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The Good, the Bad, and the Fearful

Anxiety cartoon

Anxiety cartoon

Anxiety cartoon

Jesenia Orozco

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There are many stories that tell the tales of how someone develops anxiety, but mine starts with a bullet.

One bullet. Just one. Its loud ringing voice is all I hear when I am frightened, and believe me, this is everyday when I go to sleep or I am alone in the house. Living with anxiety is not pleasant at all, there are two voices always battling inside my head (one good and the other bad), but it also has a way of encouraging you and strengthening who you are. It is like a neighbor that at first you do not like, since they constantly pester you, but in the end you like them because they were worried about you all along.

It just so happened that I was at the wrong place at the wrong time: the Visalia Mall shooting of 2012. No matter how many times I flip the coin, every time I look back on that day, the bad side is the only thing I can recall. All I truly remember was peacefully looking around, close to the front of a nearby shop, from where the crime scene took place, when suddenly two loud, crackling shots were heard. Of course since it was in a mall it could have been anything, but when I saw nearby shoppers running away from something, or rather someone, I quickly took a few paces forward to see what it was when someone running yelled “Bullets!” It took me a split second to understand what was going on to react, but when I turned around to grab my mother’s arm to run, I took one more glance back and saw that one bullet had hit its desired target: the victims.

My mother and I looked for a place to shelter and hide in the back dressing rooms. All of the dressing rooms were already occupied and full of women and their children doing the exact same thing, we felt a huge relief when someone finally opened up one of the doors to let us in. So in the corner we hid, and we waited, it was all so silent that all I did was prepare myself.

“This is it,” I thought, “Any second now the guy is going to come in and shoot us, and it will all be over.”

It seemed like forever, but I could not tell since my eyes were fixtured on the door and my heart was pounding out of my chest, when a police officer began yelling that it was all clear for us to come out. At first, none of us moved, but someone opened the door just a creak to confirm that it was true, and we were escorted outside.

From that day on, my life was never the same. I had become so traumatized to the point where every time I heard a noise outside my window, I would go into my parents’ room and beg them to check to see what it is.

Not long after the shooting, my parents took me to see a therapist, who taught me breathing exercises to control my nervousness. However, eventually I began to feel different when it came to expressing my emotions. Instead of just telling my parents how I felt, I began to yell at them over the smallest of things, and I began crying as that one voice in my head told me how no one could understand me, let alone understand how I felt. I also became more enclosed and less social, which brought my grades in school down for participation. My anxiety became worse that I developed a sweating disorder, in which my palms sweat whenever I am nervous, and my face turns red. This would frequently occur whenever I got called on in class to answer the teacher’s questions. It took time, but I was finally able to control my anxiety, with the help of therapies and taking part in the drama department, during my high school years.

This peace did not last long though. Last year my life changed drastically, even more than before. My father passed away, and the clouds of negativity began pouring their thoughts all over me…again. Since I am still at a young age, I began asking myself many questions to how my life will go on from this moment forward: how can I pay for college now? Who will look after my mother and sister when I leave for college? Who will pay for my sister’s college in the future or will I have to now achieve a high-paying career in order to take care of my family, when my mother can not work anymore? It is these questions that taunt me everyday, but it is the little voice in my head whom I like to call Fear who taunts me.

Every now and then, I come across many obstacles, in which my mind becomes a battlefield every time. The swords wound the good and the bad, but it is the fear that always steps forward and asks “Are you doing the right thing? Can you truly protect your family and care for them? Are you sure that your fear of failure is not what is blinding you from doing the right thing?” As tears shed down my face with what I suppose is the right answer, I begin to reflect on all those times when I thought my life was over, such as when a good soul let my mother and I in to hide in the dressing room during the mall shooting, to when I thought I could never defeat my anxiety but I did. It is times like these that help me take over the battlefield, and defeat the bad and the fearful.

I may have a General Anxiety Disorder, but I have truly discovered that even through the thickest or strongest of storms, there will always be rainbows, and as I like to say, “If you can not see one, then make one.”

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The Good, the Bad, and the Fearful