The Reflections of an Anxious Woman
It all started at the age of four. I was a pre-K student at Big Bird Day Care Center in Washington Heights, New York. When my mother would drop me off, I use to cry so much. I didn’t want to be around all these snot-infested kids. It was another world for me due to the fact that I was an only child, and I was mostly around my family. Sure, it may have been normal for an only child to cry in the corner, and not interact with other children. However, my crying phase did not stop. From pre-K, there was kindergarten, then first, then second, then third grade. My mother would always have to stay in the classroom, in order for me to feel calm and comfortable. Of course, that never worked because as soon as I turned my head, my mother would wave goodbye. The clinking of her heels would disappear. My mouth opened, and I would scream for her to come back. Every morning I didn’t want to participate in circle time meetings. I would hide behind a book shelf, and my classmates would worry about me. Things got a little better and I made tons of friends. But the morning crying routine would still continue. I was never going to get use to this. My parents and teachers thought that I was okay, and that I was so used to being around my family. What they didn’t know was that my social anxiety was born in 1994.
Things were going okay in the Big Apple. I was getting in touch with my artistic side, and I was reading and writing every day. In art class I was making paper mache. In drama class I was participating in my first school play, The Rough Face Girl. I would play basketball after school, and I jumped off the swings with my best childhood friends. What I didn’t know was that on June 30, 1999 my mind would change forever. My clothes and toys were packed in boxes, and my parents’ apartment was getting empty by the minute. I said goodbye to my childhood friends the day before, not knowing what to expect in Orlando, FL. I had no family there, and the only people that I knew was my parents’ friends from high school and their three kids. My mother said that I would be fine, and that we would go to Disney World. But I knew in my heart that this move would be a big mistake. As a result, the summer of 1999 would be my first trigger.
Welcome to Orlando, where I started to get into arguments and fist fights at The Children’s Center Day Care. Where I didn’t do my math homework in the fourth grade. There was a huge culture shock, and I didn’t see a lot of European and Asian kids. There was nothing but Puerto Rican, American, and some African-American kids. I was the only Dominican and Salvadorian kid in the classroom. I couldn’t walk down the block to see my cousin. I couldn’t walk downstairs to see my grandmother. I couldn’t take the A train to 168th Street to see my aunt. I got held back in the middle of the school year because I was not passing my classes, and my birthday was late. Yes, the school blamed my birth month for not passing my classes. My mind exploded, unleashing my rage and tears. I told my parents not to put me back, but all they could do was hug me. I went to my fourth grade homeroom classroom, with my God Sister, and grabbed my folder that was hidden in the desk. My classmates started to look at me. My heart was pounding fast, and I rushed out of the classroom. The fights released the anger I felt in Orlando. My poor academic performance was a cry for help. The anxiety symptoms, anger and anxious, was born in 1999.
Oh, and don’t get me started with middle school. You would think all these young teens would focus on Dragon Ball Z and Degrassi (yes, the Degrassi that put Drake on the map). You would think that I would still be too young to experience low self-esteem and identity issues. You would think that relationships would not form, and that some people would not use you in anyway. Unfortunately, these young teens were already getting the party started, while I was still developing into a fine young woman. I was a chunky and nerdy young teen. Of course, I had some friends, but I still felt empty. Some people wouldn’t talk to me, unless they needed a favor. They knew I was an easy target because I was the goodie goodie tomboy. Guys never looked my way, and I was wearing the same clothes, from Walmart, every week. I wasn’t invited to any parties, and I was living with an overprotective father. All I would do every weekend was watch The N channel. My social life was only at school, but it still didn’t make a difference what so ever. At the age of thirteen, I started to have heart palpitations again. I had to get a chest X-ray, since my heart would not stop beating so fast. The results were fine, but the doctor noticed that my stomach was empty. I didn’t eat anything that morning, and I was afraid to eat because I didn’t want to vomit. The X-ray may have looked into my chest, but it didn’t look into in my brain. My first symptom of a panic attack was born in 2003.
High school was where I turned into a fine butterfly. I had lost weight, and I started to wear princess gold-plated hoop earrings, skinny jeans that showed off my pear bottoms, and tight shirts from the mall. As the teenage boys would say, from 2005-2009, damn shawty bad! Those were the years where I had my first kiss, and experimented with teenage boys. I was also introduced to verbal and sexual abuse at the age of sixteen. In 2006, my anxious thoughts were on vacation, and my brain was introduced to depression. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. My music taste had changed from pop, and rock, to reggaeton and southern hip-hop. I was called every foul name in the book by these boys, such as b**** and whore. They tried to ruin my body, my reputation, and my purpose on Earth. I was a hot mess, and I couldn’t bear to go to school every single day, even though I didn’t show it. I had some good times in high school, but the bad outweighs the good. The bad includes a pregnancy scare, emotional abuse, dealing with some fake friends, and dealing with my sexual identity. I was mostly in “situationships” rather than being “in a relationship.” I only had three real and short relationships in my life.
