When I started middle school, I had no idea what kinds of things would happen. I didn’t know that so many food kids would end up so lost, or bitter, or violent. As time passed, I saw kids I thought I knew adapt horrible behaviors. That’s what middle school is for, right? A time to adapt behaviors that, most likely, will stick with you through high school, and maybe longer. Supposedly, these new behaviors are good–turn work in on time, commit to your extra-curricular activities, be part of the community. Unfortunately that’s not what we’re taught. We’re taught that drugs are cool (from older kids), that drinking is fun, that sex isn’t as big a deal as adults say it is, that doing well in school doesn’t mean anything. WE’re taught all the wrong things, in an environment chock full of frustrated, confused kids.
Personally, this is the time that I became very submissive. I was willing to try anything as long as my friends said it was okay. Then at the end of eighth grade (when all that stuff started happening–cutting, isolation, etc), I realized that the behaviors I’d learned in middle school were those that I felt were the hardest to control. As a result, I didn’t control them. I trapped myself in quiet misery, and no one ever noticed or cared. I’d begun feeling uneasy in large crowds, shaking almost uncontrollably when I had to speak to an audience by myself, withdrawing from everything. Basically, I spent all of my life in my room wishing I wasn’t such a dumbass. I didn’t quite yet realize that anxiety had taken over my life.
I’d always liked to think of myself as fairly smart and friendly. Prior to the eight months of isolation, I’d gotten straight A’s nearly every semester, and considered myself friends with everyone that didn’t give me a reason to not like them (a rule I still stand by). By the end of my middle school Hell, I realized that no matter how smart I was, I was obviously not very intelligent. I’d allowed myself to get sucked into the same mistakes my peers were making. I still acted outgoing and confident, for the most part. But internally, I was a mess of fears and hatred. But no matter how bad things were for me, I had friends that had it worse.
My friend Jenna, a product of one of my very few outreaches into society, was terrified at the very thought of saying something to the class. She was the most outgoing person I think I’ve ever met, in less than a year she’d become friends with more people than I even knew went to our school. She could make a crowd silent just to say something silly, and make everyone happy. But as soon as the teacher asked her a question, her voice dropped to negative decibels. I’d only ever been shaky, and would usually talk way too fast, but I’d never had trouble saying at least something.
So then, does that make me any less a victim of anxiety than she is? Well, I know one thing–at least I’m not the guy faking an over-the-top stutter. Somehow, I feel as if my less noticeable anxiety is closer to what anxiety really is. My passive and submissive behavior, and immense fear of creating problems for people, or becoming a problem. Jenna had a reputation for her inability to speak in class, but no one ever noticed that I was scared, too. My problems with anxiety had gotten to the point where I limited the amount of friends I allowed myself, just to avoid social things like parties or meetings, or anything really. Even just sitting with a small group of people at lunch, I feel like I’m never heard. I’m invisible, and nothing would disrupt their environment if I just left.
Somewhere in the midst of all these revelations, I found a post about the symptoms of anxiety, and shuddered at the thought of how close they hit to home. Here’s a list that match me a little too well:
- Constantly worried, tense, or on edge
- Have irrational fears you know aren’t real, but can’t shake
- Avoids everyday situations
- Chronic fatigue
- Feeling dizzy
- Feeling cold
- Pounding heart, as if it’s constantly over-working itself
- Feeling of tightness in the ribs or around the rib area
- Fears of making mistakes, losing control, or irrational fears
- Difficulty concentrating
- Short term memory loss
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Incessant “mind chatter”
- Emotional “flipping”– dramatic mood swings
- Emotionally numb
- Difficulty falling and staying asleep
- Frequent bizarre dreams
- Eye tricks
- Depth perception feels wrong
AS well as some slight separation anxiety, to the point where I make things bad in a relationship when I haven’t spent time with them in too long,
Some kids in school get treated in a particular way because “their anxiety is so obvious”. Yet, there I am, panicking internally at even the thought of going to school again, or speeding through a test so I had time after it to calm down. I began to ake a very clear image of what anxiety is and is not.
And it most certainly is not an excuse.