Breathe in, Breathe out

Now, my anxiety issues have never been a secret. But they aren’t really common knowledge, either. That’s why, when I blew up at Denni, I felt awful.

We were in bio lab, trying to catch micro and macro organisms from this big vat of pond water the teacher brought in for us. My lab partner, Lana, and her friend Denni were crowding around me, trying to help me catch a dragonfly nymph. Now, Denni knew nothing about my anxiety issues, but Lana did, and when I politely asked her to keep her distance, she took a step back. Denni, however, has no respect for boundaries.

I could feel a trickle of sweat rolling down my spine, her breath hot on the back of my neck. I asked her two, three more times to get away from me, but she—just—wouldn’t!

“GET AWAY FROM ME,” I screamed, feeling my throat close up. “DON’T COME ANYWHERE FUCKING NEAR ME!”

She stepped back, shocked. I ran back to my seat and put my head in my arms. I could feel everyone staring at me—they were all whispering about me!

In actuality, none of them were whispering about me.  Honestly, nonody even cared. But in my anxious, paranoid state, it felt like my whole world was crashing down. After a little while, the walls, the whispers closing in on me receded. We ran back to our microscopes. We pretended nothing had ever happened.

Despite her having no sense of boundaries whatsoever, I did have Lana apologize to Denni for me. Problem solved, right?

Well… Not quite.

I take ballet with my friends Ellie and  Cara.  Cara took ballet for several years before; Ellie and I just started at the beginning of this school year.  I know I’m a shitty ballerina—I’m the clumsiest, most unathletic person you’ll meet, but still. That didn’t give them the right to laugh at me! I could hear them whispering every time I did a move, could see the mocking grin on Cara’s face as she told  Ellie how bad I was.

I was practically about to cry. These were my best friends! How could they be so mean?

Except, they weren’t.  Anyone in their right  mind  could see that Cara and Ellie were just as focused on turning their feet out and holding their arms up as I was. They didn’t care how well or  how poorly I was doing, because they were busy, you know, learning ballet.

That night, I sat down and had a talk with my mom. It turns out I have a long and sort of awful family history of anxiety. Most of my family members with anxiety issues drown it in alcohol or excessive excercise. I opted for a slightly healthier route.  One tablet, taken by mouth daily, to help my body get the things it seems to have trouble getting on it’s own. Just a vitamin, containing primarily iron.

It didn’t really work that well, at least at first.

It was the night of the fall formal. My hair was up in a classy high bun and I was all ready to go.

I lasted an hour and a half before it happened. Suddenly I felt completely panicked, surrounded by grinding teenagers. It was a nightmare. My whole body started to tense up as I fought my way through the crowd. My skin was crawling, the feeling of the heat of all the bodies around me. I had to get some fresh air–I was about to implode!

Once I made it outside, that’s when I realy started to sob.

In those twenty minutes waiting to be picked up, I feel like the entire world came to see me. People I did know, people I didn’t, they all asked the same thing.

“Why are you crying?”

So I answered honestly.

“I don’t know.”



  1. I also have anxiety issues. I have bipolar, obsessive compulsive and paranoid personality disorders. It is very difficult to live an ordinary life. I empathize with your situation. I have been meditating and taking medication for the past thirty years. If you ever want to share your problems in writing, contact me at ~ Dennis

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