Have you ever met someone and just known you would always remember them? I’m kind of using the term “met” loosely here. Like, real loosely. But for me, that person was you. You see, when I was in college, I worked in the admissions office of my university. One day, I was sitting at the front desk ready to greet students and their families as they came in. It was a really average day, I was spinning around in my office chair like an idiot like I tended to do (let’s be honest…I still spin around every time I’m in a chair with wheels and so does everybody else, so we’re not judging anybody here). A group of middle schoolers started filing in through the front doors, herded in by their teachers, ready for a college visit. They all went back to the auditorium and my attention returned to my computer (and spinny chair, duh). A few seconds later, I heard someone crying. I looked up to see you, trailing behind the rest of your class with your teacher following behind you. The second I saw you, I knew why you were crying: it was anxiety. You were anxious and having a panic attack. You hesitantly walked into our lobby and sat down, shaking and scared out of your mind. You began crying even harder, begging your teacher not to make you go into the auditorium. A few of the teachers were trying to call your parents to come get you, but they weren’t able to reach them. Your teacher was getting more and more irritated with you and started to get visibly angry at you. You finally stood up, looked her in the eye, and said, “You can’t sit here and get mad at me when you have no idea what is going on inside my head. This is hard enough without you getting mad at me”. How many times I had tried to find those exact words when I was your age, but couldn’t.
Finally, your dad came to pick you up and I could just see how disappointed you were in yourself. But I could also see the relief on your face, relieved you were out of this space. Before the door even closed behind you, your teacher was on the phone “updating” the school on what happened. I was absolutely dumbfounded by the way this woman was talking about you. At one point, she even said, “She was acting so crazy, I can’t believe they haven’t hospitalized her yet”. I can’t even tell you how badly I wanted to get up and slap that lady across her stupid face, but I was pretty sure assaulting a visitor would have gotten me fired on the spot. I went against my better judgement and let her walk out of the building unscathed. I blew her up in my mind, though. And I didn’t even feel a little bit sorry.
I watched this entire thing happen from behind my computer, tears quietly falling down my face. This scene was so painfully and eerily familiar. As I walked home later that day, I called my mom to tell her what happened. I didn’t even get a sentence out before I lost it. The emotion I felt for you, this girl I didn’t even know, was something I couldn’t explain. I had never seen someone suffering just the way I had. I’d talked to people who suffered from anxiety, I’d read books and talked to doctors, but never had I seen someone (roughly the same age I was when things were at their worst) saying the same things I had thought, acting the same way I did. I even recognized your cry.
I still think about you. So often, I think about you. I wonder how you are today. I wish I could have talked to you that day. I wish I could talk to you now, even just for a minute, and tell you that I love you. I know that I am a stranger and I don’t even know your name and that sounds crazy. But I wish I could make this better for you and take the badness away, because it’s not fun. It’s hard as hell. I know that you wish you could be “normal” like the other kids in your class who are able to do things without even a second thought. Things that seem so easy for them are so hard for you, and you don’t understand why. I want you to know that things are going to get better. The things you are going through right now will make you a stronger and better woman. Someday.
I want you to know that I’m rooting for you. I pray that you have strong parents who support you and love you and try to make you happy when you’re sad. I pray that you have teachers who are better than the one I saw you with that day. I pray you have someone you can confide in and lean on. I pray there is someone who can offer you comfort, even if it’s just for a second. I pray the kids at school are nice to you even though they might not be able to understand exactly what you’re dealing with. I pray that one day you will look back on this and say, “I’m so glad that part is over”. But more than anything, I pray that you know this is not your fault. You are not defected, you are not imperfect, you are not damaged, you are not crazy. You are just who you need to be right now. You are doing your best. And that is more than enough.