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Jul 07 2017
by Shelby Lenhart

How My Anxiety Changed My High School Experience

By Shelby Lenhart - Jul 07 2017

A girl I was friends with for a long time repeatedly said throughout our senior year that she simply wanted the "senior year experience." To her, that consisted of parties, basketball and football games, getting elected to the homecoming court, going on friend adventures, being prom queen and other John Green-esque clichés. 

As the year passed, I only attended the football games I had to go to as a part of the school's color guard and I insisted on not being put up for homecoming court. I missed out on the basketball games to watch Zootopia in my sweatpants and thought ruefully that I would hate myself in 10 years for ruining my chance at the ideal senior year.  

I always had this sense of remorse about missing things like the boy's basketball championship at Temple University, Mini-THON events or not being a proctor for Challenge Day. It nagged at me for four years that I wasn't a student council officer, and I was worried that after four years, I would have nothing to show for my high school career. Now a recent graduate, I am able to look back at my high school career and I managed to find my single greatest regret — not getting help. 

As a diagnosed sufferer of generalized anxiety disorder and depression, there were plenty of times that I needed help and wasn't sure where I could get it. I was too afraid to speak my mind, and my anxiety, I concluded, is what kept me from doing things like Mini-THON or mock debate. The fear of being ridiculed for asking for clarification in physics, for extra assistance with a concept in statistics or for asking for feedback on an English project became so overwhelming that it just became easier to be silent. 

There are times that I've wondered if I could've gotten that A in Algebra II if I had found the courage to ask my teacher for another worksheet or additional help after school — help I became painfully aware was offered very graciously to plenty of other students. 

It would be wrong of me to say that I felt like I couldn't talk about it at home, but simply omitting the presence of my anxiety in conversation became a much simpler way to "cope." If I pretended it wasn't there, maybe I wouldn't have to deal with it. It took me nearly a month of separation from the high school to realize that this "tactic" is exactly what made my four years so difficult — pretending the problem didn't exist. Not talking about it. 

I urge you, whether you are an upcoming freshman, a jaded senior or an alumnus of several years, please, ask for help if you need it. I know those words alone can't fix every problem, and that such minimal advice doesn't have the power to cure mental illness, but if my year in AP psych has taught me anything, it's that setting a precedent for yourself can sometimes be the best thing for you. Start small: Ask a friend for assistance first. If you want to ask a teacher for something, ask if they can come with you, or ask them what they would say if they were in that situation. 

Anxiety and depression are incredibly difficult to deal with and are not things to be taken lightly. Make sure you are seeking the appropriate help if you need it. More than anything else, do not let it define you. While you can't control what goes on around you, you do have a say in how you respond, so don't let anxiety keep you silent. 

 Lead Image Credit: Svel Chuklanov via Unsplash

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Shelby Lenhart - Marymount Manhattan College

Shelby is a freshman at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. She is getting her BA in Theatre Arts with a concentration in Playwriting.

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