Let’s just say, I started college at Collin College with fear and overwhelming anxiety and some depression, as I had no idea what I was walking into. I was on more medication than I ever had been, and I felt extremely tired all the time. The original plan was to study music education and then transfer somewhere after I completed the basics. It was really the only thing I enjoyed at the time, and although I had gotten into schools like UNT & OKCU, I was not really interested in much of anything in terms of studying. I would say the first semester was the worst. I was dating someone from high school who went away to school and cheated on me, I hardly went to classes, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. College felt uncomfortable. I was still living at home, but I had a lot more time on my hands. As most of you know, I grew up in a Christian home, but it felt like I had abandoned a lot of the morals I once kept close. I started to do things I wanted to do and it seemed like I only prayed when I needed something. I tried to recite verses during a panic attack and my mom would always encourage me with scripture and prayer. But, The Lord wasn't the center of my life during these years and I see that very clearly now.
I did start auditioning & enrolled in a musical theatre class at Collin College (a community college) that helped me tremendously and gave me motivation in my second semester. I started making friends in the theatre department. The theatre department is an extremely wonderful program, I have to say & I met some of the most talented people I have ever known at that school. To my surprise, I started getting cast in some of my favorite & most memorable shows. I had found a newer and greater passion for musical theatre than music education, so I decided to change majors.
I also found myself nervous constantly, and as a result, my eating habits went to the extreme. Either I was just eating because I was bored & tired, or I was anxious and couldn’t eat, losing a lot of weight much like my senior year of high school. At this point, I completely avoided anything medical (Psychiatrist, Therapist, OBGYN, Dentist, regular doctor, etc.) and HATED even talking about my issues in fear that it would trigger a panic attack or another embarrassing fainting episode. Doctor visits were VERY hard, and it took everything in me (and my mom) to get me there.
My relationship was based on control and comfort. After the initial cheating in my first semester, I “forgave” him and we stayed together. But, it kept happening. Why is it that people stay with the one who keeps hurting them? Insecurity. Comfort. Fear of Rejection. The list goes on! This isn’t to say that I didn’t have a part in the relationship turning sour, because I did. I didn’t know how to trust. I didn’t know how to forgive. I didn’t know how to love myself and love others. Instead, I was used to being spoiled with gifts in hopes that it would win me back. And it did. But, mostly because I didn’t want to be alone. I craved the “happy ending.”
I also had a traumatic experience on a plane flying back from my cousin’s wedding in Florida with my family. It was bad. I had never experienced a panic attack that lasted that long – WITH medication. It wasn’t that I feared crashing; it was how I felt during the panic attack. It felt like I was going to die. Shaking constantly, crying, feeling helpless and terrified. Then, of course, came the embarrassment with my family & boyfriend. The majority of them had not experienced something like that before and they couldn’t understand what I was going through, except my mom. I came back and didn’t eat, lost more weight and so it began – the next year full of anxiety which turned into a form of agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia is the fear of leaving your home. It’s all about safety. Comfort. Control. Anxiety. I guess you can only imagine how this bled into every area of my life. I once had a panic attack during a show, I thought I was going to pass out. I ran offstage and got my medicine. But, it felt like nothing could work fast enough. On the stage is where I felt safe and it was the one thing that helped me get to school (that and medication). It gave me purpose. I didn't let anxiety stop me from pursuing my passion, in fact I felt like I kept improving in this area.
I finally ended the toxic relationship I was in, only to jump right into another toxic relationship for my third and final year at Collin College before I transferred. This relationship was significant in that it caused me a lot of stress due to the emotional abuse. The hurtful words. I "needed dance lessons", telling me I needed to workout because he could see my cellulite, constantly critiquing my performance and voice. And, manipulation at its finest. I truly do not know what I was thinking! But again, the desire to be loved was significant.
I was forced over the years to face some of my fears and I made TINY steps even when I didn’t realize it. I finally made it to a doctor – something I had to do. This was crucial step to the healing process. I needed doctor’s, therapists and people who were patient and kind and I had finally met one. I definitely took medication, and my mom came with me every single time. But, getting there was a huge part of the battle. I needed to start having positive associations to replace all the negative ones I had experienced and built up in my mind. I had other fears that still plagued me in everyday life, like driving on the highways, making excuses to friends, and choosing to completely avoid talking about any of these struggles. Even when I would drive on side streets or in neighborhoods, I had to turn around on many occasions to come back home due to panic attacks OR the FEAR of a panic attack happening when I was out. It took time, but I eventually grew out of this.
I often wonder how much of the medication affected me? It made me so tired and I had zero energy. I was just trying to function. To participate. Medicine can do that to you, but I was in my own world, trying to survive, and didn’t think much of it. I had jobs off and on throughout my first year of college, but nothing really stuck. I basically went from job to job between shows & didn't really understand the responsibility of having a job. I was too focused on myself.
My relationship came to a bitter end, but somehow, we stayed in constant contact. Any sign or chance of him wanting me back was what I clung to. While this was going on, I auditioned and was accepted into TCU’s musical theatre program and I received a scholarship from the school. I was elated and terrified all at the same time! With someone who had struggled with a form of agoraphobia, this was so incredibly freeing that I would be going to live away from home .
The summer just before I started at TCU, it felt like I finally had a breakthrough. I had a successful appointment at the gynecologist and didn’t pass out! I can’t tell you how nervous I was and how badly I didn’t want to do this, but I needed to! Then, I went on a trip to Florida with one of my best friends, Elena. We drove – no way I was back on a plane just yet! BUT – I left home! FAR AWAY! Without my “safe person,” my mom. This was the first time. It may seem so silly, but it was huge. I had made my world so small and suddenly, it appeared to be bigger than ever! I remember sitting at the ocean with my toes in the sand, soaking up the sun and just being in awe. I felt freedom. I felt hope. And, I was joyful. I wouldn’t say all the fear was gone (far from it), but I knew that with time, I would be better. TIME. But gosh, it was a slow and steady process.
I don't want all of this to sound like I am playing the victim. I look at parts of my story and think I really didn't have it that bad compared to others. But, at the time, it felt like I was completely lost trying to find my way with love, validation on the stage, and this whole "life" thing I was apparently not very good at.
Going to TCU felt like a dream and I couldn't believe I was actually going to go. What an adventure that was! I will save this part for the next one :) Enjoy some of my college photos ;)
Thanks for reading!