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To the Principal Who Didn't Let Me Go on a Mission Trip Because of My Anxiety

Dear… let’s call you Ms Tracy,

After I put in my application for participating in a mission trip, my teachers and friends had no reason to think I wasn’t going. They were excited for me. I had been on the same trip the year before. I had experienced many panic attacks, and due to my meds, I couldn’t stay up past 7 p.m. I was carried, cuddled and cared for more than anyone else on the team. I also, however, was strong and participated no less than anyone else did. I showed the world that compassion and determination could overcome anxiety.

I have every right to go. My anxiety should not be reason to hold me back in life.

As I sat around the table at the end of the trip, everyone thanked me. In my mind, I was the baby of the group. In their head, I was a warrior. I was strong and courageous, being pushed down, only to stand straight back up and run face first into — what my brain saw as — danger. They said I was their inspiration. As I had given them a new perspective on anxiety, they gave even me a new perspective. I wasn’t pathetic, I was a sufferer who refused to give in to my fear.

You said I would be a burden to the mission team. You said I’m unfit to go. But my anxiety should not be reason to hold me back in life.

I wish you would see me with your own eyes — maybe then you’d see just how wrong you are about my anxiety. I wish you could see how determined I am to live a normal life. I take my medication, practice meditation and yoga, eat healthy and express my feelings through art. I work hard to put on a brave face and stare my anxiety in the face day in and day out. I will not succumb to fear, and I’m offended that you think anxiety makes me weak and incapable.

Anxiety is not who I am. It does not define me. I am more than my anxiety. I am compassionate. I am strong. I am capable. How dare you tell me otherwise!

Mental illnesses should not be used as a reason to discriminate. I should not be held back because of this. I am strong, I am capable. This is unethical and pathetic. This is what we fight against when we fight mental illness discrimination.

Kindest regards,

A capable and upset 11th grade student

Unsplash photo via Element5 Digital