A Day in the Life of a Student With an Anxiety Disorder
Every day is a challenge. I wake up with a nervous stomachache. I get dressed and put on my mascara, trying to hold the brush tightly with shaky hands. I try to eat something, but I can’t. Everything makes me feel sick. At school I greet my friends with a fake smile and try to appear as calm as can be. It doesn’t last long. I spill out my worries in a stream of chatter. They are all irrational, so nobody understands. They tell me to “just calm down” and “it’ll be OK.” I don’t understand why it’s only me fearing the things that are so small to others. I feel in absolute danger. I don’t feel safe here. Or anywhere public. I want to curl up in my bed and tune out the world. Anything can go wrong.
In class I change my position many times in my desk. I cannot sit still. My mind wanders off into so many places. Wait? Did she just call my name? I fiddle with my pencil, carving my name into it with my finger nails. Oh no… pencil broke. I can’t get up to use the pencil sharpener. What if it doesn’t work? What if everyone looks at me? “Does anyone have a pen?” We start taking notes. I’m copying anything she writes on the board, but around my notebook page I sketch flowers with vines along the margin. I shouldn’t be doodling in class at my age, but I can’t help it.
I drop my pen. My hands are shaking. Now my legs are shaking. I can’t breathe. I feel dizzy, and my head is swaying from side to side. My desk is shaking now. My whole body is shaking. I pick up my pen. No, keep doodling. Distract yourself. It gets worse. The teacher is at the front of the room. I’m in the back, suffocating. I stand up and leave the room. Everyone’s watching. I run to the bathroom stall, tears dripping down my face. Pure anger that I cannot manage to stay in a full block without having an anxiety attack. Five minutes go by, now 10. I stop shaking and wipe my eyes. I go back to class and sink back in my desk and continue my doodles. I look up at the clock. I still have 45 minutes to go. How can I do this?
At the end of class, I take a breath and enter the busy halls of slow-paced teenagers. I’m content for a little while. Only now I have two more classes to go.
I shake and stutter during presentations. I feel ridiculous. My face heats up, and I try desperately to keep my hands from twitching. The teacher tells the class to give a confident presentation and give eye contact. I stand at the front of the room stumbling as I read from the page word for word. I’m angry with myself. Why do I have to do this? I love to talk with my friends and family. In fact, I never stop talking with them. Why do I let myself appear differently around others?
At lunch, the hardest part is making it through the cafeteria. I feel dizzy and hot in the lunch line and grab the quickest things possible. Water bottle, an apple. I’m feeling anxious with the lunch lady as I wait for her to give me my money back. I thank her, now I’m free again. I leave the cafeteria. I never eat in there. I never feel comfortable eating in there.
I consider going back to class. I don’t want to skip. I’ve never been the type to skip class, but I don’t feel safe going to class. Should I just go home? Should I stay in the bathroom for 84 minutes? I’ll try I guess. I’m now in last block. I’m almost done. I just need to keep drawing. That’s all I need to do to get through this. I’m still shaking. My friend plays with my hair behind me to calm me down. When 2:15 comes I feel accomplished. I did it. I lasted all day.
At night I lie awake with a head full of more worries. Dreading the next day, dreading the week. I’m up all night. I’m exhausted, but I haven’t slept in days. My teachers must think I’m lazy with my head down all the time. I’m in bed now. I’m safe. It’s until I remember… it’s only Monday.
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