We wrote this fictional short story because, severe or not, anxiety and different forms of it, in this case social, affects a lot of high schoolers. 83 percent of teens say school is a significant source of stress, and this leads to anxiety. And as for us, this is the case. What comes from this can keep you from doing your very best. This stress comes from the pressure of assignments, grades, and college. This article helps explain why so many teens these days are being diagnosed with this disorder.
We wanted to share our experiences to let you know that this is an issue that many ‘ordinary’ people face. In fact, there might be some people around you that struggle with anxiety and you probably never even noticed. This story should bring more awareness to everyone dealing with anxiety, so they don’t have to think they’re isolated anymore. To everyone out there with anxiety and forms of extreme stress, this is your opportunity to learn from this story and know that you’re not the only one out there with this illness. You’re not alone.
- I’ve always been known to be more quiet and reserved. Even when I’m with my close family members, I can’t look them long in the eyes without getting uncomfortable and then looking away. I have been teased about my ‘antisocial’ behaviors and, each time, I go along with it because of how passive I am. Also, when I’m in a new environment, I’m always hesitant to doing new things and talking to strangers. Once when I was volunteering, I was asked to leave my friend behind and work alone at a different station. I was super nervous to go only ten feet away from her and she responded by saying that it wasn’t a big deal and that I was acting ridiculous. Little did she know how much that made my heart race and my hands sweat. Luckily, my parents are aware of my situations and they assure me that they are always there to comfort me. Anyways, little things like this can add up and can lead to more crucial forms of anxiety. In my case, some of my anxious thoughts come from the troubles of school. If you can relate to this, let someone know, mainly your doctor, so you can prevent more hardship.
- My biggest fear in all through my years as a student, so far, was presenting an individual project in front of the class. Even though I got anxious, my situation will never compare to Mia’s. As I would sit in my seat, thousands of thoughts ran through my mind and butterflies flew through my stomach. When it was my turn to walk up to the front of the classroom, with everyone’s eyes on me, my brain would freeze and I would think about everything that could go wrong. It was hard to make eye contact when presenting and that made my grade drop. I would talk so fast that when the minimum time length was three minutes, mine would be two. I had to change the way I confront this obstacle, so I talked about it to my parents. Talking to my parents was the best choice I ever made because they made me feel comfortable. I walked into high school able to stand up in the front of the class to present. Most importantly, I have more self confidence. My biggest piece of advice is to talk to someone about it, because I did and the outcome couldn’t have been better.
“LIVING WITH ANXIETY IS LIKE BEING FOLLOWED BY A VOICE. IT KNOWS ALL YOUR INSECURITIES AND USES THEM AGAINST YOU. IT GETS TO THE POINT WHEN IT’S THE LOUDEST VOICE IN THE ROOM. THE ONLY ONE YOU CAN HEAR.” – UNKNOWN
~ My heartbeat has sped up to the point where it starts to hurt me. My chest tightens up and it feels like I can’t breathe anymore. My face is hot and red, as if it were a chili pepper. Sweat beads my forehead and makes my hands clammy. I can practically feel everybody’s eyes locked on my face. I can’t stand it anymore. The tears have risen and one falls. The first thing I do before running out of class is say “I can’t.” ~
Beep! Beep! Beep!
I slam my hand on my alarm clock and turn away. I haven’t slept all night. My stomach has kept bugging me because of one particular reason: the oral exam in language arts. We have to stand up in front of the entire class and present our very thorough speech. Just thinking about it makes my head spin. I hear footsteps approaching my door. I roll my eyes and face away from the door.
“Honey?” The silhouette of my mom’s body enters my room. “Is everything alright? I heard a loud noise come from your room.”
I sit up and rub my eyes. “Everything thing is fine and dandy.” I know that she didn’t understand my sarcasm when she starts to leave.
“Oh, okay.” Before she’s about to shut the door, she turns back around. “It’s 6:30, you need to start getting ready. Big day today.” She throws me a thumbs up. I sigh loudly and she frowns. “I know that this is really hard for you. Anxiety sucks, I get it.” Yeah right, I think. “But don’t worry! Once you get up there and your medication kicks in, it’ll be a breeze.” She says it like I’m an idiot.
“Yup, totally. Thanks for the talk, Mom. I’ll get dressed now.” I slap a fake smile on my face to make her satisfied. She smiles back and leaves me alone. I prefer being alone. It’s one of the only things that makes me happy.
