I find solace with the television on, and the cable box turned off. With fragments of black and white vibrating across the screen, and stagnant white noise infiltrating my soul and invigorating my bones, I have the opportunity to feel nothing. I am liberated by the stillness; the static sets me free.

Living with an anxiety disorder, I have learned the value of silence and lack of motion. My mind can spin incessantly, and my body is constantly moving. Pencil tapping and knee bouncing are home to me. I know the rhythm the zipper on my worn black boots make when I am in an exam room, and know the hot feeling of eyes on my back when I unintentionally disturb my peers with monotonous noises, often in multiples of five. I understand what it feels like to suffocate with nothing covering my nose or my mouth; I know what it is like to drown, without being submerged in the water.

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It was very easy for me to delegate my anxiety as a curse, and define it as a disability that would prevent me from future independence and success. Now, years later, I understand to the full extent how much this experience has enhanced who I am and how strong and independent I have become. I am conquering things I once believed were impossible, including applying to college and planning to live away from home next year. Because of my anxiety disorder, I have been exposed to many life skills earlier than my peers. Advocacy, persistence, and the value of failure will continue to have a positive effect on my life throughout adulthood. Many of the coping skills I learned to practice are skills that many adults have yet to master, such as the value of relaxation and the importance of clearing your mind. Both inside and outside of school, I have made strong personal connections with both my peers and many adult mentors. By sharing my story, I have learned how compassion can create a powerful, positive aura that spreads exponentially, and can transform the most unlikely group of people into a community.

Ironically, in dealing with my anxiety, I acquired peace of mind for my future. Through my experiences, I have gained understanding and acceptance for all kinds of people. I strongly identify with people who have a disability that impacts their performance in school, or their social capacity, and would like to pursue a career in helping people overcome these challenges. Experiencing first-hand how crucial support and guidance is in learning to live with these types of conditions has highlighted the importance of professional support. Without guidance from teachers and social workers, I would not have had the tools I needed to carry on with my life, including strengthening my personal relationships, learning coping skills, and resurrecting my grades after being severely impaired by anxiety my sophomore year. I believe that I can take my experiences and transform them into tools to help others believe in themselves, overcome whatever challenges they are facing, and teach future generations the power of moderation and relaxation.

Anxiety has given more to me than it has taken away. The success I have had in overcoming my unique set of challenges has given me the self-assurance and beliefs that will grant me success in both my personal life and my future career. Because of my journey, I have been endowed with the capacity to appreciate nothingness. Stillness and silence are of the highest value, and are truly a gift in our hectic society. I believe in the power of silence and relaxation. I believe in static.

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