During my adolescence, I developed anxiety. When it first came up, I had no tools to deal with it and had outbursts at school. Also, because I have autism, I had difficulty communicating what I needed. The anxiety would get so bad at times that I would rip out my hair, scream as well as bite, hit and scratch myself. I basically did what I had to do to distract myself from what was going on inside me.
At that point in my life, learning independence was not an option. Having a job and learning how to drive had to be put on the sidelines until I could get my stress under control. I needed a lot of help from my family and school. At home, my family helped me relax after going to school.
At school, my support system was my team, which consisted of my paras (teachers who stayed with me throughout the day to help me come with stress), the autism specialist, the speech pathologist, my case coordinator, my resource teacher, my parents and many others. These people helped me get through high school, and were my family away from home. I don't know how I would've been able to get through high school without them.
Over the years, I learned how to cope with my anxiety. By my senior year, I barely needed any help from my paras. Graduation day soon came and I have never been so proud in my entire life. I always knew I would graduate and go to college but I could never envision it before. It felt so surreal. One of my paras (Mrs. S), who is like a dear friend to me, gave me my BREATHE key. She was proud of me as were many others.
Now I look at the key and think of all my successes and the people who helped me get there. It is a reminder that you can do anything you set your mind to, as long as you have the right people to have your back.