After I get ready, my last deed before I leave for the bus is to take my dose of Paxil. I pop the two pills in my mouth and take a drink of water. It hurts my throat when it goes down. I try to push the pain behind me, but like every single time, it doesn’t work. As I’m about to exit the house, my parents block the door. I take a step back, puzzled.
“Before you go,” my dad says while touching my shoulder. “Everything is going to be okay.”
“Yes, listen to your father. You’ll do great today. I know it.” My mother leans in and kisses the top of my head.
“Thanks.” That’s all I manage to get out.
I run out to the bus stop. Luckily the bus has already arrived, so I don’t have to deal with my parents shouting from the doorstep while I wait.
I hop on and Jim, our busdriver, grins at me. “Hey, how you doin’?”
I nod my head slightly, not making eye contact, and he sighs. It’s kind of our daily routine. That little social interaction was enough to get my hands shaky. I sit down in the back and lean my head against the window. School is seven hours long. Language arts is fifty minutes. My presentation is four minutes. It only takes me thirty seconds to have a breakdown. I plug myself into the phone and listen to music. Music is one of my only opportunities to escape from the real world.
Bus stop after bus stop, all of the seats have filled up. Except for mine. And that’s fine with me. I close my eyes and practice my breathing exercises that my therapist has told me to do in times of stress. This is definitely one of those times. I go to therapy two times a week and it doesn’t work. Nothing works. I need something better, more effective. I don’t want to bug my parents about it because it already costs them a lot of money. That’s another thing I stress out about. I never get a break.
Fifteen minutes later and I have arrived to my nightmare. I am the last one to get off, and once I do, it feels like I’m trapped. I walk towards the big, brown prison that awaits me called Riverview High School. I pass through the crowds of my peers, all hanging out in their cliques. I don’t participate in cliques because they’re ridiculous. I stick with my one close friend and that friend only. I spot her over near my locker waiting for me. For the first time today, I genuinely smile while I greet her.
“Hey Chloe!” I say. She seems enthusiastic to see me. I know why.
“Hi! How are you holding up?”
“I know what you’re doing,” I glare my eyes at her while I get books from my locker.
“I figured you would. I just want my positive spirit to lift you up.”
“Thanks for the effort, but nothing’s going to help the stress and pressure I feel right now.”
“Here’s what you can do. You can just get yourself out of it. Tell Mr. Harrison that you have a doctor’s approval or something. And if that doesn’t work, just don’t think about it.”
But the thing is, I can’t stop thinking.
I love Chloe to death and she knows what I’ve been through. But sometimes she can be so oblivious. “I would, but I don’t want to take the easy route. I want to be like everyone else.” At this point, we have arrived at our first period class, algebra two. “Just a normal high school student.”
“You are a normal high school student. What’s even better about you is your best friend.” She winks at me and I laugh. My best friend is pretty awesome. We take our seats in the back. Once I sit down, the realization hits me like a brick. In two hours, I’ll be up in front of the class. The center of attention. Shaking. Sweating. Stuttering. I shudder and Chloe glances over. She mouths, ‘You’re gonna do great.’
When the bell rings at the end of class, I jump out of my seat. I’m always on edge. I don’t want to leave. I don’t see Chloe again till fourth period. The class after language arts. The little devil on my left shoulder says ‘run’, while the angel on my right says ‘stay’. My conscience chooses the angel and the devil groans.
“Bye Mia. Good luck.”
“Bye.” We part ways in the hallway. I’m left alone in an ocean of rushing students. It feels like everyone flows around me, like a roundabout. They avoid you because they don’t like you. Wait, what? How is that possible? They know everything about you, how messed up you are. I’ve never talked to any of them before. They don’t know me. They can hear your thoughts right now. How do you know that? Because it’s true. Look at all of the people staring at you in the middle of the hallway, causing a jam. You’re not even moving. C’mon! Move!
I snap out of my internal argument and hurry off to my second period, French. I reach the door and am greeted with a ‘bonjour’ from my teacher, Mrs. Michel. I don’t say anything back and sit down. Another piece of the desk was vandalized. Typical. Today we are learning adjectives. She says a word and we repeat. And repeat. Then repeat again. Then it starts all over. While everyone else is making noise, I stay completely silent. The teacher squints in my direction and shakes her head. I blush and look down. Some other people look over in my direction and make weird faces at me. I can see them out of the corner of my eye. My heart rate increases. I breathe deeply and ignore them. I need to make this class as long as I can, even if I hate it. I can’t go on to third period. I just can’t.
