The Harbinger Online

Overcoming Anxiety Through Social Media

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Photo by Haley Bell

Senior Maggie Agee knows that this is her last year being with her peers at East. Sitting in her room the evening of Aug. 11 she began to type out a message. She hit the post button in the Shawnee Mission East Class of 2017 Facebook group with 298 members.

“Well tomorrow’s the day,”  the message reads. “I was packing my stuff earlier and it finally hit me that this is our last year of high school. Good luck everyone!”

By the time she walked into school the next morning her message had over 95 likes. Anyone who doesn’t know Agee would think that she would be the first to volunteer to read a part in Hamlet in her AP English class, but that’s not the case. Agee suffers from generalized anxiety, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder, which heavily affects her day-to-day life. Her thoughts swirl in her head saying that she “isn’t intelligent enough.” She has thoughts and feelings that she can’t control. However, Agee has been able to cope with her anxiety by writing and posting on social media channels.

“I don’t do so well with people, so I feel a lot more comfortable through written words,” Agee said. “I have a lot to say, I just don’t know how to say it out loud and [writing] helps me collect my thoughts.”

Agee has always enjoyed writing while growing up. For example, when she was 14 years old she wrote a ghost story that her mom let her turn into a book to be printed out. She felt writing gave her a voice that she didn’t have in person. Now that social media has become more popular among teenagers, Agee has turned to it as an outlet to talk about and deal with her anxiety.

Her Instagram is a private account, so Agee gets to choose who she lets follow it which helps her feel most comfortable posting personal Instagrams. In a recent post, she described her anxiety disorder in detail and how it affects her today. Agee said that it is something worth talking about and by doing so she can overcome an obstacle.

Agee has had a Facebook since sixth grade, but only got an Instagram about a year and a half ago. She began posting in the Class of 2017 group at the beginning of the year to become closer with her peers. According to Agee, she wants her peers to know that even if she appears to be distant in person, she cares about her classmates. Agee has posted eight times throughout the year like the night before school started, after the first day and before first semester finals. Agee tries to be encouraging to the seniors and spread a positive message that she couldn’t in person.

Over 80 people have liked each of the eight messages Agee has posted in the Facebook group. Senior Portia Renee is one of them every time. Renee doesn’t know Agee personally, but she knows how difficult it is to post something in a big group of people.

“I feel like [Agee] really captures a lot of what seniors are feeling [in her posts],” Renee said. “I am afraid of posting on such a large platform with the fear of getting no response and so it is incredible for her to be able to do that.”

Writing things down comes more naturally to Agee than talking. While Agee writes about her feelings, she overcomes the anxiety that fills her thoughts.

During Agee’s sophomore year, her mother, Therese, noticed various symptoms such as mood swings, difficulty sleeping and nervousness. Agee has now been prescribed Sertraline, which she takes twice a day, seven days a week. Sertraline helps to treat people with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and anxiety disorders. However, it doesn’t help with everything, writing on paper and over social media acts as another medicine for Agee.

“The medicine doesn’t make it completely go away, often times it makes my mind empty which can sometimes cause depression,” Agee said. “There are so many impulses that go through my brain and it makes me freak out over really small things.”

When Agee has an attack, she typically goes to her room to put headphones on in order to calm down. Agee then writes down what she is feeling on paper. In her head all that she feels is that she is trapped and cannot get out. Writing helps her overcome these attacks as she is able to go back and look at how she was feeling in that moment. Agee said that she feels completely disconnected from what is around her and often tries to fall asleep once the attack is over.

When she has an attack, her sugar levels drop, and she just needs to bring those levels back up to normal with food,” Therese said. “I’m just there to listen whenever she needs someone to talk to.”

Agee’s New Year’s resolution is to stop hiding from her anxiety and to dedicate herself to doing something about it. When she posts Instagram and Facebook, Agee usually plans out what she is going to say especially in reference to her most recent post about anxiety. She hopes that with the power she has behind the screen, in the future she will be able to completely overcome her anxiety.

Social media definitely helps me with accepting [the disorder] just because I am opening up and revealing a big part of my life,” Agee said. “Posting something just makes me feel like I could make a difference for someone else.”

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Ellie Mitchell

Junior, Page Designer When Ellie isn’t nannying or babysitting she likes to spend most of her time enjoying long walks on the beach and hang out with her friends. Ellie loves food such as Chipotle, Chik-Fil-A and Noodles and Co. Ellie is a nice girl who loves to be involved with everything at East, especially Harbinger. If you ever need to find her you can probably go to her bed and find her online shopping. Read Full »

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