There is, of course, a myriad of choices for support for the anxious person of today. Any Google search will give you a list of things to do, symptoms, prescribed and not-prescribed help. While no academic expert, I can give a story and some personal advice as to what kept me sane.
High school was far-and-away one of the most stressful experiences of my life, and not for the usual reasons. During the economic crash of 2008, my family lost our job and our house just before I started 9th grade. We lived in the homes of church families for a year.
The first house was with the Anderson family. Their family of six was accommodating and gave us spots within their house to sleep. My parents took the teenage girl’s basement bedroom, while she moved in with her littlest sister. The youngest boy slept with his parents and the middle daughter and I shared a room. My little brother set up a bed in the open basement. There we lived for three tension-filled months.
The four of us then moved in with a foster mom with experience in sharing her space. I shared with two daughters my age, my brother slept in their homeschool bedroom, and my parents took the master. The foster mom slept on the couch where she was already sleeping to keep an ear on the babies in the nursery. We shared that space with several foster kids in our nine months there. One was a small baby who had partially drowned and remained in a coma through her short month stay with us. One a twelve-year-old boy with severe autism and clubbed feet and hands.
Two babies came through that the foster mom adopted: a tiny baby with primordial dwarfism that looked like a doll, and a baby who was left in a hotel room and rolled off the bed, ending up with a severe brain bleed. The baby with dwarfism has since grown into an active girl who speaks using sign language, and the baby who had the brain bleed is now a prodigy elementary school boy.
Our divorced family was also going through some very personal drama, and all the while the undercurrent of stress about money lived in our minds. Meanwhile, I also turned 15 and was learning to cope with a measure of adulthood, feeling lonely beyond belief in my seemingly more mature problems and pretending it didn’t exist to family and friends. We moved out into a house my grandparents bought in 2009.
Luckily for me, just a week before we lost our house I was on a trip to Montana where I bought a composition notebook on an impulse and began to write everything that was going on during my day and my thoughts about it all. During that year of homelessness, I went through four notebooks. I rarely wrote about the real problems: hearing fights, wearing socks with holes in them because I didn’t want to be a burden, feeling like I was no matter what I did. I wrote about church drama. I wrote when I was scared or felt neglected. I learned to channel my energy to things that were easier to grasp. I’d write long soliloquys about the petty stuff and would graze over the big stuff, barely touching it.
I kept the habit up until 11th grade, when my loneliness threatened to overwhelm me and I felt that what used to be petty stuff had become big stuff. I was afraid that writing it all down would make me feel it more. I felt ostracized by my homeschooling and lost in the house we lived in. I had learned to bottle it up to keep from being a burden, so when I acted out, it always took everyone by surprise.
I now wish I had never stopped writing. Writing gave me a voice when I felt like I couldn’t talk. I’d complain about my roommates during homelessness and bemoan that I felt unworthy of friends or crushes, and it made me feel better to get it out to something that wouldn’t immediately say “That’s ridiculous, everything’s fine.” It felt like I could be me on the paper, even if I felt I couldn’t be me anywhere else. It’s a habit I’m trying to find again.
So this is me, 8 years later, trying again to get my feelings and myself down on paper. To stop feeling held back by what I “should” feel and just say how I really feel.
Here are some journaling prompts that I will use and I hope you’ll use them, too. Let me know how they go in the comments.
- What happened today that made me feel sad?
- What happened today that made me feel happy?
- What parts of today did I have no control over?
- What parts of the day did I mess up?
- What do I really feel about what today was like and how would I rate it on a scale of 1-10?
- Did today affect what I think of my future?
- If I look back on today, will I feel like it was a good/bad day still?
- Can I do anything about the situation I am in now?
- What do I wish had turned out differently about today?
- If I could make someone see one thing about how I really felt, what would I choose and how would it have changed anything?
- If I could go back and change something about the day, what would I change?
- If I was angry today, what do I wish I could have or would have said?