June 15, 2020
Allison Ross is an accomplished 18 year old girl. She is part of the National Honor Society, has been accepted into her top college choices, and has a variety of interests she explores, such as movies and music. While similar success is common among her classmates at Glen Rock High School, she has overcome extremely difficult and discouraging setbacks which pushed her away from happiness- namely, her social anxiety.
From a young age, Allison was interested in theatre- she could always sing, and enjoyed performing in plays and musicals. On the weekends, she would often see Broadway shows in New York City. As she grew older, the idea of performing became less attractive. Her nerves were so high, her performances began to end in tears. Soon after, Allison stopped participating in shows.
Middle school was a difficult transition for all of her classmates, as they navigated a completely foreign environment and felt the reins of their teachers and parents become looser. But this change was especially daunting for Allison. In middle school, Allison’s anxiety became a major setback- she had difficulty making friends, and her lack of friends contributed to her angst throughout the day. P.E. was a nightmare- her athletic abilities, or the lack thereof, made every activity difficult and anxiety-ridden. She constantly feared being teased if she dropped the ball, or ran too slow, or missed the basket. She began bringing in notes to evade gym class nearly every week. For Allison, her anxiety made her an outsider. All she wished for were genuine friends.
And high school was no different. “9th grade is when it really got bad,” Allison said. During lunchtime, she sat by herself, wondering if anyone would be her friend. Her struggles were not too far from what she faced in middle school, but her anxiety was heightened. This was a daily struggle she faced. She felt even more disconnected and isolated from her peers as the year progressed, and unhappy about her lack of true social connection. As her anxiety peaked, her therapist provided some relief to her constant nerves. She was also prescribed Lexapro, an SSRI, by a nurse practitioner. A few months later, though, she had stopped taking them.
In sophomore year, though, her anxiety was amplified. By January, she had stayed home from school multiple days due to mounting anxiety. But as the end of sophomore year approached, Allison’s situation improved. In May, she decided to volunteer at a film festival, to sell merchandise. Being pushy was never something in her nature– but now, she had to be. After experiencing crippling anticipatory anxiety over it, she not only got through it, but had fun as well. She also learned that the best medication for dealing with anxiety is stepping out of your comfort zone, and that by forcing yourself to do things that may be harder for you, you grow in a number of ways. During lunch now, she sat in the cafeteria with a few friends, without the concerns of months prior.
Though, junior year brought new problems. The pressures of college, the SAT, the ACT were difficult for all of her classmates, but especially hard as a girl suffering from clinical anxiety. She questioned her future- her college life, her career. Putting off her needs and goals was partially a result. Early in junior year, she was prescribed Zoloft, another SSRI, after being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). An SSRI is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, a type of medication that increases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is considered to be a mood stabilizer.
For as long as she can remember, anxiety has been a part of Allison’s life. It may not have had a role in every single day, or every single decision, but her condition has been in her mind for years, even if it was sometimes hidden. And as she has grown, coping with her nervous feelings has become almost second nature. Now, as a senior, she’s not taking medication any longer, and her anxiety does not define her. She is extremely proud of her academic accomplishments– particularly her writing. “The fact that I’ve managed to write so many articles and especially about really important issues to me, and I’ve talked to so many people. That has honestly made me proud,” Allison said. Not only has getting admitted into colleges boosted her confidence, but also has reassured her about her future. She is optimistic about college life, and eager to make new friends and develop connections- something she feels she missed out on in high school.
While preparing to navigate her new environment in a matter of months, Allison is uncertain of how her anxiety will impact her college experience. While she’s excited about the future, she moves forward with some apprehension.