*Name of the therapist was changed for confidentiality purposes.
Anxiety is like a war zone. Defeat and triumph, fear and hope, all seamlessly intertwine into one calamity of destruction. This war wages on in the inner mechanisms of my mind with little regard for the life it affects.
My fight began the fall semester of my sophomore year of college. I’d grown up under an exhausting pressure to be the best. A culmination of stress and an evident uncontrollability of the future took a beating on my mind. I was unsure of the success of my college lacrosse career, unsure of my ability to succeed in the classroom, unsure of the daunting task of rushing a sorority…and overall, unsure of myself.
This thought of failure consumed me. Although living in a house in Collegetown with my six best friends, I couldn’t have felt more alone, lying in my bedroom paralyzed by fear and hopelessness. The inability to perfectly predict the outcome of events in my near future took a hold of my sanity. On top of all the stress, my acne worsened and caused an additional blow to my self-esteem. I felt like my body was rebelling on me, which heightened the anxiety that possessed my thoughts like a parasite slowly overtaking the mangled and weak body of its host. Every day I had to muster the courage to face the person staring back at me in the mirror and eventually step outside my bedroom walls.
I became an anxious ball of sadness, picking up negativity as I barreled through the darkness of my thoughts.
“You’re not pretty. You’re not good enough.”
“That’s not true.” I quivered, as my mind told me otherwise.
I was living with my greatest enemy inside my own head, constantly plotting the next strike. And that opportunity to attack presented itself January of my spring semester when I was thrust into lacrosse practices, and even worse, into sorority rush.
Almost all of my teammates were in sororities and my friends in my year were rushing so I figured I’d go along. I’d been apprehensive for a while, but I figured it could be a way to get out of my rut. My acne began to clear with new medicine, and I thought I could turn things around. While trying to dim the backlight of my mind, it projected like a Hollywood sign, “You can’t do it!”
I went through the four taxing days of “tell me about yourself” and “sisters will always have your back” and when the time came, I wrote down my choice on my bid card. The next day, bid day, I waited. It was getting late and with every passing hour, my positivity waned. However, I pulled myself together and kept the faith that I would get into the house I wanted…and then my phone rang. My heart dropped as I saw the number of my rush leader come across my screen.
“Hello?” I muttered, already knowing what I was about to hear.
“Hi Paige, I’m sorry to inform you that your bid card did not receive any matches.”
Upon hearing those words I felt myself slipping. Slipping into the quicksand of disapproval unable to pull myself out and the more I fought it, the more I succumbed to it.
“Why is this happening?!” I cried to myself as I thought about my teammates that got into the houses they desired. Meanwhile, I remained an outcast, alone once again. My only company was the unyielding thoughts that saw this moment as another opportunity to push me further down.
“HAHA, we told you so!”
“It’s because you’re not cool enough!”
“Nobody likes you!”
All at once they came shouting into the forefront, hitting me like an onslaught of bullets from an automatic rifle and I had no armor. I was the victim of a fight that only I get could myself out of, but I had no more strength.
I crumbled…and right before my lacrosse season began. I met every day with, “You’ll never succeed.” My performance on the field suffered. The thought of failure took a hold of my body as the mire of my mind took every last bit of energy out of me. I forgot the ability I had within myself because it was being suffocated by a constant barrage of dangerous thoughts. At times, I tried to combat those thoughts with positivity and courage, but it just became a painful loop of “you can do it” and “no you can’t.” I felt like my head was about to explode every waking moment.
Every day was a battle--one thought tearing me down and another trying to pick me back up. Sometimes I’d win, sometimes my anxiety would. All the while, I wanted to scream and escape the prison I was held captive in. However, the reality was that I couldn’t overcome this alone.
“Mom, I need help.” I whimpered through my phone as I laid on my bedroom floor and felt as if at that moment I could dissolve into a million pieces and the world would continue to spin on without me.
Immediately, my parents came to my rescue and although they wanted to help on their own we knew that I needed professional counseling. However, this decision didn’t come easy for me. I didn’t want to be defeated by my very own torment but I was a prisoner of my own war. Yet, the battle had run its course. I was scared and maimed and I could no longer suit up to tackle my demons on my own. This was a concept I grappled with for a while, but, eventually, I gave into the vulnerability of seeking help.
My parents held my hand as I went through the process of healing with the help of my new therapist, Laura. I started seeing Laura in February and she helped me rival the monster inside of me. She opened my mind to positivity and acceptance of myself even in times of failure. She made me think of all the great things I had control over and helped me focus on building myself up instead of tearing myself down. Whenever a bad thought would come across my mind, I learned to counter it with three good ones. I learned that my infection of anxiety couldn’t grow if I cut off its supply of nutrients. Although I wasn’t cured, my fight became easier with every waking day. But, anxiety, like all wounds, takes time to heal. I was a victim and a torturer all at once, and I had to learn how to love and forgive myself. Although my struggle continues, when I look into the mirror and the cognitive sewage of negativity and defeat creeps back in, I remind myself of who I am.
“You’re not good enough,” whispers my own worst enemy.
“But I am strong, I am confident, and I am capable of greatness,” I contest and begin to believe.
Cornell University 2018
Varsity Women's Lacrosse