Pretty Little Challenge: Anxiety Attacks
The time had come! I was finally going to college. I waited forever to begin this journey. I had spent years studying and keeping my head in the books just for this opportunity. I had dreamt about the experiences, the classes, the friends, meeting the love of my life, and much more. I was packed and ready to go. As I sat and stared out the window of my parents’ car, I could not stop crying. Within an hour of my arrival, I was screaming for them to take me back home. I just wanted to go home. But why? I spent the majority of my life wanting to leave.

As the tears continued to roll down my face, my chest got tighter. I began to experience pure panic. I wanted them to stop the car so I could get out. I wanted someone to help me and take away this pain. It began to be difficult to breathe, and I felt like I was in a haze. I felt exhausted as we approached school. I can remember wiping away my tears as the young and enthusiastic girl met us to show us my dorm. I smiled like nothing was wrong and even cracked a joke.

I went and started unpacking and met my roommate. She seemed so genuinely happy. I was jealous. I did not even know her or her story, and I wanted her outlook. I did not realize we all have our challenges, and that started a chain reaction of comparing and contrasting myself to other women. It also showed me the importance of opening up to people so they can be supportive. But I was not ready for that, and for a very long time after.

College was so different. I did not want to be the quiet, obedient girl anymore. I did not have a schedule. I went wild, well for me. It felt good. But then it did not. I was reckless, but in the moments, my pain and anxiety subsided. I felt free to say and do what I wanted. I did not know it was possible, and it seemed too good to be true. And the truth was that it was too good to be true.

I took things to the extreme. Whether it be drinking, guys, experiences, I wanted it all. But there are consequences to that. People say college is where you let loose and you have fun. But for me, I needed the structure. I did not know that or how to balance that, and everything became extreme.

I loved the attention I never received before. I craved loved and safety, but I mistook deceit and attention for the real thing. See, I never felt real love and safety. I always felt scared. That was my life. But I used it for the good and to do good. It covered up the feelings of anxiety. But now I covered it in different ways. No one talked about mental health then. It was still very much stigmatized. We were supposed to be tough; to deal with it or stuff it deep down inside and forget about it. No one told you that it would come out eventually and you would not know why or when. That it would snowball and ruin good things. And one of those good things was me.

I got through with a smile, some awkward charm, and a façade that fooled most. But I could feel myself getting more and more tired and not knowing how to fix it. Every day was hard to get through but going out and escaping reality for awhile helped until the next morning. I was worn out and began to not care about much anymore. I did not care about school or have any real connections. I attached to guys or boyfriends and led with my fantasy that covered the codependency. This helped me to continue on. But I knew they were short lived and not healthy.

The crying spells became worse and all I wanted to do was leave. It made no sense to anybody. All I wanted to do was come here for years and now I wanted to leave? People believed I had it all. I could see the green appear in their eyes at times, and I just wanted to scream that I was not ok and talk with them. But I could not. I did not know how to really connect. This was not a part of me, quite honestly, I am not sure it was a part of them either.

Then one day, I called my parents and I told them I was leaving. They told me to stay, but I felt like I could not. I also wanted the dysfunctional comfort of my home. I do not say that in a way that’s meant to be insulting, but I just knew that none of us had the capacity to understand what was going on. We all just wanted what was best for each other, but if it did not meet our own requirements, it began to feel conditional; in terms of support. I knew I did not want to go home, but I knew I could not stay there anymore. I needed balance somehow and some way. I did not know how, but I knew it was my time to go.

So, I left. I spent the next year or so trying and failing to go back to college and even a different one, but it just got worse. We still never spoke about it. I think because I was young and trying to find my way and hormonal, it was left as something that would work itself out. I hid it well and excelled in aspects of my life. I enrolled in college close to home, and I thought that would change everything. It was smaller, religious, and more balanced. Boy, was I wrong.

This was the beginning of the end of my façade, and the beginning of a slow but necessary healing process. Something I never knew I needed. This was a time of hardship, trauma, triggers, and living the perfect lie. This cycle would continue on for many years to come.

I remember the first day of class at my new school. I remember a sense of feeling that this was going to be different. I had a sense of hope. It seemed different and faith and hope have always been a part of my life. I was the first one in my class, and I patiently waited for the other students to file into the lecture room. The students seemed different and put me more at ease.

As I got out my books, I looked up at a guy standing close to me. He asked if anyone was sitting next to me. I laughed to myself because most of the room was empty. I said no, and he introduced himself. I was happy to meet someone as I did not really know anyone. The professor came in and started the class. Let’s get this chapter started…
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