Acceptance has no boundaries

As I study for my Abnormal Psychology midterm (I know a midterm already?!), I have decided to finally tell you my story.  I have wanted to share it with you for a while now, so I figured there wouldn’t be a better time.  Here we go…

In grade 4 I cried because I was struggling with a math problem from the textbook.  Math was my strongest subject, yet I got so nervous and worked up about being perfect.  In grade 6 I got so worked up about my science exam that I threw my binder at the wall because I couldn’t cope with the pressure I was putting on myself.  By the time I hit grade 12, I literally had to be walked out of my math test because I didn’t even realize how upset I had gotten, disrupting the other students, because I was staring at the same question for 20 minutes of the 60 minute test.  I had just completed the same question with different numbers two hours before, confirming my steps with my teacher.  This pressure was coming from within. 

Finally, in December of grade 12, I had a teacher talk to me and my parents and suggested I   get tested for anxiety.  I met with a psychologist and had to go through a series of tests.  The results showed I had no learning disabilities at all.  I simply had performance anxiety and it had escalated in my final year of high school.

I attended a private school with the most amazing group of teachers and support, but for me, not a lot of social support.  I had few close friends and this was difficult to discuss with them for fear of not being understood.  I had a boyfriend at the time.  An immature teenage boy who simply thought everyone “got nervous” and couldn’t understand me… Good thing he is no longer around!  Needless to say, high school was a tough time and not my most favourite years of my life thus far.

I attended sessions with a psychologist and learned strategies I still implement to this day.  I also write my exams on my own, focused and relaxed, away from the entire class room.  This works for me. I am not ashamed of it.

All too often we are quick to judge one another for showing “weakness” or struggling with something that others may not easily understand.  Thankfully, my family and teachers helped me finish off my grade 12 year strong, on the honour roll, and accepting an offer to U of T where I would be playing field hockey.  

University was the first time I ever felt accepted.  I had 5 more friends on day one than I came out of high school with and when our first exam came up and my friends found out I wouldn’t be writing with them, they were extremely supportive, always checking in with me prior to and after an exam.  Thank you all for that support.  You will never truly understand all that it did for me.

Anxiety is something I struggle with today.  Especially in academic situations but also in other instances life throws my way.  Remember that all situations are different and therefore handled differently.  An exam scares the heck out of me but I can teach a Zumba class to 80 people!  It is okay to ask for help.  As a society, the red flags go up immediately as we learn someone is seeing a psychologist or attending therapy sessions.  Let’s remember that we all seek nutrition advice from a nutritionist, medical advice from a health care practitioner, and athletic advice from a strength coach, so why when we need coping strategies or some additional support can we not be comfortable to seek out help from a psychologist or psychiatrist?  

Let’s not be so quick to judge and instead try to understand more.  Ask questions to learn more and support those struggling with something.  As someone struggling with something, I understand that you need to be able to recognize, yourself, that what you are going through simply can’t be done alone and you should seek the extra support.  If it makes you feel better or cope well with situations, do it.  

I hope that by sharing my story with you, you have learned that we all have challenges in our lives and it only makes us stronger on the other side.   There is no need to sympathize and feel sorry for myself or others.  Take the time to empathize instead and try to understand our situation and where we are coming from. Anxiety is something I deal with regularly but I never once let it define me.  I am so much more than what it is. 

I am fierce.  I am strong.  I am vibrant.

Rachel

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