Her face reddens and it becomes apparent that she is slipping out of control. She clenches her fists, nails gnawing at her skin. A wave of rage surges through her body, causing even her lips to quiver in anger. She gasps for breath, trying to calm herself down, but it is too late. Her screams fill my ears as she unleashes her fury. Now, there is only one thing on my mind: escape. But I sit, tolerating her anger, her frustration, her worry. Though I know she doesn’t mean what she says, her words threaten to crush me. I try to fight back, arguing and reasoning with her, but it is no use. Suddenly, a sense of claustrophobia washes over me, as I am fooled into thinking the walls around me are shrinking. I am almost at my breaking point; seeing the safety of the outdoors, I throw open the front door of my house, run to a nearby park bench and once reaching this sanctuary, I collapse.
As my tears drench my face, I remind myself:
This is not a nightmare.
This is not a horror story.
This is my life.
During my childhood, my mom was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression, a lethal combination. Her illness caused her to be in a constant state of worry, often out of proportion to the actual situation at hand. She continuously focused on the negative and as a result, always expected a disaster to occur. Her frequent “episodes” made it difficult to maintain a steady relationship with her. Since I couldn’t confide in her, I turned inward.
As a result of so many incidents involving distress, anger, and tears, I created a facade in an attempt to feel no more pain, no more worry, no more sorrow. I vowed to avoid getting hurt by any means possible. Controlled by my fears, I resisted change and refused to take risks. I became a wallflower, never voicing my opinion, never venturing out to meet new people, merely trying to please others, and evading disappointment and failure in the process.
It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I realized how unsatisfied I was with the life I was leading. Instead of taking advantage of the opportunities life threw at me, I was walking on eggshells, feeding a need I had unnecessarily created for myself. I realized what was holding me back was the voice inside of my head of my mom. And if it wasn’t my mom, it was my teachers, my friends, or my coaches. I was trying to please all these voices inside my head, instead of pleasing myself. I had been so afraid of disappointing them that I always chose the safest route. However, by doing that, I was missing out on the experiences of life. I had been chained to these fears, a slave to them, and forfeiting my freedom. For when you are free to make mistakes, you are free to do anything.
With this new insight into myself, the walls that had once restrained me began to crumble and I eventually began to take on some once-feared challenges. With much anxiety and apprehension, I tried out for a higher-level dance team, I participated more in school, and I even began to speak up to my friends and family. As I put my insecurities aside, I began to realize all that I was capable of being. Although I will continue to conquer many, my fears will never diminish completely. Serving as my shadow, they continue to follow me, but I will not let them define who I am.
I would not be who I am today without the struggle of living with my mom’s anxiety. It has given me the patience to deal with stressful situations, the ability to be understanding and sympathetic for other people’s struggles, the strength to handle challenges thrown at me, and the appreciation for every moment of happiness that life brings. As I leave for college this fall to embark on a new chapter of my life and face new challenges, I will keep these memories with me; this time, however, possessing a new weapon: courage.
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