High school isn't the most fun for a lot of people, but for some the pressure to get amazing grades, have great friends, and join enough after-school organizations to be impressive to colleges is actually damaging to their mental health.
That's what happened for one student from Colombia, who shared her story with Humans Of New York.
“I was the best student in my high school," she said in the post. "I put so much pressure on myself. I never failed a class."
Soon, the pressure to be the best became too much.
"I got sick during 10th grade and I started to fall behind," she continued. "That’s when the panic attacks began. One day the teacher handed me my grade report, and I couldn’t breathe. My heart was beating very fast. I felt disconnected. I saw people trying to talk to me but I couldn’t hear them. Eventually I passed out and woke up in the infirmary. The attacks were almost daily after that."
She started college last year, where the pressure just got worse.
"I can’t be the best student here no matter how hard I try. Everyone is so talented," she said. "My panic attacks got so bad that I had to cancel my first semester."
Now, she's working on her anxiety, which starts by acknowledging that it exists.
"I used to try to hide it," she said. "I would log off social media. I wouldn’t answer calls. I thought that if nobody knew, it didn’t exist. But the more I talk about my problem, the more I realize that other people experience similar things. So I’m trying to express it more. I had a great teacher who told me: ‘Instead of letting anxiety keep you from doing your art, let it be the thing that motivates your art.’”
Her story resonates. As of writing, the post has more than 200,000 likes and 2,000 comments. People have commented with their own stories of living with anxiety as a student.
"OMG. So me," one person wrote. "I still struggle everyday but here I am 6 years later about to finish university. Keep at it if you love it and make sure you get the counselling you need."
"I went through the same thing in college, took me 9 years to graduate because my desire to graduate art school was stronger than those debilitating panic attacks," wrote another. "I suffered those anxiety attacks for 12 years in silence. It's good to hear she received support and encouragement from her teacher to be open about it."
It's not likely that school caused anxiety for these people, but both anxiety and depression are often first diagnosed because of pressure people feel to be the best in their group of classmates, according to research from Boston University.
“We see normal anxiety morph into distress when a student is having panic attacks, can’t sleep or slow themselves down, persistently worries or obsesses about what’s next, or is having other physical symptoms consistent with anxiety," Carrie Landa, director of Behavioral Medicine at BU's Student Health Services, said in the report.
Feelings like this can make it nearly impossible to focus on the work needed to get through high school and college courses, which can in turn make students feel even more anxious.
The woman in this post has taken an important first step in trying to manage her anxiety by reaching out for help.
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call theCrisis Call Center ’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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