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How Books Helped Me Manage My Anxiety During High School

I just graduated high school this year and I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally be done. When I look back on these past four years, I see marching band (the best thing about high school) and anxiety (the worst thing about high school). Each and every day was like going to battle against myself and all of the feelings that would flood me as soon as my alarm went off in the morning.

Freshman year started off well enough. However, feeling like a boss after leaving middle school behind and entering high school didn’t last long. It wore off in November when marching band ended. After that, my mental health was in the air. I missed a lot of school because of my anxiety. I would fake sick, referring to it in my head as “a day off.” These “days off” were usually spent worrying about going to school the next day, but for the most part I had less anxiety than I would have had at school. And that was my ultimate goal.          

I held each and every breath for Christmas break  — a break from attending that school of horrors. However, I spent all of Christmas break dreading every single day of the rest of the year. Who knew what fresh horrors awaited me on the other side of that new year? My brain thought it would be a good idea to worry about each and every day all at once. (That was definitely not a good idea.) My brain tried to take on too much at once, and I desperately needed something that would turn the anxiety down for a bit.

This first happened in January when I picked up the book “Divergent” by Veronica Roth. I started this book and instantly fell in love with it. (Though, to be quite honest, I did tell a friend of mine it was boring because my anxiety caused me to worry she would think I was ridiculous or nerdy for reading it.) But my endless love for that book started an endless love for literature. I loved “Divergent” so much, I now own three copies of it. (First edition hardcover, movie tie-in paperback and the collector’s edition. Also, if someone would like to donate an ARC (advanced reader copy) of it to me, I will happy accept. I’m kidding here  but I certainly would love one.)          

After I flew through “Divergent,” I headed straight to its sequel, “Insurgent,” and finished that book within a number of days. That’s when I started to realize that reading during school took all of the pain away. I opened that book and went to some place where anxiety couldn’t tackle me down and where I was completely free. The main character’s problems became mine. Somehow their problems always seemed more desirable than mine — even if they were fighting an evil dictator in a dystopian world.          

I was always the kind of student who got their homework done in class. School came relatively easy to me, so I made a deal with myself: get your homework done as quick as you possibly can, and then you can read now and later at home. I would solve those homework problems in minutes, each part of me itching to find out what happened next in the book that sat under my pencil pouch, waiting for me. I didn’t even care if my answers were correct. I was determined to read that book no matter what.

I found so much inner peace while reading these stories. I wasn’t worried about when the bell was going to ring or how long it would take me to get to my next class. For once I could be out in public without caring if people were looking at me. That’s the effect of reading that has meant the most to me, because I rarely feel so comfortable and carefree in public. Books are the only things that make me feel like a “normal” human being. In a way, they were and continue to be my coping mechanism. I read book after book during the second half of my freshman year and all through my sophomore and junior years. I read so many fantastic books.

This is the part where I say I’m thankful for my anxiety. “Thankful?!” you may ask. Yes, I am thankful at this current moment. I would be a different person without my anxiety — probably someone who doesn’t read books. Books have done so much for me, so here is my praise and gratitude for all the fantastic authors out there. Without your books, I wouldn’t have had any magical fantasy lands to run off to while in the midst of pure panic. I’m so thankful for them. They helped me get through one of the toughest stages of my life — and I know they’ll help me through many more.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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