom, and I was very proud of my accomplishments! I fell in love with the arts, and it helped me “escape” during a really tough year internally. Some of my best memories were on the stage – rehearsing, singing, performing, going to football games, and prom, etc.! But, navigating through high school is hard, especially with any sort of mental disorder. Thank goodness for change and growth! Because little did I know, my darkest moments were yet to come in college.