My first relationship was in my freshman year of high school. He didn’t have the balls to come up to me, so one of his friends gave me a letter. Of course, that didn’t last long. After he wrote the letter, he went to a different high school. We didn’t see each other neither, and either way he cheated on me with a girl from Myspace, or in the dance room at the local skating rink. My second relationship was with a Salvadorian teenage girl. I met her through a mobile chat room, and she lived in New Jersey. She was pretty awesome and beautiful in her own way. She made me happy, but no one knew I was bisexual. I was ashamed and scared to come out during my sophomore year. The relationship only lasted for a month, but I cheated on her with the boy that will ruin my reputation. My last relationship was with a teenage boy I met on Myspace. This was one of the realest relationships I had ever had, and he was my T'Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther). He was also my first and last love.
However, there was still some problems, and we were on and off for many years. But in between my last real relationship, I still felt spiritually and mentally alone. There were times where I hung out by myself during my junior year of high school. Moreover, I was not going to graduate high school, due to not passing the reading portion of the Florida state exam, the FCAT. I had a 3.6 G.P.A. in my freshman year, and I was an average student in my sophomore and junior year. I was also taking college classes with a blend of high school classes during my senior year. The anxious thoughts may have went away, but the test anxiety came during my senior year. My suicide thoughts were born in 2006. My test anxiety was born in 2008.
High school had ended, and I left the old Amway Arena without ever looking back. I didn’t think about college much, but I was enrolled in a private art school. My first major was graphic design, but it wasn’t my passion. I had transferred to a local state college. In 2010, my anxious thoughts were reunited with my brain. I was working at Lady Foot Locker, while going to school. Starbucks Iced Frappuccino was all I needed to keep me up and going. The more I focused on school, the more my work performance slumped. My manager, and team leader, was already making assumptions about me, stating how I was only working so that I can spend the money. My manager let me go for the day because I didn’t get a chance to memorize something important, when all I memorized was algebra formulas for an exam. I was not a foot expert in their eyes, but what they didn’t know was that talking to people about certain sneakers would make my armpits sweat. If I didn’t make a sale, I thought I was not good enough. They also didn’t know that the combination of caffeine and stress created heart palpitations and chest pain. I was reunited with my panic attack, but once again my parents thought that there was something physically wrong with me. I had to go through an electrocardiogram exam, and I had to go see a cardiologist. There was nothing but senior citizens in the waiting room, and they were staring at me as if I didn’t belong there. Once again, my heart and chest was okay, and the only advice I had was to lay off the caffeine and manage my stress. My second panic attack was born in 2010.
I graduated Valencia College with an A.A. degree in journalism. I was accepted to the number one university in Florida, which was the University of Florida. I was a public relations major, and becoming a gator was not easy. I lived in a student apartment with three other females. I had to take two buses, or an Uber, to go to the grocery store. I didn’t have any friends nor family in Gainesville, and I was dealing with a lot of young undergrads. I continued to see a counselor after I left Orlando. During my last semester at Valencia College, I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety. Yolanda was my counselor at the time, and she saved my life in so many ways. I found the answer to my symptoms and problems, but it didn’t go away. Gainesville had its ups and downs, but I learned that no matter where you go, people will never change. I still felt unimportant and isolated. I have met tons of people, but they come and go. Some people would only contact me because they wanted me to go their parties, or they wanted some company and sex. Most of the time I was on campus, due to having group projects and late classes. My major increased my anxiety, which led to unhappiness. Writing on deadline, and receiving a below average grade in my reporting lab class was not easy. I dropped out of UF for two semesters because I couldn’t take my major anymore. My parents were disappointed, and they wanted me to pursue my major.
