Student Voices: Amanda
“I remember lying in bed, not being able to breathe.”
Amanda, a student at Methuen High School in Methuen, Massachusetts, recorded the following story during the 2014-2015 school year:
Hi, my name is Amanda and today I wanted to talk about my past events with anxiety and how it affects me pretty much every day. It’s really hard to talk about and whatnot because of stuff, and yeah. So I wrote maybe two pages of stuff just so I can be able to say it because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to.
So the first time I ever remember getting a panic attack was when I broke up with this one guy and then three days later he got with my best friend. I know it seems really, really silly, but I just remember laying in bed, not being able to breathe, crying, just like shaking, and not being able to fall asleep; it was a really long night.
And that’s how it feels. You just can’t breathe, your heart starts to race, and all you want to do is lay down and cry. But sometimes my vision gets blurry and whatnot, and spotty. It’s really bad because sometimes I’ll get it in class. I’ll get it in the bus, I’ll get it at home, I’ll get it in the locker room, I’ll get it anywhere and anytime. And how it works is like you can have a five to twenty-five minute period of it. You could also get it all day by just having a really high attack for five minutes, going down really low to no anxiety for half an hour, then going back up; it’s terrible. It’s worse when I get it in class because all I can do is just sit there and let it pass and hope that no one notices because you can’t really escape the feeling of that, especially while all your peers are around.
It gets really scary because I don’t want anybody else to see that part of me, I guess. I don’t tell anyone. When I told my mom about it, it was maybe a month or two ago. The only thing that I found that will get rid of it would be ice hockey but that also makes it worse at the same time due to long-term effects. Because in ice hockey, you are taught to be physically and mentally tough. You are always taught to get back up when you fall down. Because of that, I don’t really like talking to anybody about it. I feel that it makes me look weak, like crying and just wanting to get away from everybody. It all makes me sick. I just really hate that because I play boys’ hockey. You got to be tough; especially for a girl. You got to be wicked tough.
These attacks affect my school and social life. I will get one in class and do badly that day because, like I said, once you get one, it could stop that day or it could go up and down all day, so I may have a twenty minute resting period but then go back to really high anxiety levels or I just stop and that’s the only one for that day. I can’t go out with my friends anymore because I’m afraid that I might get one. We might be at the mall and I might get one. I might not be able to control it as I could in class.
I really have no clue what sets me off, so it’s really hard to stay away from things that might set me off. I remember in Spanish class last year, people would not shut up and my teacher didn’t do anything. She was a terrible teacher and she would just not do her job. So I became really nervous and I just had to leave the room. That’s the first time I ever left class like that. Otherwise, I’ll just sit there. I’ll just let it pass, not tell anybody about it. I’ll sit there shaking my leg, I don’t know what to do. My mom suggested going to the doctors and getting medicine for it, but I know that’s not going to help me. It’s going to get rid of the pain but not actually fix it, especially during presentations at my school. It’s the worst.
Getting up in front of everybody and talking. All my classmates that are recording today, they can tell you when I did a presentation a week or two ago, my face got so red. I started shaking. I couldn’t speak. It’s honestly terrible, and you can’t even do the things you love anymore. The only thing that I really do nowadays is hockey because that’s the only thing that helps, but also makes it worse. I stopped doing other things that make me happy like going out. I stopped reading, I think, yeah, because I was afraid that people would judge me and say, “Ugh, she’s reading a book. No one likes her,” stuff like that. I think that is it. So thank you for listening.
After Amanda recorded the above story, she was invited by StoryCorps to record a full-length interview to be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. She was joined by her hockey coach, Erin Shattuck. Listen to their conversation:
Student Voices: Amirah
“I valued my own heritage so much to the point that I made a life-changing thing for that, and I would never want it any other way.”
Amirah, a student at Methuen High School in Methuen, Massachusetts, recorded the following story during the 2014-2015 school year:
This past summer in August, I made a very life-changing decision. I am a born Muslim, but I was born here in the United States, in Boston to be exact. So, I am a full-blown American here. I made the decision that I wanted to wear the hijab. You might be wondering, “What is that?” Well the hijab is the headscarf that Muslim women wear on their heads when they’re out in public. I value my heritage and my religion and my culture very, very much. It’s one of my number one priorities in life. To be honest, I always had wanted to wear it since the eighth grade, but I never brought myself to do it. As you probably know, being born in America, there’s a lot of hate on my religion in the media and stuff. But to be honest, the majority of that is totally ridiculous and untrue. But still, that influenced me to not wear it out of fear of being judged. I felt like if I were to wear it, people would judge me based on my religion, and I thought they would think untrue things about me. I was just terrified of what my friends would think, what people would think, but truly, deep in my heart, I really wanted to wear it.
