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The Anxiety of My First Fall Not Going Back to School

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Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. The weather, often rainy and windy, is my kind of weather. At the end of October comes Halloween, my absolute favorite holiday. Unfortunately, autumn is also a time when I seldom appreciate these things because of my anxiety disorder. For me, it takes an all-consuming, white-knuckled effort to keep it together during times of transition.

For the past 23 years of my life (with the exception of the first three or so), autumn has represented transition back to some sort of student existence. Before my pubescent years and the first major appearances of my anxiety, I can remember a part of me looking forward to my return to school, to see my friends and resume all the joys of recess and coloring pencils. Around 11 or 12 this attitude changed greatly, and autumn was the time of my first major period of anxiety and subsequent depression. I was so anxious that I couldn’t return to school for eighth grade until May of that year, and only after a major intervention and a lot of work just to set foot in a classroom again.

But I did it. I returned to school, graduated, and successfully completed five years of high school followed by four years of college. And yet every autumn brought a harder and harder transition back to the stresses of school, so much so that during college I began spending weeks at the beginning of the semester feeling completely unlike myself, plagued by constant dull nausea and crying at the drop of a pin.

So here we are, once again. The temperatures are a little cooler, the leaves are just beginning to change. And here I am. Over my 12-year relationship with anxiety, I have learned that any sort of transition, not only from summer break to fall semester, shakes me to the core. Change makes me question if continuing to live with an anxiety disorder is even worth it, dashing my confidence on the rocks, clouding my vision with unrealistic doubts and predictions. And now for the bombshell: this will be the first autumn I am not going back to some sort of student life.

Yes folks, I am facing a mother of a transition. Despite my best efforts over the summer, I remain unemployed. So I begin asking myself big questions, the ones hanging over my head like some anxiety-powered neon sign. 

Should I move to better my chances at finding a job in my field? Silly idea, I’ve never lived on my own and would undoubtedly break down within the first two days of relocating

If I stay and somehow manage to get a job will I be able to cope with that transition, even if it’s a “positive” one? I’ve been unemployed for almost six months. What if I can’t deal, and I back out, ruining my reputation and what’s left of my mangled confidence? What will I do then? What will I do? What will I do? 

I don’t know. 

I want to believe that everything will work out eventually and that I can continue learning to manage my anxiety more effectively. I want to believe I will find moments of peace once again, and that I am capable of success. I want to believe I will kick some proverbial ass and blaze a trail, light a fire. I want those things more than anything, but I just don’t know. 

So, on the advice of so many others (including my mom), I attempt to take it one day at a time. For someone with an anxiety disorder this is no easy task. I allow myself to cry, a lot. I challenge the thoughts that say I’m not allowed to do things I enjoy, to have a good time, and to laugh while I try to figure out my next move. I also remind myself that devoting all my time to worrying about the future won’t actually make the future better. I won’t have some epiphany or pivotal career moment if I worry hard enough. And I guess that’s the point. We can never be sure of the future, so I’ll try not to give all of my present to anxiety. 

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: October 5, 2016
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