Realization of anxiety leads to self discovery, change

By Amelia Kurk

When I was little, I loved the rain. I found pleasure in the cold water splashing my face, and the sound that resonated as it hit the ground around me. In the rain, I felt at peace. My problems didn’t feel as big because the rain connected me to something more powerful. I used to talk to the rain. I would sit outside for hours telling stories and working things out.

As I grew up, that feeling that I always had in the rain, that feeling of serenity, that feeling that’s not supposed to go away, went away. I no longer had that something inside of me that kept me at ease. I no longer had the rain to talk to. I grew up. I grew apart from the comfort rain represented and grew closer to anxiety. Things that I used to leap toward became a slow drag of the feet. Things that used to make me smile caused me to stay up all night worrying. Things that I used to be open to try made me so nervous I lost my appetite for weeks.

The accepting voice in my head that made everything seem okay turned into a mocking tone that found something negative about every situation. The worst part was, I knew the voice was probably lying, but every fiber of my being disagreed with that fact. I felt like I was walking in a straight line with my eyes fixed on the ground, intentionally missing everything good around me for fear that it might spark an anxiety attack. I spent nights staring at the ceiling asking myself an infinite amount of questions, and then debating whether or not I actually wanted to know the answers. The feeling of never being good enough rushed through my body at all times. Thoughts of questionable value and the consistent want to feel accepted hurt deep in my bones.

I was living a constant battle, ignoring any help offered because I thought only I could fix it. I believed that I was the only person who felt this way. After years of this, I realized that I was wrong. I accepted help and found people who actually did understand. I began to open up and share—with my mom and with a counselor who specializes in teens with anxiety. I learned that one in five teens experience anxiety that is severe enough to affect their lives. For me, anxiety manifested itself in an inability to sleep or eat for days at a time. I had to work harder to overcome the fogginess this created. Working harder created more anxiety, which made my heart race, my head hurt, and my brain feel paralyzed. This, I discovered, was not normal.

Psychologists agree that the rates of anxiety disorders among teenagers are on the rise. They blame significant societal shifts that have happened in the last couple of decades. The divorce rate has risen steadily, creating stressful family lives for many. I’ve noticed technology has ushered in a 24/7 culture where we are never unplugged or fully relaxed. School pressure has been magnified through achievement testing and competition for college placement. For me, downtime has become almost non-existent, and for many teens who maintain school work, jobs, and hectic extracurricular schedules, this is true as well. It’s no wonder anxiety disorders are at an all-time high.

If you’re consumed with constant worry and the physical sensations, like panic, which come with overwhelming anxiety, there is help available. I found it myself, and I am learning how to cope and overcome.

The day that I came to terms with the help I needed, it rained. So, I stepped outside and welcomed back my old friend.●