Letter to a Freshman

Felicity Wenger, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Freshman,

I know how intimidating high school can be. Going from the top of the hierarchy in middle school to the bottom isn’t necessarily fun. Surrounded by a little under three times the amount of people that were previously surrounding you can be overwhelming. Not to mention those kids mostly consist of the scary upperclassmen. Now add the difficulty of finding classes in the maze of hallways, teachers whose expectations are higher than ever, and the cacophonic privilege of Hawk Hour. If your social anxiety is sky-rocketing, don’t worry; so was mine.

I’ve struggled with social anxiety for as long as I can remember, but I wasn’t diagnosed with anything until the summer following my sophomore year. For a while I refused to believe I had any sort of problem. I figured I was normal and the doctor’s were just over exaggerating, as they constantly push mental health tests on kids in today’s society. However, as I’ve gotten older and realized I have a tougher time coping with the stress of social situations, I’ve accepted the fact that I do have anxiety.

Freshman year was when I had my first panic attack. Currently I’m the top dog in newspaper, editor-in-chief, but then I was just a staff writer for the newspaper. About every month, we hold a deadline night which consists of a “family” dinner, lots of laughs, and an insane amount of work to get the issue we’re working on finished. This was a concept I was unfamiliar with, but got the hang of it as more and more deadlines came and went. Then the senior issue came around. I hadn’t even started an assignment, as I was unaware it was assigned to me, and very last minute was alerted that I needed to get said assignment done. Too afraid to ask for help, I suddenly lost it. 

Hyperventilating and crying, I had to step out of the room. I was followed by my advisor, Mrs. Kirk, and an old friend, Melanie, but I was unable to get my words out even to them. I felt like I was drowning, wheezing between each syllable with tears rolling down my face. That was the most vulnerable I’d ever felt in my life.

I brought this story up not scare you, or even to prepare you for a possible panic attack, but to let you know that you’re not alone. Confrontation continues to be a challenge for me today. I catch myself wondering why I’m unable to have the confidence that others have, but this way of thinking should never be discouraging. Even those who don’t struggle with social anxiety feel the pressures of public speaking. 

I received a really humbling anecdote from someone in my English class the other day. This person would never be someone to get nervous for any public event in my eyes, but I found out I was wrong. I confessed that I was nervous for an upcoming speech and he responded, saying even after taking speech himself, he still got nervous for speeches at times. I didn’t take his comment for granted and my speech ended up going really well.

Social anxiety tests me on the daily, but I never let it fail me. Everyone has rough days, but knowing I’m not alone in my fight has made me feel much less guilty about having my attacks and anxiety in general. I’m willing to talk about my experiences now that I’ve come to terms with my anxiety, and I love connecting with others who share my struggles. With all this considered, I have grown, but still have so much more growing to do. Therefore If you aren’t on the same page as me, don’t fret. Just know you’re not alone in your struggles and if you ever want to talk about your social anxiety, there are people out there just like you who will be willing to do so.