Sydney s Story
“Hello, my name is Sydney, and I have anxiety. I don’t use the word ‘suffer’ when introducing my illness, because I refuse to succumb to my illness. My anxiety has taken many things from me, but has also given me things that are worth the sacrifice.
I don’t remember exactly when I was diagnosed, but I do remember when my condition reached its peak. My freshman year of high school is when I experienced my first real heartbreak. It was spring, I hadn’t been dating the guy long, but I had felt like I had known him forever. As silly as it seems, it felt real. It continued to progress over the summer before my sophomore year, with empty time, I only had time to think about it.
By this time, the anger from the breakup had turned into loathing and sadness. I didn’t eat with my family, or sometimes even at all. There were nights when I didn’t sleep, I just laid there, blaming myself for leaving someone – back then I didn’t realize it was for the right reasons.
My condition began affecting me physically. As I prepared for my sophomore year, I gave up my passion. I had been playing volleyball since I was 11, I participated in camps, school teams and travel teams throughout the year. My dream was to play for the Penn State collegiate team, but when preparation for the school season began, I realized my dream would not be a reality.
The coach had scheduled open practices, camps and clinics, most of which I failed to attend. I would get up, and be ready to go with my duffel bag, containing shoes and knee pads strung over my shoulder. Some days I couldn’t make it through the door, other days I could, but making it through the school doors was another story. I would find myself running to the bathroom to get sick. After explaining to my coach what happened, I would leave and try again another day.
When I would practice, it would have no benefit. I would be so overwhelmed and anxious that I couldn’t move and wouldn’t be able to pass a ball. I looked like a fool, like a beginner, at something I had known to do since I was 11. When on water breaks I would sit on the bleachers and grab my water, but I couldn’t drink. My hands would tremble and it was as if the whole shock went through my body and I felt paralyzed, I couldn’t breathe, the feeling in my stomach returned. Panic attack. Once I realized what was happening, I called my ride. I gave my coach an excuse about a family emergency, but there wasn’t one- just me.
After my attacks, I would sleep. They exhausted me. The attacks became more frequent and I realized I couldn’t play anymore, my mind would not let me. I stopped going to practices and quit without an explanation. I felt like a coward, I still miss playing every day.
But if I hadn’t quit volleyball, I would have never found my future profession. After quitting I had more time to explore. This was the same summer that I bought my first camera. It wasn’t much, but at the time it was everything, it was hope. For months I used my simple camera, and in the fall of that year I created a start-up photography business. That Thanksgiving I received my first DSLR camera. After months, I had finally picked what my major would be in college: photojournalism. Now, I attend a trade school where I am currently mastering my photography skills and building my career in journalism at my university.
What I want people to take away from my story is that you are not your illness. Your illness may affect you, but it doesn’t have to be a negative effect. Use it as a way to explore, find out who you are, find something that you love that helps make your bad days better, find something that combats your illness, Find your antidote. Find your cure.”
- Story and Photo by: Cheyenne Abrams, College of Charleston Campus Representative