Crap, crap, crap. What am I supposed to do? Everyone sitting around me starts to collect their things while I sit frozen. I attempt to move, but the devil overpowers and keeps me seated. Mrs. Michel walks over to my desk looking upset. Oh God.
“Mia, are you okay? You don’t seem like yourself today.” First off, I’m not okay. Secondly, this is how I always am, what are you talking about? If only I said what I thought.
She seems skeptical. “Okay. I don’t want to pry, so you can go.”
Mrs. Michel leads me out and says, “Au revoir!” I leave without saying a word.
I head straight to my locker. I don’t need to go to it. It’s just a reason to waste as much time as possible before the five minutes between classes are over. I open the door and my mind immediately thinks, hide in it. You’re small. You can fit. Instead of giving in, I slam the locker shut. I count to ten in my head and breathe. I fix myself in the direction of my language arts class and begin to trudge over to it.
The moment when I face the room, I can feel what it will be like to stand in front of it. I rush over to my seat, so I don’t have to be seen shaking. I need to calm down, but the only way to do that is to breathe loudly and I don’t want to cause any attention. I’ll be getting plenty of that soon. A headache forms in my brain and it’s a harsh one. I want to give up so bad, but I can’t let my anxiety win every time. Involuntarily, my knee starts bobbing and it wobbles the desk. Wes, the guy sitting in front of me, turns around. I think he felt the bobbing. “Are you okay?”
I nod my head and his face shows that he saw through my lie.
“Are you sure? You seem like you’re not.” I can tell he’s judging me subtly.
His tone sets me off the edge I’ve been sitting on all day. “Oh really?! How can you tell?” I shout. I shrink inside my shell and quiet down as soon as I realize how much awareness I brought upon the whole class. My face burns and my eyes become glossy, but I push the tears back. Instantly, whispers are heard from each end of the room. They all belong to the eyes which are staring in my direction.
Look what you’ve done now. You’re so stupid. You just said that you didn’t want any attention, yet you just had that outburst. Now, all of your classmates are going to remember you as the ‘mean’ girl or the ‘freak’. Good going.
Mr. Harrison finally walks in and shuts the door behind him. At least he’s the center of attention now. He begins writing on the board. It’s the procedures for the presentations.
- Step 1: Introduce topic clearly (15-30 seconds)
- Step 2: Explain your points thoroughly (3 minutes)
- Step 3: Wrap up neatly and orderly (30 seconds)
- Step 4: Thank the class and take a seat
When he’s finished writing, he turns to face all of us. “This is just a reminder for what you’re expected to do for today’s project. We’ve been focused on this assignment for over three weeks, so no one should have less than these expectations. Okay, let’s start. I’m going to pick randomly, so you should all be prepared.” He sits at his computer and waves his finger around, blindly. He stops and lands on a section of the screen. He opens his eyes and stares at the designated victim. Jenna McCarthy. Phew, that was close. You know you have to go up eventually. Be quiet. Deny all you want, it’s gonna happen.
One by one, each person goes up and presents their topic. Sports, music, media, subjects, etc. Every single time Mr. Harrison calls on a random student and it’s not me, my anxiety levels rise higher and higher. I can’t handle the anticipation any longer. My rhetorical wish is answered when he announces, “Mia Atwood, you’re up.” Once again, everyone turns to look at me as I walk up to the front. I place my notecards on the podium. My head is swarming with a million thoughts at once. I can’t concentrate on what I want to say. Are my cards in the right order? Is eye contact a huge part of the grade? What am I presenting again? What am I doing here?
Before I say my first words, I scan the room and look at my teacher all with fear in my eyes. That was not a good idea. I pick up my cards, trembling as I do.
“Uh… M-my topic is about animal cruelty-” I feel like I’m going to pass out. I look back over to Mr. Harrison writing something done on my grading rubric. I can hear the yawning and sniffling of the bored audience I have attained. I gulp a huge amount of air and my throat closes up. My heartbeat has sped up to the point where it starts to hurt me. My chest tightens up and it feels like I can’t breathe anymore. My face is hot and red, as if it were a chili pepper. Sweat beads my forehead and makes my hands clammy. I can practically feel everybody’s eyes locked on my face. I can’t stand it anymore. The tears have risen and one falls. The first thing I do before running out of class is say “I can’t.”
