My entire early life was a constant battle against my anxiety. I used to be so afraid of dying that I barely lived. However, the worst of my anxiety is now in the past.
When people try to think of their earliest memory, they usually recall something silly or fun. My first and most vivid memory involves a stressful situation that induced my first panic attack. I was about 6 years old at the time of this first “incident” with anxiety. While driving to my cousin’s house in Connecticut, I vomited in the backseat.
From that moment on, I suffered negative emotions at the thought of traveling and leaving home. I was hardly able to eat after that incident and my life soon spiraled out of control. I found out that I was lactose intolerant, but I still ate dairy, just so I would know the origin of any stomachache.
If I ever ate dairy-free and still felt sick, the simple bellyache quickly escalated into a full-blown panic attack. It scared me to think that I may actually be sick and not just dealing with the aftermath of eating too much ice cream.
Tackling my anxiety prompted me to develop many new “comfort” techniques to help me deal. I bit the sides of my tongue and puffed out my cheeks. Doing this made me feel as if I had control and there was no way I could let throw up escape through that barrier.
This didn't actually work and I just looked like a moron. I also decided that carrying a plastic bag around would prepare me to vomit when I needed to. Everywhere I went, the plastic bag went too. This was a scary time in my life, but thankfully I had some creative outlets, like drawing and playing the piano to calm the storm.
After my traumatic road trip experience, my life just continued to get worse. One day a neighbor came to visit and made the mistake of telling my mom a scary story in front of me.
She said a boy in my sister’s grade passed away from choking on vomit in his sleep. Sadly, that incident caused me to have difficulty sleeping for the next decade of my life.
When I was in second grade, I remember standing at my teacher’s desk in front of my whole class and pleading for permission to go to the nurse. Apparently, I was there too often so she wouldn’t let me go.
I was afraid that I was going to be sick and didn’t want anyone to see. I cried hysterically and still my teacher would not let me go. Sadly, I faced the walk of shame back to my seat and felt miserable all day.
Still to this day, I wonder if people from my class ever say, “Remember when Lisa went nuts in Mrs. B’s class?” I still remember when a girl in my class, Jen, peed her pants in first grade...and I’m 29.
I apparently (unintentionally) cried wolf so many times in elementary school that when I fell and bumped my head at lunch recess, I was denied a pass to the nurse’s office.
Unfortunately, even the lunch ladies were on to me. Another time I thought I swallowed plastic from my Ecto Cooler straw. Somehow I got through “security” and made it to the nurse’s office. Mrs. Ferrandino was the greatest nurse ever.
She talked to me like a person, like I wasn’t crazy. Although I found refuge in this kind nurse, elementary school was really tough for me.
Middle school was even worse than I could have imagined it to be. By the winter of my first year, I was having class assignments brought to me in the nurse's office.
There were even certain classrooms I couldn't walk into. If I heard someone got sick in it, or if it just made me feel claustrophobic, I couldn't stay.
My parents were living through a nightmare. Every day I seemed to get worse and in the mid-1990s there was no way to Google 'anxiety' or to read blogs about children who had suffered through similar situations.
When my school tried to bring my family to court for truancy, nobody supported us or understood why this was happening. Nobody believed that I could break out into full body rashes from stress and anxiety I felt about going to school.
When it was suggested that I should be left behind a grade, and put into special ed classes, my family fought back. My grades spoke for themselves, but my parents spoke even louder.
Things finally hit rock bottom when I stopped eating and could barely make it out of bed. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which can cause or worsen existing anxiety issues when left untreated.
Although Celiac is a familiar disease today, it was almost unheard of when I was growing up. After cutting gluten out of my diet, I began to feel better, but my anxiety was still not cured.
With a healthier diet improving my mood and overall wellbeing, I realized I needed to cure the negative/pessimistic attitude I had held my entire life. Eventually I felt well enough to return to school and my high school years were relatively normal.
Each year I accomplished new things, but I knew I wasn't living up to my full potential. I was still taking caution. Stress and anxiety were still a part of my life; they just took different forms.
My closest friends were coming home from college and really starting their lives, while I was still struggling to get through mine. That's when I knew something had to change. I decided to try yoga to help me relax. I studied Reiki before discovering "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne, which changed my entire life. After 25 years on earth, my life was finally beginning.
I ride the train now, fly on airplanes, eat and can even sleep well now. I do all the things that people don't usually think twice about, but I would be so terrified of doing.
I am happier than I ever knew was possible. I live life and love every day. I now take advantage of every opportunity and take nothing for granted. The word “no” has been removed from my vocabulary, unless you offer me oysters. They are just weird.
Looking back on my struggles, I have no regrets. I would not change a thing. I am exactly where and who I am supposed to be because of what I have been through in my life.
I wake up every day and feel thankful for the chance to live a new day. I go to bed feeling grateful for living a wonderful day. I get to breathe in fresh air, listen to incredible music, and laugh with my beloved friends and family members.
I get to love and be loved. Every day, I am surrounded by the most amazing people and the greatest situations. Reading “The Secret” enabled me to attract good things into my life and find great people to spend my life with.
My boyfriend recently took me on a trip to California, which was truly life changing. This trip gave me my first flight experience and was the first time I left the East coast. I ate up every gorgeous sight and sound I observed on this trip.
I went on a ferry, paddle boarded and rode a bike over the Golden Gate Bridge. I camped out in Big Sur and did many other things that were never even a possibility before. I now live every single day filled with gratitude.
Every single person on this planet has a unique story and his or her own issues to deal with. I urge you to take this into consideration whenever you meet someone new.
When you see some kid pacing in the corner, realize that he might be a great person who just happens to be going through a rough time. Don’t judge him or write him off as being a weirdo.
Life can change in the blink of an eye and you might one day become that kid. Likewise, this “troubled” kid may grow up to become a healthy, happy adult.
Top Photo Credit: Instagram