Anxiety, Orthostatic Intolerance, and I

I want to share with my readers more about myself. It seems apparent to me that the only place to start is with my anxiety and orthostatic intolerance. These two things have been a huge part of my life ever since I could remember way back in first grade. Am I implying that these two things have run my life? Certainly. Until now, that is. However, I will dive into that later.

You are probably wondering what orthostatic intolerance is. Well, it’s pretty common in teen girls. That sudden lightheadedness and dizzy sensation you feel when you step out of a hot shower? Momentarily clouded vision when you go from laying down to standing up too fast? That is a taste of what orthostatic intolerance is like. Orthostatic Intolerance is where my blood pressure drops, usually due to low sodium intake, and thus providing a lightheaded feeling. Occasionally, it leads to me fainting.


If I haven’t ate that much salty foods in two days, I’m going to have an episode. Also, too much caffeine causes an episode. Some of the doctors I went to called it pre-syncope. Syncope means you have fainting episodes. I would always get the sensation of feeling like I would faint, but rarely did. These episodes could last anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. It is horrible. Often, I would find myself wishing to faint so I could get it over with!

That is the orthostatic part of my life. The more dominant part is my anxiety. Standing in the line at the cafeteria and BAM! I have to keep moving, whether it’s shuffling my feet or swaying back and forth, I can’t stop moving because if I do, it feels as if the world will disappear and I’m left in a state of panic. Going through that in the first grade was tough. There is no telling how many days I have missed of school because of similar happenings throughout my school life.

Next major even would be in the fifth grade. I had a teacher that I loved and she ended up moving to another state during the school year. Our new teacher was okay, I guess. I immediately noticed something different about myself. My stomach was in constant knots whenever I thought about or was attending school. The thought of it was almost unbearable. “DON’T GO IN THAT CLASSROOM!” screamed in my mind everyday.

I started “skipping” class and staying in the library with some of the coolest librarians. However, there was yet another change. The silence bothered me. The sound of movement was music to my ears. After a few weeks of this behavior and going home from where I was unknowingly making myself sick, I was transferred into another classroom. The change was tough and the agony of new people, more silence, and a new teacher was hard, but just what I needed.

Then there is middle school. Fifth grade started a tradition. Every new school year brought weakness to my knees, pain to my stomach, and vomit to my throat. Silence was not appreciated nor welcomed anymore. I couldn’t stand it. What most would consider a peaceful work environment was Hell for me. My legs were uncontrollable in a bouncing rage. But! I was still able to concentrate and do my work. I tried to ignore my anxiety.

Always have I known that I was a nervous person, but I wouldn’t have classified these feelings under anxiety. Well, that all changed once high school came and it wasn’t for the better. My episodes with Orthostatic Intolerance were getting worse. Cardio appointments were made and everything seemed fine. The doctor gave me a few tips that should lessen the extremity and frequency of the episodes.

That worked…for a little while. I lost fifteen pounds in roughly four months. Apparently, that is a no-no for a ninth grader. My doctor told me that I did not need to drop below 125. I never have, but I couldn’t help it. My nerves were making my lose my appetite. Everyday in that year, I ate a pop tart (just one) for breakfast and a granola bar for lunch. Sometimes, I wouldn’t eat anything for breakfast. However, at dinner I ate just fine.

Those damn EOG/EOC tests were almost the death of me. The silence during that time was unbearable. I honestly don’t know how I was able to remember my own name, much less the material I learned throughout the year.

Back on track, tenth grade my episodes increased. I was still able to manage them pretty well. Eleventh grade nothing was working. I was missing school nearly every other day. In the dead of winter, I was sitting less than two feet from an open window wearing jeans and a short sleeved shirt and I was burning up. It felt as if it was 100 degrees. Not only was I freaking out because I was having these hot flashes, I felt as if every eye in the classroom was on me. I sat in the back of every class so that was not happening.

No one paid attention to me, yet someone had to notice how my legs wouldn’t stop moving. I kept fidgeting in my chair. I was sweating in 35-45 degree weather. I couldn’t focus on anything thing. My nails were digging into my skin for a distraction, hoping to break the skin. I HAD to escape that room that second, but fear of being noticed when I asked to leave kept me rooted in my seat and the torture continued until I absolutely couldn’t take it anymore. I got permission and bolted out of the room.

Progressively, my anxiety grew as well as my stress. Eventually, I missed three straight weeks of school and was withdrawn. That was terrible for me. If a B or less appears on my report card, I’m the girl trying not to breakdown in tears. The school social worker recommended a therapist who also recommended a psychiatrist. Seeing a therapist is by far the best decision in my entire life. (Thank goodness for my momma making me go!)

I am now homebound and able to finish my senior year. Yes, I’m medicated and still going strong with the therapist. This is my story, but it’s only the beginning. If you want to learn more about my tribulations with anxiety, then stay tuned. In spring of 2012, I’m releasing a memoir that will include my journal (my therapist makes me keep one) and hopefully notes that my therapist and psychiatrist have kept. I desperately want to let other teens know that you are not alone.

I wish there are more books about teens dealing with this. I do plan on writing some fictional ones as well. If you are a teen experiencing some level of anxiety and need someone to talk to, stay tuned because I have a special feature just for you.