My Story of Support
When I was four, my family took a trip to Rehoboth Beach. After hours of playing in the ocean, my sister wanted to leave. My dad told me it was time to go, but I wouldn’t budge, didn’t need their help. I told him they could leave without me. I was fine being at the beach by myself, thank you very much.
My mom has several stories of me as a child exhibiting what she calls my “fierce independence.” I refused to follow directions in swim class. I insisted on getting my hair cut short despite the hairstylist’s attempts to keep me from getting a “boy’s haircut.” I claimed I didn’t need speech therapy even when my parents struggled to understand half the words I said. I didn’t need anyone telling me what to do–I liked doing things my own way.
This continued into my teenage years and adulthood. Despite my mom’s concerns, I decided to attend a college in St Paul, Minnesota—a 17 hour drive away from my hometown. I enjoyed my first year in college. I made friends, I found my classes interesting, and I liked the small-town vibe of the new city I now lived in.
“I didn’t need anyone telling me what to do–I liked doing things my own way.”
Things started to change come spring semester of sophomore year. I became overwhelmingly afraid. I was afraid to see my friends, afraid to go to class, afraid to explore the city I once loved so much. I became increasingly paranoid that people were out to get me. I was convinced that the police would break down my door at any moment, arresting me for a crime I didn’t commit.
It didn’t take long before I started to question if I actually had committed a crime, if I actually had somehow hurt someone. I started to believe I was a horrible person, and I couldn’t trust my memories or perception to tell me otherwise.
At this time, I was still trying to get through the spring semester and keep my job at a restaurant. Just hold on until spring break, I kept telling myself. Once spring break comes, things will go back to normal.
“I started to believe I was a horrible person, and I couldn’t trust my memories or perception to tell me otherwise.”
One day I was at my job, making a salad for a customer, when I felt a rush of ice-cold fear. I thought I was poisoning the food somehow. I ran out of the restaurant in a panic, convinced that if I stayed there any longer I would contaminate all of the ingredients.
When spring break arrived, I booked a plane ticket to Baltimore. I was excited to go home, but once I entered the airport, things felt wrong.
I was convinced someone was following me. The lighter in my pocket all of a sudden felt like a cinderblock weighing down my entire body. I was sure that my lighter had the power to explode the entire building—that I had the power to explode the entire building.
My flight came and went without me. I ran out of the airport in tears, looking over my shoulder the whole time for the people out to get me.
It was then I realized I needed to ask for help.
“I learned that I was still myself, and that asking for help didn’t mean that I was weak”
I called my mom and she flew out to St Paul so I wouldn’t have to fly back to Baltimore alone. Once I arrived home, I went to the hospital. I found a therapist. I entered a four week hospital outpatient program. I learned that I was still myself, and that asking for help didn’t mean that I was weak.
It’s okay to be afraid sometimes. I am still the girl who insisted on walking to the bus stop by herself in kindergarten, who was quick to debate teachers in high school, and who got a tattoo without telling anybody in college. I am still that girl, but this time with a better support system, which I am forever grateful for.
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