Because I valued what I believed in so much, I finally made the decision last summer to wear it full-time. Originally, I would just wear it part-time when I would go to the local mosque or somewhere where I was around a lot of other Muslims like me, so I didn’t feel left out. However, something changed last summer. I became friends with a girl in my class at school who was also Muslim. We got really close, really really fast. Over the summer we were hanging out and she just brought up one day. She was like, “Maybe we should start wearing it.” I thought, “Oh my gosh! This is a great opportunity for me.” I was so scared, but I thought if I had a buddy to do it with me, I wouldn’t be as judged. I wouldn’t feel left out and like a loner, that kind of thing. So we were like, “Hmmm okay, we’ll wear it junior year of high school. That’s a great idea.” But then something in our hearts was pulling us towards wearing it. Maybe a week later, we were like, “Why don’t we just start wearing it tomorrow?”
I took that leap and it changed my life for the better for sure. Now people know me for who I actually am. I don’t feel like I’m fake, because before that I felt like people didn’t know me for me. It’s very difficult to explain, but how can people even tell what religion I am if I don’t wear it? I wanted people to know, because I was proud of that. I’m very, very grateful that I made that decision.
When we first started wearing it, we went to school and I was nervous about how people were going to react. I walked in and all my friends were there from last year, and there were new people there. Nobody said a word. It was like nothing had changed. It was great and I didn’t have any problems, and I was so thankful and grateful for that. I will never ever regret that decision.
I realized that the only thing that was originally stopping me was my fear of being judged. You shouldn’t let other people get in the way of what you want to do. You can’t stop yourself from doing something if you really want to do it just because of the opinions of others. So I valued my own heritage so much to the point that I made a life-changing thing for that, and I would never want it any other way.
After Amirah recorded the above story, she was invited by StoryCorps to record a full-length interview to be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. She was joined by her friend, Nadine Shahin (below right), who she references in her first recording. Listen to their conversation:
Voices from StoryCorpsU: Gloria and Joseline
“I remember that night when you called me and said…I need help.”
Gloria and Joseline, StoryCorpsU (SCU) students at Chavez Prep Middle School in Washington, D.C., recorded an interview during the 2011-2012 school year.
Listen to Gloria and Joseline’s story below:
Voices from StoryCorpsU: Amirah
“Honestly, I just didn’t know what to do and I felt like a total failure.”
Amirah, a student at Methuen High School in Methuen, Massachusetts, made this StoryCorpsU (SCU) recording during the 2014-2015 school year.*
Read Amirah’s story below:
Last year, when I was in the 9th grade, I went through a very difficult time in my life. I have a younger sister who is currently in the 8th grade. But last year when she was in the 7th grade, there was a big issue with her. In middle school she was getting bullied by a lot of her supposed friends and she managed to fall into a severe depression with severe anxiety. She was getting anxiety attacks. She was suicidal. She had to be admitted to the hospital even, which was terrifying. It kind of made me feel like a failure because I felt like I should have known. Because she pretended she was happy but in reality she really wasn’t and she was very close to committing suicide.
So I kind of felt like it was my fault. And I didn’t know what to do. I was scared. I had never ever experienced anything like that before. And when my sister was admitted to the hospital, she was admitted to a ward for people who are at risk for endangering their own lives, and we weren’t allowed to go see her. And I was terrified. My whole family was terrified. And honestly I just didn’t know what to do and I felt like a total failure. She had been cutting herself and just doing these horrible things and the fact that me and my sister—I had thought that we were really, really close and I had no clue what was going on kind of made me feel like I didn’t know her as much as I thought I did.
But one day when we were at home, we got into a little argument because, you know, that’s what sisters do. And so we were fighting, but not like really fighting, it was more like an argument over a stupid, petty thing. And she was upset, and I felt bad. But I was angry, so she locked herself in her room, and I stayed in my room. And I was just all of a sudden concerned because I didn’t know if something I had said could make her do anything that would harm us or anything. I didn’t know what to do. It was one of the scariest experiences that I’d ever been through.
