Today while talking to husband, I told him a story about my issues with school and anxiety. At some point I had developed devastating panic attacks. There were a great many stressful things going on, and I was fundamentally unable to cope with them. And it inevitably created anxiety every time I walked into my high school.
My mother was sick with Lupus and was having a hard time catching illness after illness as her immune system was compromised. I was taking care of her around the clock as we two struggled to make it on our own. I had been sexually assaulted at a party a few months before and dealing with the God awful flashbacks of it. My dyslexia was making the math harder and harder for me to understand and it made me feel completely stupid. We were on welfare and many times had little to eat. Things were hard.
My OCD did more than just flare up, it inflamed my whole existence and for some reason it started to arise panic around anything involving school. The very thought of school made my stomach turn. Panic attacks would creep into my personal space. The world would turn upside down and my breathing would become labored. My pulse would raise to the point of me feeling like I was going to pass out.
When I stopped being able to make it to the bus stop, my mother would drive me to school. Only to have me open the car door, take a few steps towards the front steps and have to turn around crying and gasping for breath. It felt like an overwhelming sense of dread and despair was creeping up my spine and crushing my rib cage, effectively suffocating me. Some times I didn't even make it out of the car.
Sometimes, winning the battle would be if I could simply make it to the car in the first place. Good days were the ones the panic attacks would happen later on in the day, like after lunch, in front of everyone and their brothers. It was hell.
Everyday I knew that it was going to be rough. I was going to shake in public. I was going to cry. Sometimes the anxiety was so strong I would literally end up bolting out of my class and running down the hallway to the bathroom. Where I would hide until it ebbed back away to a more functional level.
I was looked at as odd. Told by other kids to just go home already. Snickered at. Judged. Sometimes I was pitied. Mostly, I was ignored or looked at as a freak and it hurt my self esteem greatly. I began to not see myself as a strong person or a worthy person and started to think of myself as broken. I looked broken, I acted broken, and I felt broken.
It was frustrating, trying, annoying, and exhausting. It was painful and isolating. I hated it. I hated feeling weak and at the mercy of my panic.
And yet even though I knew I would suffer and be embarrassed, I still got up every morning and prepared to go to school. Even though I knew the chances were slim that I would even make it through the school doors, I still tried. Day after day. Week after week. Not trying was never an option.
I don't think it was because I was brave or glutton for punishment as much as it was I never wanted to let the panic attacks win without a fight. And so I fought the only way I knew how, by never giving up.
Eventually, the school was able to work with me and the teachers came to my house to teach me. I was bummed that I had lost a great deal of the social connections I was privy to in school but extremely relieved that I would no longer have to deal with the debilitating panic attacks and finally get my studies finished.
It never occurred to me not to fight back against my mental illness. It always seemed if I gave it an inch, it would take a mile. I always strived no matter what, to try, try, and try again. To take any progress as a win. To not be angry or sad at what I couldn't do but to be proud of the things I was able to accomplish. Even if it may have seemed trivial to others. And I think it helped me in a great deal.
The panic attacks finally ceased after I left school and now are extremely rare. But still even if they came back tomorrow, I would still keep getting up and getting ready to do whatever they don't want me to. After all, it's my life and I will be damned if panic gets to tell me what I can and can't do.
I learned a great deal from all of this crappy anxiety stuff. I learned that I can do more than I ever thought I could. That sometimes just having the will to fight is a win in itself. To never give up. To never blame myself and to always believe in myself. I am many things but broken isn't one of them.