Fighting Your Demons | Teen Ink

Fighting Your Demons MAG

February 5, 2014
By Anonymous

My breath quickened as I strained to hear the teacher across the room. I couldn’t hear my friends’ voices over my thumping heart.

Where are they in the alphabet?


Oh God.


Oh God, oh God.

My breath caught in my throat as the teacher called my name. “Here,” I choked out, and she breezed on to the next.

It’s ridiculous, I know, to get so worked up about attendance, but this simple ritual used to terrify me. All I needed to say was “here,” but it felt like a performance. Speaking in front of others used to be so frightening that I avoided speech class, a freshman class, until junior year. I never made new friends because I was too anxious to talk to anybody or even make eye contact. I never went to the bathroom at school because I was afraid to ask for permission. Every social situation felt like a big deal; I never understood how others made casual conversation with strangers.

I experienced my first panic attack when I was nine. I had to give my first speech – in front of a class of eight people – and I was so terrified that I stopped breathing and blacked out. No one had ever explained what a panic attack or anxiety disorder was, so I didn’t understand until years later, when I saw a character on TV have a panic attack. That was the first time I didn’t feel so alien.

I never thought my situation could get better. “I’m just shy,” I would say. But “shy” did not explain my obsessive worrying. Not until I turned sixteen, when my anxiety grew exponentially worse overnight, did I realize that I needed help. The night before my birthday, I suddenly panicked, unable to let go of terrifying thoughts that I’d lose the people I loved. Though my thoughts were completely irrational, it really seemed to me that one misstep could lead me to a tragic fall off the edge of normal life and into a canyon of tragedy.

That night I stayed up and worried, experiencing an eruption of anxiety symptoms I had never dealt with before. I remember crying as I tried to explain to my mom what was happening, and I looked at the clock, seeing that it was midnight. “I’m sixteen,” I muttered through the tears.

I spent the following weeks huddled on the couch, watching TV with my mom, or huddled on my friend’s couch, watching TV with her. I refused to be alone, obsessed with the thought that I would die or my loved ones would leave me if I was not constantly by their side. I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts; I knew that the terror would consume me if my mind left its state of numbness.

I later found out that my severe anxiety was linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder. At first, I didn’t understand how this could be, because it didn’t fit with what I thought I knew about OCD. Then I read an article by actor Mara Wilson, who explained that for some, OCD is like having a song stuck in your head – but instead of a song, you’re plagued with vivid, horrible thoughts.

My tormenting thoughts were about how I would somehow lose the people I love. They made me constantly anxious, stopping me from going anywhere or doing anything. It was the worst feeling of being held down, unable to breathe.

When I finally began seeing a therapist that summer, I felt some freedom and hope, though not immediately. Therapy gave me a place to organize my thoughts and see my problems from an outside point of view, which gave me some answers about what was causing these feelings. I began to feel safer as I learned that my obsessive worries were not about real threats.

My therapist believed that medication could help, so I saw a psychiatrist and was prescribed a medication to treat anxiety associated with OCD. It didn’t fix everything immediately, but it did make things seem brighter, and then slowly improved my life profoundly.

After taking the medication for a couple of months, I became able to talk to people without getting nervous, and I learned how to show my personality instead of hiding it. I am still an introvert, but treatment helped to dissolve my fears of interacting. I became more confident and independent, no longer needing to cling to others. The medicine helped free me from anxiety, and therapy taught me not to focus on irrational worries.

Life has become so much brighter. The world used to feel scary, but it only feels that way if you isolate yourself. When my symptoms began to affect me the most, I had not allowed myself any support. I cut myself off from my parents and surrounded myself with negativity. Once I opened up and sought help through therapy, I was able to connect with positive people who reminded me that life is fun. Being treated for social anxiety has helped me make friends and do what I want with my life without inhibition.

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This article has 9 comments.

Sarah said...
on Jul. 30 2015 at 3:03 pm
Thank you for sharing this-- catching OCD early is such a positive thing that's going to help you immensely throughout your life. You are a very gifted writer, and having this experience, intelligence and sensitivity is going to take you far. :)

lilg5 said...
on Jun. 20 2015 at 10:23 pm
lilg5, Forest Ranch, California
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Beautifully written, strong and powerful with every line. I am glad you found the courage and strength to finally face your demons. Stay strong and never lose sight of just how amazing you really are, shy or not, because there will always be people out there who love you. :) Keep writing!!

Rev28 BRONZE said...
on Mar. 27 2015 at 9:17 am
Rev28 BRONZE, Chennai, Other
1 article 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent- Eleanor Roosevelt

Loved it! I admire your courage. I know it's not easy to talk about these issues. Keep going! thank you for sharing your struggles with us

on Mar. 16 2015 at 9:54 pm
I really enjoyed this and although I haven't had this same experience I feel like I was walking with you step by step through this par of the narrators life. I loved it! Thank you for sharing.

KayRae GOLD said...
on Mar. 10 2015 at 1:03 pm
KayRae GOLD, Arlington Hts, Illinois
14 articles 0 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

This is such a great article. I love it. Its truth written on a page.

on Mar. 5 2015 at 4:22 am
Eleanor4 PLATINUM, Christchurch, Other
21 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
- Oscar Wilde

This is such a great article! I feel so privileged to read this. I can fully relate. My type of OCD is different to yours but my fear is also of losing the people that I love. Thank you for showing me I'm not alone xxxx

on Mar. 3 2015 at 5:08 pm
birdafraidofheights BRONZE, Lowell, Indiana
1 article 35 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Punk is musical freedom. It's saying, doing and playing what you want. In Webster's terms, 'nirvana' means freedom from pain, suffering and the external world, and that's pretty close to my definition of Punk Rock."-Kurt Cobain

I relate with you so much. I have the same issues, and am constantly worrying and getting anxious about stupid things. But I don't like to ask for help because I feel like I deserve whatever life gives me. What you wrote made me feel like maybe I can surround myself with more positivity.

JRaye PLATINUM said...
on Mar. 3 2015 at 2:22 pm
JRaye PLATINUM, Dorr, Michigan
43 articles 10 photos 523 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you."

"Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, 'I just don't care.'?"

You're so wonderful for writing this. I know how hard it can be, writing about such personal areas of your life. Some aspects of this I can definitely relate to - I don't have clinical social anxiety, I've just been dealing with a lot lately, have my days where I'm scared to talk to others...You're so right, isolating yourself is not the way to go. This is a greatly written piece, congratulations on the publication and keep up the good work! :) Would you mind checking out my article, "I'm Socially Awkward and I'd like to tell you about it"? (this is indeed the title)

Eyrenah said...
on Mar. 1 2015 at 9:43 pm
Eyrenah, Cupertino, California
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
I love this... I can really understand this because it drives me crazy how my friends call simple things like using a ruler "OCD". I share the same experiences and have recently started using pain to block the demons out. I need help but I can't because then my "friends" will start bully me...they already have but I can't change anything because then I will really break down.