I drop my notecards and bolt to the door. Everyone gasps. I stop around the corner so I can hear the rest of the reactions. Mr. Harrison yells, “Mia! Come back! You cannot bail out of my classroom!” I see him standing in front of the room. He looks both ways and doesn’t bother to check any further. I don’t want to hear anymore negative comments he has in store. I retreat to the nearest bathroom and begin crying even more in the farthest stall. Some girls come and go. I know they can here me. So far, no one has cared enough to check up on me. What did you expect honestly? That every girl would happen to know you and be like ‘Oh that’s Mia. Is she okay? Lemme see.’ No, you only have one friend. That makes the odds even smaller. Plus, no girl is going to follow you here from your language arts class because they think you’re an irrational lunatic that doesn’t know how to control their emotions. Admit it, you’re not normal. You’ll never be. So stop trying.
I’ve had enough of my own thoughts and mind. However, I didn’t know that I was going to scream at it… out loud. “SHUT UP! I’M DONE WITH YOU!”
My eyes go wide. I cry more. No one hears. I’m still alone.
I’m the only one who can fix myself. I shouldn’t expect anyone else to.
Ten minutes later, I leave the stall. I look in the mirror for the first time after my panic attack. My face is puffy and red. I look miserable. I wipe my tears away. That does nothing. I hate myself.
I exit the bathroom, and this the realest I’ve ever looked in this school. This is who I really am. A sad girl who has a mental disorder.
I plod back to class. I open the door and the whole class goes silent. I ignore the stares. I’ve experienced a lot of that already today. Mr. Harrison doesn’t say anything to me. The rest of the period continues without any interruptions.
Fourth period: I’m quiet. I don’t say anything to Chloe. There are whispers about me.
Fifth period: I’m noiseless. There is pointing and staring. More whispers.
Sixth period: I’m silent. Even more whispers.
The bus ride home: The music and tears fills up the silence.
I walk up to my house and I enter it. My mom is sitting on the couch, reading a magazine. I throw my backpack off my shoulders.
“How was your day? Was the presentation successful? Did the medication help? What do you think your grade is going to be? How was…” The questions all mush together and fade out completely. She looks eager for answers and all I give her is a blank expression. Once I gather and reflect on everything that’s happened today, I bluntly state, “It was fine and I’m okay.”
“That’s good to hear!”
I go into my room and sprawl out on my bed. I cry some more.
It was not fine.
And I am not okay.
Anxiety is the most common mental illness. 25% of all teens have a form of anxiety and it consumes 30% of all teenage girls. There are many symptoms that indicate anxiety, social in particular. People with social anxiety develop fear in ordinary areas of their daily life. For example:
- Fear of being introduced to people
- Fear of making eye contact
- Fear of being the center of attention
- Fear of being judged
People with social anxiety can get easily embarrassed because they don’t want to be put into a situation where they will be judged. There are many physical effects to a person who has anxiety:
- Trembling muscles
- Racing heart
- Stomach aches
It is not uncommon for a person with anxiety to also have depression, so some of these symptoms can be likely to appear in people who are depressed and vice versa. If you see these things happening to one of your friends, family members, or someone you may not even know, do not make them feel bad about it. Instead, help them and inform them of treatments.
There are many ways to help make having anxiety easier and more controllable. There are many medications that you can use like, antidepressants, SSRIs, and anxiolytics. *(Doctor has to diagnose and prescribe)* There are also many therapy groups that can be helpful. Cognitive Brain Therapy and Psychotherapy are known to cope with anxieties.
This story depicts a girl with severe social anxiety. This was not meant to be interpreted as exaggerated or dramatic. This was just an example of how anxiety messes with your head and can affect your everyday life, especially high school. If you know or have seen anyone like Mia, don’t act negatively towards them. Be supportive and as accommodating as possible.
Again to the people that have this disorder, we just wanted to express that if you bottle up your true feelings and don’t release them, it harms you. Family and doctors are there for you if you need to talk something out. Don’t do what Mia did. Mia didn’t tell her parents that the medication and therapy didn’t work. She didn’t tell her teachers that she wasn’t able to perform as well as the other students. It all caught up with her and it caused the evil voice inside her head. Everything turned out negative, not positive.
Speak up even when it’s the hardest thing to do.
~Do you know anyone like Mia? Have you ever dealt with these feelings before? Have you overcome anything like this? If so, please share your own experiences, advice, and additional questions in the comments. Feel free to express yourself and create conversations about this topic.~
For more information about social anxiety, click below: