The Theater (must be said in a British accent)

For those of you that don’t know, my sister and I are both adopted. My adoption has never been kept a secret from me, but it is not a topic that my family dwells on. “She gave you to us because she loved you” and “we are so lucky to have you” are phrases I have heard my entire life. I am not ashamed of my adoption. It makes me proud, but, at the same time, it has held me back. I never felt unloved or unwanted, but it is definitely the cause of abandonment issues and extreme anxiety.

 As I got older, my parents started noticing that I always found excuses not to go to slumber parties or on Girl Scout camping trips because I was afraid to spend the night away from home. I was constantly afraid that my family might leave while I was away or that something horrible would happen to them or me.  I could not bring myself to even sleep at my best friend’s house, which is less than a block from mine. My anxiety held me back from wondrous trips with my friends and even my family, all of whom I trusted. Even with a big personality and big dreams, the idea of leaving home or changing up my routines was crippling. I remember learning about the dangers of lead in my fifth grade science lab, and it made me so afraid that I would never walk over a part of my carpet in my own room because I was absolutely sure that lead had touched it. I lived in a perpetual state of terror; almost as if I was going to stop breathing. I was always on alert for anything that could possibly go wrong.

The only time I felt “normal” was when I was performing; playing piano, speaking or acting. Ironically, I never spent the night away from home until I was fourteen, but I could perform in front of three hundred people with hardly any anxiety. I love the feeling of letting somebody into my world of performance, where the only things that matter are under my control. For me, performing was, and still is, the only place where I can channel my nervousness and have something beautiful become of it. Performing was a way for me to become somebody else, which I desperately wanted to do. I always wondered what it felt like to be able to spend the night away from home, or even to smell oleander without worrying I would be poisoned. Through theater, all of the characters that I played, whether it was a ditsy British girlfriend or an angsty teenager, I was able to leave my world and enter a new one. My characters were a perfect escape for me.

Unfortunately, every day cannot be a performance. Since I was four, I have felt like an outsider, and I hate that my anxiety makes my parents worry about me. I knew I felt troubled a lot of the time, and a small part of me thought it was because my biological mother did not love me enough to keep me. As I grow older, I like to think that she loved me more than anything because she selflessly gave me to a loving family. I will always need the thought that someone else out there is rooting for me. 

At Dickinson, I’m doing way more theater than I thought I would. Through the department, I have made incredible friends and had wonderful experiences like the KCACTF in West Chester, PA or scavenger hunts that we can’t call scavenger hunts because they’re illegal in Pennsylvania.

So to my friends at school and at home, my director in high school, and my piano teacher since I was 8, thank you. You have helped me more than you will ever know, and you all mean the world to me.

Don’t get swallowed by snow!

~ Addie

 

What it Feels Like

Everyone experiences anxiety. We have to, or we would all get hit by a bus or eaten by a lion or something. But I do know that I am not the only one who thinks OK YOU MADE YOUR POINT GET OUT. Anxiety affects everything. It made me not able to focus on homework or eat or sleep, or even call my mom. And it sucked.

For me, it starts with restlessness. Whether it’s beginning a new assignment that stresses me out, or going to a new place alone, or even calling or ordering take-out. I always hated calling people or doing anything alone. At school during the “periods” I always felt like I was going to cry, and my heart would start beating too quickly and my hands would shake and I couldn’t shake the thoughts away. Breathing wouldn’t work, and then the panic attack would come. It felt like my heart was on fire and a hippopotamus was sitting on my rib cage and crushing me. It was in these moments that everything I had ever learned left me. I would call my dad weeping, so scared that it would never go away and that my friends would stop hanging out with me because I was a burden.

They said the same things every time.

“You are so loved, Addie, and you are never alone.”

“We are here for you no matter what, and you are going to get through this.”

“You got through this before and you can do it again, I promise you.”

Part of me knew these were true. I had spectacular friends at school and at home, and my parents are quite possibly two of my favorite people on the planet, even though they can definitely get annoying. They’ve been through their own periods, but I think at school they finally understood how bad mine actually was, and I hated that I made them and my little sister hurt. But when you’re in the throes of it, everything feels like a lie and it feels like you’re breaking. Even when I knew my friends were having a hard time adjusting too, it felt like they were just bending but I was falling to pieces and I had run out of glue.

I remember when my mom came back up after parent’s weekend, and we were sitting on the beautiful porch at the B&B where she stayed. She said, “adjusting is part of being an adult, Addie, and you’re doing great!” I looked at her and said, “being an adult sucks, and I’m not even paying taxes yet.” And it’s true. There’s a list about the most stressful things humans go through. Number one is death, and two is moving. Tell me about it. But I nested. I made my room comfortable and I took things from home that I loved.  I had pictures of all of the important people in my life hanging on my wall, and a picture of all of my dogs together on the dock in New Hampshire. And I had a team.

What I’m trying to say is that it gets better. And you always have at least one person in your corner, fighting for you, even if it’s a gesture as small as sending you a picture of your cat or wishing you luck on a test. During the periods, it feels like you’re ending, and you don’t remember that it goes away or that you are never alone. But it does and you too have a team. And when the period is over, you have proof you can do it, and that you did in fact do it again.

Noli timere, friends. Breathe deep.

~ Addie

 

Hello lovely friends,

Thanks for clicking! I don’t want to assume anything, but I’m going to go ahead and say that you clicked on my link because you know me or my parents or a friend. Aren’t they great? I like them a lot and they have good taste.

Okay, so to begin, I’m going to explain the title of my site, “noli timere.” In 2013, a famous Irish poet named Seamus Heaney, as he was being taken to the hospital, texted the Latin words to his wife right before he died. It means “don’t be afraid.” When it hit news, my dad called me and told me, and I liked what it stood for- he looked death in the face and knew he wasn’t going to make it, but he wasn’t scared. (SIDENOTE: if you know my dad, you know he gets very easily emotional, meaning he cries like a baby literally any time of day, and naturally, as we hung up, he chokes back tears and says “noli timere, Addie.” And I rolled my eyes and hung up. But I digress.) I spent most of my anxiety-ridden junior year looking for “the perfect quote.” I found a lot, but nothing I liked as much as noli timere. So it stuck. Eventually I want to get it tattooed, but my parents said I can’t get any more piercings or any type of body modifications until I am 25, or they won’t pay for school. And let’s be honest- I need them to pay for school.

It also is what got me through my first semester of college. I’ve always had extreme issues with anxiety, and I was really nervous about leaving the comfort of my home and my three fuzzy dogs and my mom and my baby sister who isn’t a baby anymore and my town and my friends and also actually having to work. But I moved in, and I was fine for about three weeks, and then the first “period” hit.

It was only for four days, but it was awful. I could not stop having panic attacks, I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping, and when I did I would wake up in a panic and call my dad to learn how to breathe again. I even had to leave class a couple of times- shout out to Professor Hudson for being really understanding. Eventually it passed, and I kept on going. Two weeks later was parent’s weekend, and for the whole three days I was a wreck. I couldn’t stop crying, and every time I thought about them leaving again my chest would get too tight and I couldn’t breathe, or even imagine making it through the 17 days until I would see my mom again. The time came, and it was worse.

The second period was excruciating. It was even shorter periods between the panic attacks, and none of my tools would work to calm me down. Two days into the week, my mom came back with new medicines, and the comfort that I desperately needed to get my life back together and also maybe eat food. My mom stayed for a week. She held me when I cried, which was every hour basically, calmed me down during the attacks, and helped me get back on my feet. After she left, I felt okay. Not good, but I was eating and sleeping and getting back to “normal.” When I saw her a week later for fall break, I’d never been that happy. I had made it. I was in the clear. Right?

Coming back was hard. I didn’t go home, but I had seen my cousins and gotten used to being with my mom again, and I was afraid I was going to spiral again. I was about the be in a play that I was excited about, but I was worried that when I had my free time back I would lose it. It was a rough week, but the show went up, my best friend came to see it, and it ended and I didn’t freaking die. Which was exciting.

I was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder, a panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. All of those things I could have told you, but it was so nice to finally have a diagnosis, that my shrink at home hadn’t told me at all. I didn’t feel crazy any more. I haven’t had a panic attack since October 29. Yeah, I know the date. All through the episodes, I was writing “noli timere” on my arm and ankle, planning my tattoo for when I’m 25. I asked my parents, but they unfortunately didn’t change their minds on the age. But it’s my thing. I have nothing else figured out, but I found my quote and it works for me.

At the end of the first extremely dark tunnel of my life, I thought I would write about it. This post didn’t go in depth as I wanted to, but I want to share my experiences, both good and bad, and my coping skills and whatnot, in hopes that they can help someone who needed them as much as I did. Also, it’s my website so I can put more in the next piece, so stay tuned!

Here ends the first post. Thanks for reading! I need to Google pictures of really cute hedgehogs now.

~ Addie