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Our Stories

Anxiety

Getting Help: Chloe, Age: 18

All of my life, I felt pressure from my mom. The pressure to do well in school and to make the right decisions.

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

All of my life, I felt pressure from my mom. The pressure to do well in school and to make the right decisions. By fifth grade, I was getting monetary rewards for my grades, and once I started sixth grade, there were monetary consequences for grades which my mom deemed unacceptable. Getting A’s was the goal, B’s weren’t great but they were acceptable, and C’s meant consequences. There wasn’t even talk about D’s or F’s, they were unimaginable.

In eighth grade, I had become exhausted. School was so much work, and I wasn’t even in high school yet. I decided to stop doing my work. I didn’t study for tests, I rarely did my homework, and I was often on my phone in class. Once my mom found out, her reaction was to check my homework every night to make sure I had done it, and to push me more and more each day to make sure that I could still take advanced classes in high school.

By high school, I was talking to teachers about redoing any work I could that, even if I had gotten a B. I needed the grades I had been conditioned to believe were the only ones acceptable, but I often didn’t have the motivation. I wanted all A’s, a GPA 4.0 or higher, but I didn’t have the motivation to do so. Everything was always about looking the best for colleges, but my mom knew that grades alone would not get me into college. I had to do sports and clubs and other activities in my free time. I needed to impress admissions when the time came. By the time I would get home from school and my after school sport and activities, I was exhausted, and just wanted to melt into my couch watching TV, but I couldn’t. The constant pressure to do well had conditioned me, so despite how tired I was, or how little I actually wanted to be doing it, I had to do my work, and I had to do it well. My lack of motivation got to me – everything was saved until the last minute, and numerous late nights were common every week.
Senior year arrived, college applications were finally hitting, so I needed to keep doing well, get into my dream school. However, senioritis hit, and my motivation dropped to an all-time low. Anxiety hit, and did so mostly in tests. However, it would also hit in the most meaningless stuff – when I was running, when my friends changed our plans, when I was doing my homework. My mom started to let me take mental health days, allowed once a month, for when I had saved a huge assignment to the night before it was due, attempted to do it, and then broke down crying unable to complete it.
By December, I was committed to my top choice for school, having applied Early Decision, but I was still a mess stressing out over the stupidest of assignments. I was about to get my highest marking period GPA ever, and I wanted to make it as great as it could be, so I asked a teacher if I could edit an essay to get it from a B to a B+, something she would normally allow. However, this time she laughed and asked why I wanted to. She knew that I was in college and knew exactly where I would be the next fall – there was no reason for me to rewrite this essay. That night I went home and complained how my teacher wasn’t going to let my rewrite my essay, and my mom laughed, confused as to why it mattered to me anymore. College was no longer a worry, my grades didn’t matter, but I still needed them. I had been conditioned into needing these grades. As the year progressed, I listened as my friends talked about the C’s and D’s they were receiving in classes, while I was still getting all A’s and B’s. I needed to keep trying, even as I realized that my, now self-inflicted, pressure was irrational.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I spoke to my mom and told her how I was constantly anxious, most particularly with school work. We reached out to a therapist, someone who clicked perfectly with me, and I opened up. Even though I am not officially diagnosed with a disorder, I knew that I needed help, despite how minor. I felt the issue arising, and wanted to take care of it as soon as possible, and hopefully get started on it before heading off the college.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I haven’t been working with the therapist for too long, so it is hard to tell what improvements have been made, but having started this process I am feeling much better about myself. I am going to eventually find the point where I won’t have such high expectations for myself, and I am going to reach a point where my grades won’t dictate my self-worth, and where I know that one bad grade isn’t going to ruin my life.

I have been able to find activities that relax me, running by myself rather than for a team with pressure, finding my love for photography, and reading for fun (I swear it is actually enjoyable with the right books). My sole focus isn’t my school work, and I know that my grades will not determine the rest of my life.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

If you’re having a rough time, no matter what it is about, it is SO helpful to just talk to someone. There are always people around looking to help, but they need you to reach out to them. They don’t know what is going on inside of your head, and they need to learn about it in order to help you. If you sense a problem, even if you think it isn’t a big deal, there is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help. In the long run, it is so helpful.