My take on learning to deal with pressure & anxiety as a teen girl
pressure + anxiety + peace
when i was 16…
when i was 16 years old i had to say goodbye to my boyfriend of 3 years who happened to commit to a military college. so basically he went from being the center of my universe to a non existent figure in my life. on top of that i was applying to college and the emotional weight of these circumstances had me paralyzed. the pressure to make the relationship work. the pressure to get into a “top” school. the pressure not to embarrass my family and teachers and coaches. it was too much. the spring of my junior year i developed a full blown anxiety disorder. i had my first panic attack in an airport. i remember feeling like my brain was shutting off. it was as if i was a lamp and someone just pulled my cord out of the electrical socket. i couldn’t remember my birthday. I didn’t know what time it was. my light went out.
i was traveling with my boyfriends mom and i remember looking at her, so ashamed. her eyes were full of tears and i just couldn’t piece together what was happening? i was conscious of the fact that i was out of control. i had lost all control of “keeping it together.” God decided on that day to save me from myself. save me from pretending to always have it together.
i was put on medication to balance my symptoms but the panic attacks became harder and harder for me to manage. because of the incident at the airport, i developed a severe fear of death leaving me in a constant state of panic and paranoia. it was awful. the feelings were so subconscious that everything seemed to trigger me. i was in a class of 75 girls, most of whom were exceptionally gifted both academically and athletically. my class was known throughout school as the “perfect” class. awesome. and me? not perfect. i was the quirky girl who tried to be super involved, maybe because i knew i needed serious resume help? i made friends with the teachers to help my GPA (it works). i started a club, ran for student council, made the golf team, helped theater kids with their makeup and really loved history class. i was just trying to figure it out…my grades were fine but not top notch and i was a miserable test taker. who would want me? i couldn’t talk to my best friend about it because he was starting his new life in college and i wouldn’t dare show my weakness and talk about this stuff with my girlfriends who were all superstars. literally.
what would i tell the 16 year old me? i would tell that creative soul that her heart and presence is far more important than getting into a good college. i would tell her to own her faith. i would tell her to be friends with people who make her laugh, because laughter is key in finding your confidence. i would praise her for being a little weird. the weird people are more interesting and exciting and a good life requires both. i would tell her to be really careful with who she gives her heart to…that taking care of her heart shows self respect, courage and strength.
how can i relieve the pressure? please know you are one of a kind. and being vulnerable and honest is a beautifully brave pursuit. it supernaturally allows others around you to open up and creates connection which is what we all long for. practice being comfortable sharing your weaknesses because it removes the facade of having it all together. no one has it all together. authenticity ( being you) ushers in a deep peace. pretending creates anxiety. believe that anxiety (or whatever you struggle with) is a gift. it’s your wake up call. it’s your body’s way of letting you know something isn’t right. it wakes us up to our environment…shouting, “hey this isn’t working for you! HELLO, HI, reroute, refocus and ask for help!” struggle teaches you to let go of perfect and embrace what your body needs. if you don’t embrace what your body is asking for (aka a change in some way), you wont find peace. and peace…peace is the greatest gift of all.
little did i know back then, the episode in the airport was preparing me. preparing me to be able to look fear and death in the face and say, “NOT TODAY!” (GOT) experiences are teachers. everything we go through sharpens us, makes us better people, better friends, more complete and closer and closer to who we were created to be. so instead of suppressing all that is us. instead of living in fear. instead of ignoring shame. instead of rejecting areas we don’t like about ourselves, embrace all of it! own all of it. learn from all of it. you’re a human. you can’t have satisfaction of finishing a puzzle without every single piece in the box. even the weird and ugly shapes have a purpose.
ps if you want someone to talk to…please email me or dm me. i love you. firstname.lastname@example.org