But then later when my dad went up there into her bedroom to get her out, my sister wasn’t in her room. She had somehow gotten out of her room. And I didn’t know where she was, and she had left a scarf hanging from the ceiling fan. And I was like, “Oh my gosh.” And then she had left a note on her bed, sort of like a suicide note. And what she put in the note said that what she was going to do basically was my fault. And I felt like the most horrible person in the world. I cried and I cried and I cried. But thankfully — thank God — she was ok and she didn’t have the courage to, um, do it.
So she was admitted again to the hospital and she got medication and she was starting to feel better and thankfully now things have gotten better at home. She’s more open about herself. She’s not completely better yet, but we’re on our way to that. And this event, it changed me as a person. It made me realize that I have to be careful about what I say and that I can’t just be…. It just made me a better person because it made me realize things that I say and what people say can actually really hurt people. And I hope others can learn from my experience because I would never wish that on the worst person in the world because it was the most terrifying thing in my life.
*This story was recorded at the conclusion of the “Where We’re Going” SCU unit, in response to one or more of the following prompts (which are sourced from the Common Application for Undergraduate Admission Personal Essay Component):
Some students have a background, identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later successes. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Voices from StoryCorpsU: Justin
“I had to give her a baby Heimlich maneuver because she’s not old enough for a real Heimlich maneuver.”
Justin, a student at Corliss High School in Chicago, Illinois, made this StoryCorpsU (SCU) recording during the 2012-2013 school year.*
Read Justin’s story below:
Hello, this is Justin. Today I will be telling you a story about how I had to save my baby sister’s life. It was, I think, maybe 4 years ago. She was a baby back then, and I had to keep her from eating a cotton ball. A cotton ball—I know. Don’t ask me how she got ahold of cotton balls because I don’t know either. That day I had to babysit her and her big sister, who is my little sister. Everything was going smoothly, we were all all right, and nothing was going wrong. Then, you know, she’s a baby, and the cotton balls caught her attention. You know what a baby does when something catches their attention—she put it in her mouth. She had to see if it was edible I guess.
I’m in the room, playing my game, and all of a sudden, I look over to her and she’s coughing, and she’s coughing, and she’s coughing, and she’s coughing. Then, you know, because she was a baby, I had to give her the baby Heimlich maneuver. I had to give her a baby Heimlich maneuver because she’s not old enough for a real Heimlich maneuver. I had to pick her up, flip her over on her stomach, put her on my knee and rub her back really softly then pat it every few seconds. Then once it got up to her throat, and her throat wasn’t that big back then, I had to actually stick my fingers down and get the cotton out, but I could only get a little bit.
I’m still patting her back when my grandma finally walks into the room and asks, “What happened? What happened? How did this happen? How could you let this happen?” I’m only like 11 years old, 10 years old back then and I didn’t even know how to handle it. I tried my hardest, I was patting her back and I was rubbing and then I was reaching in her mouth trying to get it out of her mouth. It kept on seeming like she was trying to resist me, and she kept on trying to put it back down her throat. I had to pat it and pat it and rub it and rub it and rub it out until I had to hand her over to my grandmother. My grandmother was a nurse, just as my mother is. My mother wasn’t there at the time we were babysitting, so my grandmother knew what to do.
She grabbed her and pulled her. I don’t know how to describe it, but she did the same thing that I did but she rubbed the back of her throat and then she told me to put my hand in her mouth and pulled the cotton out. I almost touched her tonsils. I had to get my hand that deep in her throat. I had my hand pretty deep in her mouth, with slop and blood all over my hands. Eventually it finally happens that the cotton ball decided to cough and fall into my hand with the blood. She started breathing back to normal, but my mother came to the house and she was panicking, and she still had to take her to the emergency room like a mother would. She took her to the emergency room because it was her baby and she had to check and see what was wrong with her baby. She took her there and the doctor had to put my little sister to sleep and get the cotton out of her throat by putting some sort of tube down her throat and sucking all the cotton out of her throat up through her stomach. It’s like a little tube, without pulling her intestines out, and they looked inside with a little flash light type thing to see if there was any cotton left or anything that wasn’t supposed to be in there. They found out that everything was all right with her. She was fine.
*This story was recorded at the conclusion of the “Where We’re From” SCU unit, in response to one or more of the following prompts:
Tell a story about someone who has had a significant impact on your life.
Tell a story about a place that is important to you. Paint a picture of the place and talk about why it’s important to you.
Tell a story about an accomplishment or event from you past that had a significant impact on you.