A Fresh Start

Annalee WhittenAugust 26, 2019Fear and AnxietyInterfaith Connections

Anxiety: it pushes down on you harder and harder, making you feel tiny, until it is just too much to handle. Fear: it keeps you from doing the things you want to do, the things that you love.

You can’t let these two feelings get to you, though. There are always ways to cope or get through the hard times.

I'm an empath, or at least everybody tells me I am. I try to help everyone I can, but sometimes I don’t realize that some people don’t want to be helped. Everything was fine until fifth grade. In fifth grade, I met a girl who was just like me (I will just call her Belle, since I don’t want to give her real name). Belle and I went on to become best friends. Both of us were artists and both of us loved the same shows.

Fifth grade was also the year that I started to be extremely self-conscious, though. I would worry about how I looked and what people thought of me. Girls would make fun of the way I dressed or the style of my art. This is when I started to become anxious. I would stutter a lot and get confronted about it, then I stopped raising my hand in class to answer questions. I used to love answering questions. I was what my old school would call a “gifted student,” so my teachers challenged me more than the others because they knew I could take it. I guess you could say I was like a little Hermionie Granger.

The other girls would laugh, though. I tried to answer questions and they would giggle at me, so I stopped trying.

I got through the school year. I think middle schools are the same for everyone: a living hell. At least, that is what middle school was for me. Sixth grade was okay at first. I brushed off the feelings of self-doubt and focused on my friendships. Belle had introduced me to her group of friends, and I fit right in! Seventh grade was where all that started to change. My so-called group of friends would call me fat, my boyfriend dumped me in front of our whole grade (200 kids), and worst of all, I lost my best friend.

Belle was going through a lot at the time, so I can’t blame her for the way she was acting, but still, she treated me awfully. Belle would call me annoying and tell me she wished she had never met me. Remember when I said I was an empath? Well here is what I mean when I say trying to help people isn't always the best option. I tried to be helpful, but it didn’t work. I realized our friendship was toxic and decided it was best I stay away from her.

I was alone, or at least I felt alone. I lied to my parents and told them everything was fine. I started to get anxious again. I feared speaking up because I thought the girls would laugh at me. People started calling me names, and I felt so small. I would usually get lost deep in thought; my mind was my worst enemy. I would think of all the things people were probably thinking of me. I got so lost in all the scenarios that I started to believe them all. I let my mind take over, and it was destroying me. I was more anxious than I had ever been before.

Then something changed. My school held a competition for the gifted and talented kids called “The Amazing Shake.” We had to do a community service project and then present it to the community. I tried to go above and beyond with my project. I wanted to raise environmental awareness for littering and pollution and eventually ended up in front of the city council asking them if I could paint storm drains. The city was on the river, so most of the trash was being washed into the drains. Despite my nervousness, the idea was approved! There were multiple rounds, and out of 600 kids, I was in the top four. I realized that I am worth way more than I thought and I stopped being scared.

Even though I didn't win the competition, it still gave me a major confidence boost. I started to enjoy my life and to participate in new activities. I became an actress in musicals, I became a digital artist, I became a musician, I became me.

Even though I was more confident, I still wasn't happy at school. Around Christmas, I knew I needed a fresh start. I moved schools because I realized my old one was toxic. Moving schools was great! The people in my hometown are so kind and they made me feel welcome. Sure, I still get anxious sometimes, but now it is easier to cope. Through acting and art, I have been able to express myself and leave all the bad things behind me. My family has always been there for me, as well. I finally told them about everything that was happening, and they understood. I’m no longer alone.

Coping with fear and anxiety can be hard. It's important to know that you have people who will always be there for you. If you need someone to talk to, you should consult your family. I find the best way to cope is to talk with someone you love. You can also try to get your mind off things by doing things you love, whether playing sports or painting. Taking time to relax is also important. It is easy to get anxious when you are stressed, so you should always take time to clear your mind.

I hope that my story of dealing with fear and anxiety helps you understand the importance of coping with it. I hope you remember to stay positive and just be yourself, no matter what anybody else thinks. Don’t let anxiety and fear get the better of you. Now, keep your head up, because you’ve got this!

Annalee Whitten is a tenth grader who lives in Kentucky. Annalee enjoys many art mediums and practicing socially conscious art opportunities.