Sarah was my counselor at the time, but I considered her to be one of my best female friends. She was my spiritual anxiety healer, and she helped me get my mental health, and school, back on track. I was becoming the artistic and advocate person I was meant to be. Although I had seen two different counselors during my time at UF, I still felt trapped in my mind. Leaving each session was the hard part because I didn’t really have anyone else to talk to in Gainesville. No one knows how it’s like to have a war with your mind every single day. The pain started to get unbearable, and I attempted to cut myself countless times. I was locked up in my room, and I drank moscato, and mini bottles of Jack Daniel’s, almost every night. When I started to work at Target, my depression, and stress, increased ten times more. Some days I would break down and cry in the fitting room. No one would notice because I would wipe my tears, and pretend that everything was okay. Mary Jane, a.k.a. marijuana, was always there for me, and she would always ease my mind. However, when I enrolled in my first poetry class, at Santa Fe College, everything changed. 2015 was the year that I discovered my true calling.
My first poetry class was my family. I had an opportunity to jot down my thoughts and emotions. We all shared some of our daily life struggles, and the class was a combination of different age groups. My first anxiety poem I had ever written was entitled “Blackout.” I broke the rules on how to write a poem, and I just expressed what I had been hiding in my brain for so long. The poem goes a little something like this…
The fetal position,
Is the only escape I have to fight my inner demons,
As I tremble against my breasts, while the voices in my head
Whispers crybaby… crybaby, the sweat of my flesh recites
The words of my beaten heart.
My knees are weak, my lungs reject my breath, my chest tightens,
I howl in pain, my mind races like a hamster on a wheel.
My loved ones scream Relax, Stop, Breathe in, Breathe out, as if my brain
Can process the four phrases of hell. My tears burn like the ring of fire,
Dilating my pupils, as I withdraw from reality,
My thoughts repeat the lyrics of my fractured soul,
I don’t care
Is the song that sings to my cognition; it is no lullaby,
The melody upsets my stomach, leaving me to cringe on the cold wooden floor.
The room is spinning, my eyes are rolling back, my hands are numb,
My shirt is drenched in my fluids, my veins burst on my delicate neck.
The only thing that’s keeping me sane is the goose bumps running down my back,
My head lies on the palm of my hands, and all that I have left to see is darkness…
Where am I?
Is there anyone here?
I run into the murky room, my body descends beneath the hardwood gaps,
It’s too late, I cannot be saved,
I kiss my forehead goodbye.
Two of my classmates and I hosted our first open mic event. The love and support that I had in that class was just insane! I knew changing my major to English, and creative writing, was the right choice for me. I can express myself through writing, as I always did. Now that I am a senior at UCF, I plan on taking more poetry and fiction workshop classes. I made it through my past by writing in notebooks and journals. I would also draw and take photographs of people and nature. As I read my progress report from my elementary school in New York, there was two things that my teacher thought I was good at, which was writing and smiling. It’s funny how your past crafts catch up with you in the long run.
However, this is not my happy ending. I still have days where I don’t feel motivated. I still have days where I can’t get out of bed. I still have days where I don’t want to face reality nor people. I still have days where I attempt to cut myself. I still have my panic attacks on the bathroom floor. I still have days where I can’t look at myself in the mirror because I don’t like what I see. I am still a lone wolf. I recently developed a new friend, which is OCD. She makes me wash my hands countless times, and tames my vomiting phobia. Not everyone is going to be there for you and your darkest moments. You can’t rely on people for your happiness. All you can do is embrace who you are, and the right person will come your way. As humans, we survive through human connection and emotions. It’s okay to break down and cry. It’s okay to scream in your pillow or in your backyard. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your inner demons. If he or she can’t handle your flaws, cleanse those people out of your life. I think what we all need in life is reassurance and encouragement. As for the future parents out there, just know that your kids know more than you think. Children are rebellious and emotional for a reason. You may not see it, but they can feel their mind exploding. Don’t dismiss mental illness because it can affect anyone, to the point where they cannot breathe anymore. People call mental illnesses the silent killer for a reason.
My past experiences made me the person I am today. I am damn proud of myself for making it through this journey without Xanax, Zoloft, and Adderall. To all the people that are not a part of my life, but has made a difference in some way, I just want to say thank you for being there for me. Thank you for checking up on me and making me laugh. Thank you for being a friend for that specific season. To all the people that are not a part of my life, but has made a negative impact towards my soul, I just want to say that I forgive you. This blog is just some of the things that I have been through in my life, but there is more to my story than what meets the eye…
If no one has told you this today, I am proud of you for waking up today. I am proud of you for being alive. I am proud of you for going to that job interview, even though you were too anxious to go. I am proud of you for letting go of that relationship, or friendship, that has kept you down for so long. I am proud of you for trying. Keep surviving and smiling! I love you all!