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When My Backpack Doubled as My Anxiety Survival Kit


I remember to this day the comments I would get about my little backpack from teachers, parents and friends: “Why are you carrying so many things?” They would say this as I had a small backpack slung over my shoulder and each class textbook piled up like an extreme game of Jenga. I would joke about how I wanted to be a bodybuilder or I’d say because I was a pack rat. To this day, I still get called a pack rat.

I would carry a regular sized backpack and a smaller one. I’m sure you are curious now, right? What was in this backpack? Why did 11 through 14 years old me carry this little backpack everywhere? Simple, it was my survival kit. It had a lot of pencils, matches, a blanket, twine rope, like the kind on hay bales and erasers. I had even hidden a pocket knife in a small secret pocket.

I was so scared of leaving my house I would pack anything, everything. My mind would race with all sorts of thoughts. What if my school bus got stuck on ice? What if someone followed me on my short walk from the first school bus to my transfer bus? What if I fell into a sinkhole and need to climb my way out? What if…? To this day, I still have to fight those words.

This world is scary. For a kid growing up, feeling their own mother didn’t even love her and knowing the dark world of drugs and sex, the only thing that helped were my little sisters. Cici was my rock. She stayed strong. Yet, she was the bird who was doing everything and was like a worker bee. She was busy. Callista was my teddy bear. She is my baby. I don’t think I will ever have my own kids. Callista is mine, though. I have been the only mom she has known since she was 2 years old.

With my little lights, the world wasn’t as scary. Yet, I needed the survival kit. I needed it. I even had hidden a backpack with my most important items in my closet, just in case a robber broke into my house.

I had to look behind me every time I got up to leave class. I have cried a couple times because I forgot homework. I just didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t understand why when I got up I was dizzy. Why did I sweat even outside of gym during the winter? Why did I get chills like when I was sick with a fever? I didn’t know why I couldn’t leave the house without everything I could possibly need. Why could my little sister Cici get up in the morning at 6:00 a.m. and do makeup and hair? Yet, I would get up at 5:00 a.m. and still wouldn’t have everything I needed by 6:30 a.m. when the bus came.

I still have to set my clothes out ahead of time when I am gonna have a busy day. My pencil case purse thing is filled still. I don’t carry the little backpack anymore. Instead, I take a tiny green and white pill. My anxiety is bearable. I can try and relax. Yet, I still get the fast heart rate, dizziness and chills. My body still throws me into fight-or-flight mode when a car horn goes off. I am learning how to deal with this. It is gonna probably take my whole life.

I will never forget that little backpack. Yet, I don’t need it. I can live without it. Just between you and I readers, I still have the survival kit in my closet. Someday, I hope I won’t even have that. I hope I can enjoy fireworks the way my family does. I want to have fun without worrying so much about the latest disaster. I want to be mindful of my life and stay grounded. With the memory of that little backpack. I will remember to keep trying my best to live life to the fullest with anxiety, not fighting against it.