I know I’m young, but I think I can say that I’ve had a good bout of ups and downs. My “downs” started in sixth grade. I had panic attacks every day at approximately 11:20 am, and they would last until 1:35. Who would’ve thought—my OCD was so intense that I was even anal about timing my anxiety attacks!!! Impressive Hannah… obv. I would have to excuse myself from my Physical Science class and hyperventilate through the hallways until I made it down to the nurse. Being in the nurses’ office made me even more anxious because I was afraid a fat kid that ate too much cafeteria food would just walk on in and start vomiting practically everywhere and then, as a sympathy-vomiter, I would vomit everywhere as well, but I’d be simultaneously hyperventilating so I would choke and die. My mom would come to school, every day, and she would usually bring me a diet, caffeine-free coke and a plain bagel with cream cheese. I wasn’t really eating those days (because I was afraid that I would vomit it back up) and, so, I would habitually refuse the food.
Together, my mother, the two school nurses, and I would ride out the panic attack through its peaks and drops. I swear to Hashem, one of the nurses would take me on walks around the school “to get fresh air” like I was a small, pure-bred dog. Eventually, the panic would fade and I would have missed half of science, my full lunch and Spanish periods, and half of Language Arts. I would amble late into class, exhausted after the episode, every single day. This is probably why some of my best writing work was done as an eleven-year-old. My poems about tumultuous friendships and raps about my “carefree” (yeah right) persona were truly phenomenal.
In sixth grade, I let my problems control my life. I was even nervous to leave the house most of the time. Eventually, my daily panic attack ritual faded and I became a normal child again, gaining a solid 25 pounds back that I am yet to lose. Some days I wish I had panic attacks again because, wow, was that an awesome diet. But in all seriousness, I do still get anxious once in a while. And when I do, it is scary. Over the last seven years, enduring an awful lot of work, therapy, death, love, heartbreak, therapy, and therapy, I’ve made the grand attempt at finding balance. When I spent the past summer in Turkey, I told myself that I wanted to find something because I felt it was the perfect opportunity to pretend my life was a movie. I knew that I wasn’t finding myself, and I didn’t plan to. But I wanted to find something. I think, in hindsight, that something was balance.
But, of course, balance of what? For me, it was finding the balance between ignoring our problems and highlighting them. We have been raised under the impression that ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power. Attaining both of these “things” is utterly impossible… enough to send me into a sixth-grade panic attack all over again. When I hyper-focus on my issues, I’m labeled as a JAP-py drama queen by my mother and a total bitch by everyone else. When I ignore my problems, I let people walk all over me in an attempt to be “chill.” So many things come into play here. Is it more important to let others be satisfied than to put up a fight and, admittedly selfishly, be happy all alone? And even more importantly, are we letting our problems control our lives? Or do our lives control our problems? Which is the correct answer?
I was clearly a high-maintenance child. One of these defining qualities involved my hatred of water. I thought that water tasted disgusting, and I tried to avoid it at all costs. I liked most other beverages like Shirley Temple’s and strawberry milk and pretty much nothing else, but I absolutely despised the taste of water. Especially when I drank it out of a glass. Today, I’m so obsessively concerned with the idea of “balancing my glass” somewhere between being half empty and half full. Maybe I’m just going to pour all of my water out because I don’t even like the taste of it. My soy iced chai cup is always full, and at the end of the day, that’s what I’ve got to be thankful for. Amen.