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Beaverton Teen Talk: You Never Know When a Ninja Might Attack

| May 1, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Kaitlin Jenson (Grade 9)24 Kaitlin Jenson

When Anxiety Attacks

As I walk into math about to take a test, my heart beats rhythmically, creating a song that only I hear. My heart races because I have my first module test of the year which means today is high stakes, and my anxiety is skyrocketing. Having anxiety means that every aspect of my life is plagued by sometimes exhilarating adrenaline or the opposite with vicious panic attacks and doubt. This can be good and bad. My anxiety has made me a really cautious person, which means sometimes I stop myself from taking risks because I’m scared of the possible rejection or failure that might come from a miscalculation.

Anxiety is always changing and creating new forms of itself. One day, I might be anxious about a math test and the next day, I might have convinced myself that a ninja is definitely going to attack me if I get out of my bed or that there is definitely a clown in the hallway and I should not go out there and risk my life. This means I am constantly processing and adapting to my anxiety so I can stay on top of it.

Restaurants Are Unnecessarily Stressful.

I always get really anxious in restaurants. I await my food impatiently, and not because I’m hungry. Because the faster my food arrives the faster I can leave. Being surrounded by people who are eating means I’m also surrounded by people who could choke on their food or throw up. Just thinking about people choking or throwing up reminds me of when I almost choked when I was younger and it makes my heart pitter patter like rain on a roof. My face heats up like an instant sunburn. I feel sick to my stomach. I eat what I can and get out as quickly as possible.

Dread is NOT Fun to Swim In.

The feeling that my stomach is dragging on the floor is easily described but hard to see. As with most symptoms of anxiety people can’t see the constant worry or dread that my happy thoughts swim in. A common feeling that is often coupled with anxiety is the intense sensation of dread over doing things, even if they are simple, everyday tasks I’ve done a million times. Sometimes this anxiety- dread combo means that I wait in class for someone else to get up and throw something away before I do because my anxiety and dread convinces me that if I get up and draw attention to myself, I will most definitely become a social outcast that will have to move to a different country to be normal again. Anxiety and dread can also rain on and cover up other more positive emotions, like happiness or contentedness, because they flood your brain and wash away the positive feelings when I least expect it.

Anxiety is Treated Like a Ghost.

Anxiety is like a ghost, and just because you can’t see anxiety most of the time that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. While anxiety is seen (or not seen?) as a mostly mental issue it can also have physical repercussions as well. I get debilitating migraines and stomach aches as a result of my incessant anxiety. However, many people experience no physical symptoms which leads to stubborn people refusing to believe anxiety sufferers when they talk about their struggles. This refusal to accept anxiety problems as an issue has led to many people not knowing how to cope, causing them to having unhealthy coping methods to deal with anxiety, possibly leading to more severe anxiety, or panic attacks.

There’s Only So Much You Can Do.

Breathe in and breathe out. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Breath in, breath out. I can feel my heartbeat speed up as I try to control my breathing and push away the negative thoughts and anxiety that is now filling my brain to capacity, pushing out all of the happy thoughts and making my hands shake. I feel the shivers of an oncoming panic attack rise from the back of my neck all the way to the center of my brain as it starts to shut down and the anxiety comes in waves. I try to stop it by controlling my breathing. One . Two. Three. Four. Five. Too late.

I uselessly continue breathing and counting, breathing and counting. Eventually after what feels like eternity trapped in my head, I stop shaking and some of the negative, anxious thoughts exit my brain replaced with relief and calm. This is what happens when I have panic attacks. As I move on from my anxiety attack, I wipe dried tears off my face. These panic attacks are a physical and mental occurrence that comes from having anxiety issues. Panic attacks make your heart race and your breathing fast and hard. When I have panic attacks it feels like I am drowning, and trust me I have experience in drowning.  They are usually brief, albeit very overwhelming.

Despite What My Anxiety Thinks, I Control My Own Life.

Sometimes it feels like my emotions are puppets with anxiety as the grand puppeteer, leaving my life in what feels like shambles but what is really just an overdramatic rough patch. In theory, my brain knows it is in control but constantly needs a reminder to take control back and reign in anxious thoughts. Using techniques like controlled breathing I am able to control my anxiety. When using controlled breathing I count the length of my inhalation and then try to exhale for at least twice as long. This kicks in an automatic response in the brain to calm down, at least according to my therapist. Another strategy involves looking at five things in the room, four things I can hear, three I can touch, two I can smell, and one thing I can control. All of these things and more help me get through my day normally and make living just a little easier and enjoyable.

Kaitlin Jenson is a 9th grader at Health and Science School in the Beaverton School District. She plans on attending college after graduation and wants to become a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Photo by Peter Mora Stevens

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Category: Beaverton Teen Talk, Beaverton Voice

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