My Life with Anxiety


Hannah Wallace '25, Contributing Writer

        Everything becomes still. My breath chokes me. My feet stick to the ground like they’re weighed down by cinder blocks. My muscles tighten, my chest tightens, my lungs tighten. A dampness forms in the palm of my hands. I seem to notice every crevice, every curve, and every indent on my skin. Everything stops. Everything except for my mind. What if you fail? What if you let them down? What if you mess up? What if you aren’t good enough? Stop. Give up. Run. Hide. Cry. Die.

         I’ve always been a cautious kid. Since the day I was born, I’ve completed every action with precision. Brush my teeth? I scrub every corner of my mouth until it’s squeaky clean. Make my bed? The comforter must be absent of even the slightest wrinkle. Read a book? Each page must be read over twice. This was my personality. That was me then. This is me now.

         The problem appears when it goes from being cautious to all-consuming. Case in point: September 23th, 2022. Homecoming. 

         Sophomore year had gotten off to a rough start. After a picture-perfect freshman year resembling something out of a high school musical movie, my expectations were high. Really high. I had a boyfriend…I made the most competitive sports team in my school…I had straight A’s. In other words, the only place to go was down. And I did. I cried in my bedroom each night for the entire first month of sophomore year. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of homecoming. Everything will turn around at homecoming. Everything will work out. This is the night to change. This can be your turning point. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. In fact, it was the complete opposite. The entire night I was trying to plan the next hour ahead, the next milestone towards a successful evening. Instead, I landed in my bedroom crying, yet again. 

         Even my mom – my one source of comfort, my one source of control – seemed concerned, given her own battles with anxiety. When I hugged her, I could practically hear the thoughts running through her head. How could I have not realized this? Did I do something wrong? Could this be my fault? What if she turns into me?

        In the weeks following homecoming, something shifted inside of me. The world became less bright. The grass was less green. Food was less tasty. Jokes were less funny. My spark was gone. In trying to busy myself with friends, school, and sports, I let go of the most important thing: happiness. For something so valuable, precious, and priceless, it is incredibly easy to lose… and extremely difficult to get back. So, I developed my mask.

        If I wasn’t able to be truly happy I could at least look the part. When choosing my outfit and applying my makeup each morning, I’d often stop and look at myself in the mirror. The girl looking back was unrecognizable. She was dead. Not physically, but mentally. Her pupils were narrow, her smile faded, and her cheekbones laid lower than normal. So I’d put on my mascara, apply an extra layer of lip gloss, and dust some blush on my upper cheek. Within minutes, I’d managed to piece together enough of myself to get through the school day, but barely. 

         I won’t lie, this technique did work. Until it didn’t.

         I was in biology class facing the clock on the wall. My mind zoned out. Ironically enough, my teacher spoke about the characteristics of life. “All living things need energy,” she said. Sitting in my cold metal seat, I used up every ounce of energy to keep my head from drifting down to my desk. When the bell rang, I got up and made my way through the hall as I did every day. As if I were a character in a video game, I walked robotically beside my friend to Spanish class. My movements seemed programmed, rigid, and stiff. My eyes focused on the wall caving in ahead of me. My breath quickened, my thoughts fastened, and the world went quiet. 

         To this day I wonder how I made it to my Spanish class in one piece. But I did. And when I got there, I did something that took all of my strength. I went up to my teacher with tears forming in the corner of my eyes and said the most truthful thing I had said all day, “I have been struggling with my mental health lately…can I please go to guidance?” With a comforting smile, she nodded and off I went.

         Finally, I admitted that I was not okay. Finally, I asked for help. 

         One thing that hadn’t changed about myself was my desire for control. So, I created a plan for this point on. “If you don’t want to get better you never will,” my mom said. With the support of my family, teachers, and friends, I learned to want help. I had my first appointment with a short-term therapist, who guided me to the long-term therapist I see today. Surprisingly enough, I was comfortable speaking about my emotions. What became harder for me to accept was the need for another boost to help me get out of the hole I was in: medication. For some time, I felt that I was giving up by relying on some artificial pill to make me feel better. I came to learn that this was one of the strongest things I’ve ever done.

         Day by day, week by week, month by month, I began to feel again. I learned to smile, laugh, and love with genuine happiness. As much as I want to leave it at this, I would be lying to exclude the days that my mom had to force me out of bed, the numerous times I came to school late and went directly to guidance, and the number of times I said  “I’m fine” to cover up the pain I felt. My therapist once asked, “Hannah, when was the last time you were truly happy?” My mind jumped back to the summer when I worked at a camp with three, four, and five-year olds. The way their fingers gripped your hand when they were afraid of leaving their parents. The way they plunked themselves down on my lap. The way their eyes widened when they got their turn to play on the playground. “Then why don’t you do that,” my therapist said.

         So, I did.

         I learned to carry my passion into each day. I began tutoring, babysitting regularly, volunteering at the Special Olympics, and participating in Best Buddies. Not to say that I don’t have my ups and downs, because I most certainly do – but I can say that I am happy again.

         When I first considered this assignment, I questioned whether or not I should focus on my battle with anxiety. You aren’t an expert. You still feel anxious. Aren’t you exposing yourself? Is it too much?

         The truth is anxiety will always be a part of me. However, what will also always be a part of me are the lessons I’ve learned in my journey towards getting better. To be completely honest, I wouldn’t want to go back to the person I was before all of this. 

         So, I write this for the girl who couldn’t get out of bed. I write this for the girl who cried herself to sleep. I write this for the girl who felt – and still feels – confused about who she is. I write this for the girl who overthinks every action. I write this for the girl who needs reassurance. And I write this for the girl who is trying to find herself again.

         I’m writing this for myself.