Dorie s Story
Charleston, SC USA
"I’ve always been someone that is very open with my emotions. I’ve never had a problem telling anyone how I feel, almost, sometimes, to a fault. Some people shy away from that sort of thing. We’ve been trained as a society to hide how we feel. The hardest part in telling my story is probably deciding where to begin...
When I was little, my mom liked to describe me as 'intense.' Emotions have always impacted me in an incredibly strong way, and it’s not hard for me to get swept up in intense feelings of sadness, anger, or even joy. I'll even cry when I see kittens. All of this is to say that I’m simply not the kind of person that shrugs things off easily. If I feel something, I feel it with every part of me.
My dad developed his alcoholism when I was 13. Right before my eyes, I watched the man who had been my role model and protector turn to someone who would come home from work unable to walk. Emergency rooms and plastic vodka bottles became the norm, and to this day, not much has changed.
It’s hard to fully understand how losing a parent that’s still physically there affects a person. We aren’t supposed to watch our guardians deteriorate while we’re still children- they’re supposed to be the strong ones. We’re not supposed to have to step up to the plate at age 14 and be there for our moms who lose their partner. But that’s what happened to me- it just became a fact of my life; a norm that I wouldn’t come to terms with for three more years.
Around the same time, I decided to go to boarding school across the country for high school. It had been my dream since I was 12: the gorgeous campus, the amazing teachers, and the opportunities I simply wouldn’t get if I stayed home. Adjusting to high school with an unstable home environment is difficult enough. But, doing it when a girl in your class who you thought was your friend decides to make you her bullying target? That is even harder.
My situation at home got pushed to the wayside as I struggled to make friends. The same girl went behind my back and told everyone not to be friends with me. She’d pick on me in front of groups of friends, and I slowly but surely became someone that not many people wanted to be around. Ultimately, this bullying climaxed my Junior year with 'Yik Yak', an anonymous posting app, which blew up on my campus.
Serious, untrue rumors had begun to circulate about me and I watched as people would post mean things on the app for everyone on campus to see. The night it all culminated, I hid in my dorm-room with the door locked, the lights off, and a towel under my door, shaking, crying, and seriously concerned for my physical safety.
I began to see my school therapist, who I seriously believe saved my life. The bullying had begun to affect me in the classroom: I was constantly anxious to the point where I felt I couldn’t speak up in class or approach groups of my peers in social settings. I would go back to my dorm at the end of the day and try to do my homework. I would wind up in tears feeling as though I physically couldn’t complete the assignment. I knew the feelings were irrational, but my anxiety was more powerful than my rational thoughts.
My therapist helped me to work through the traumas, and to realize that I was capable overcoming them. She helped me to see that the things that happened to me were horrible, but they didn’t have to define my life. By my senior year, the bullying stopped and I was able to feel happy, calm, and safe on a daily basis.
Even though it doesn’t affect me constantly like it used to, my anxiety is still a significant part of my life. I still frequently have moments where I feel the familiar pit in my stomach, where all I want to do is hide in bed instead of facing the outside world. I still get anxious in groups of girls, and even though it might seem unfair, I spent years training myself to disassociate from girls who I thought didn’t want to be friends with me, so now it’s sort of a reflex.
But, I’ve gotten so much better. I absolutely don’t want my story to come off as a sad one. Yes, I’ve had struggles in my life, as we all have had. But, I felt compelled to share my story because my anxiety, my invisible illness, is absolutely OK, and I want others to know that theirs are as well. Do I wish I didn’t have anxiety? Of course I do. But without it, and without what I’ve been through, I have no idea who I would be today.
Now, in college, I have amazing friends who I love and trust. I feel comfortable in class, and don’t shy away as much from new people. The days when my anxiety decides to come up are reminders of where I’ve been, and how strong I am to be where I am now."