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I never knew I was any different from any other child. I’d always just assumed that other children were as sensitive and as anxious as I was. That’s all I’d ever known. And then I went to Kindergarten.
“Why are none of these other kids crying? Their families just left them here! What if something were to happen if they are at school? How would they ever know?? What if there is an emergency at my house and I’m not there?? What if something happened to my sister? Who would be there to let the dog out if she had to go???”
These were typical thoughts that went through my head on a daily basis. I was just five years old. Imagine a Kindergarten student with the weight of the world on her shoulders. I was her. I had the whole world to worry about. It fell on me- there was no one else the world could trust to handle those problems. At least, that’s how I felt.
I have always been a student with high levels of anxiety. I have been a student for 20 years (I’m told I’ll continue to be a student, even as a teacher) and having anxiety in school is all I know. My school anxiety has always been different than the “normal” school anxiety- “How am I going to get all of this work done? What if I don’t pass this test?”
No- I was thinking of things like, “How are the homeless people in the city going to eat lunch today? Is that boy going to sit all alone at recess? Is my cat okay? Is my Dad going to be okay driving 50 miles in his unsafe truck? What if something happens to him at work? How will anyone know? Does my school have my mom’s contact information so they can call her and tell her I am not okay?”
That’s where my school anxiety harbored. In things that I could not control because I was at school.
As I grew, I came to realize that the kids in my class weren’t also thinking these thoughts. In fact, none of their thoughts even came close to the emotional hell that was brewing inside my brain. Every day, I was forcing myself to think of all of the awful things that could happen while I was at school. I put myself through that hell. I wish I could go back and hug that little girl with the uneven bangs, and tell her the worries of the world are not her problem.
I was 18 before I came to terms with the fact that I am different from all of the other students I went to school with. I decided I could either face my Anxiety head on, and embrace that she is what makes me different. Or I could spend my life running from her.
She is what makes me, me. We fight and we argue and we scream back and forth at each other, but she is the reason I am kind to the rest of the world. She made me empathetic. She made me sensitive to the rest of the world. She made me humble.
I am going to battle with my Anxiety for the rest of my days. Some days, She will win. She will stop me from doing things I want to do, simply because She is scared of them. But, I think if I give Her enough love and compassion, Her days won’t be all that hard.
Thank you for sharing part of your struggle with anxiety. School was really hard for me too, and I can relate to a lot of what you have shared. I appreciate how you have seen the good that has shown up in your life through a lot of the tough times. Did you ever wonder that your experiences you went through would make you an even stronger teacher? It really is powerful to think about those detours (shoutout to Amy!) and how they can lead us to new places.
I am impressed that you were able to accept that you were different at the age of 18. It took me until I was 22 lol. I guess it doesn’t really matter how old you are to realize that but I just find it impressive the you accepted it at a young age because I know a lot of people who are in there 30s and still try to fit in with the cool crowed. It is so much better to embrace being different because you feel at peace when you are not worried about what other people think of you.
Keep being yourself Olivia, because you are amazing just the way you are!
TurningPointCT.org was developed by young people in Connecticut who are in recovery from mental health and substance use issues. We know what it’s like to feel alone, stressed, worried, sad, and angry. We’ve lived through the ups and downs of self-harm, drugs and alcohol, and the struggle to find help.
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