My fingers drumed against the table as my eyes darted around the room, heart beating in my chest. I focused on my breathing and put my head down on the desk for a moment, letting the dizziness pass. You’re fine, just finish the test. At this point, my distress seemed to be outwardly visible, as my chemistry teacher soon appeared by my side.
I glanced up, plastering a sheepish smile onto my face.
“Nothing, Mr. Appier. Just a little tired, that’s all. Sorry.”
Six questions later, I was hyperventilating. My lab partner gave me a look and I put my head back down, allowing the tears to well up in my eyes. I was positive I knew all the answers—I’d studied for an hour the night before. But all of that knowledge had just seemed to vanish from my mind the moment the Scantron slid in front of me. I wiped my eyes and continued on with the chemistry test.
I sat in the small room, scowling at the wall while I spat out one-worded responses to the therapist’s questions. I could easily see her patience wearing thin, even through her calm voice. Good. That made two of us.
“Kylie,” she said, ruffling through the stack of papers. “I can certainly see that you have some anxiety, perfectionism is a prevalent issue with you as well…” I tuned her out.
Don’t you dare cry. The tear tracks stained on my cheeks displayed me previous lost battle. There was absolutely nothing wrong with me, nothing at all.
Yeah, I’d have an occasional breakdown, who didn’t? I was a teenage girl. It was normal. But my mom didn’t buy it. Nothing gets past her.
“Kylie, dear, how are you feeling right now?” the lady asked.
I glared at her, tears spilling over my eyes once more. I turned my head over to my mom, her eyes glassy as well.
“Betrayed,” I muttered. She looked down. The therapist lady looked between the two of us, obviously uncomfortable.
“You realize she just wants the best for you, dear…”
Two crying fits later, I agreed to therapy sessions every other week. I’d convinced myself that it was just to shut up my mom, but I assumed it wouldn’t be awful to get a little help. Just in case this flop of a therapist was right and I did have anxiety.
I quit going after she made me blow bubbles for an hour straight. To practice taking deep breaths, she said. To make me feel even stupider, I thought.
Two months later, it was snowing outside. I wanted to go out into the below-freezing temperature, stick my head in the accumulating blanket of white and stay there to die. My mom was angry at me for some forgotten reason and I was angry at myself for no reason at all. That’s how it works, my therapist’s voice rung out in my head.
Anxiety is like a defective fire alarm; for most people, it goes off when there’s actually danger. For you, the smallest things can set it off. I clamped my hands over my ears, that voice of reason being the last thing I wanted to hear in my wallowing pit of misery and began to bawl harder. I glanced towards the window, wondering why I couldn’t be as perfect and pristine as the snow outside.
Almost guiltily, I stumbled to the closet and rustled around inside, looking for the pink bottle of bubbles the weird therapist lady had insisted I take home. I curled up in a ball on top of my polka-dotted bedspread. My hands shook as I unscrewed the lid. Bubble juice sloshed out, covering my bare legs in stickiness. I inhaled and blew, watching the bubbles dance and float around my room. Slowly but surely, my heart and breathing slowed down. I laid back onto my bed and drifted asleep, the bubble wand still clutched in my hand.
That was sophomore year. Now, in my next to last week of junior year, I sit slumped down on the blue cushioned seat in one of the cot rooms in the nurse’s office. Not much better, not much worse.
I can’t say I’m angry that my mom took me to the therapist that day. Yes, it was horrible and awkward while I was there, but that’s because I was young and stubborn, and wouldn’t dare accept the fact that I had a mental illness.
I flutter my eyes shut and beg my heart to shut up and stop beating so quickly, I am not going to die. The event that made me like this is lost in my mind, washed away in the mess of tears and intense feelings of dread.
The small pink bottle sits beside me as I rest my chin in my hands, debating with myself. Almost subconsciously I reach for it, unscrewing the cap and sneaking a glance behind me to confirm that I am indeed alone. I lift the wand to my lips, blowing through the little circle.
I’m still not okay. It’s going to be a very long time before I wake up in the morning and am completely happy to be alive, not traumatized by little issues that other people just seem to breeze right past. But as I watch the bubbles float off into the day, I feel myself relax. My breath evens out and my eyes begin to droop contently as I watch them dance and sparkle around the room, carefree as ever. It’s a start.