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My "Guardian Angel:" A Personal Essay
I often found solace within the possibility of my own guardian angel; the concept of some “divine being” hovering above the clouds and pulling all the strings eased my busy mind. The intertwining fibers would have linked to each and every one of my limbs, pushing, pulling and guiding me throughout the days of my adolescent life. I frequently let my body become completely limp, leaving only the thin, feeble strings to carry my weight. That divine being looked down from the sky and noticed my head rolling to one side, my arms dangling loosely below me, and my weary mind gradually shutting down as he took the reins, my stings in his hands. My control melted away. Absolute command was his.
Several years rolled by without my true acceptance that this “divine being” was far from a guardian angel. In fact, he had a very different name - a name that I am still familiar with today. He is anxiety. And he has a dark, shadowy agenda. One day, at an Intensive Outpatient Program, a counselor decided to give my anxiety a name. She said it would take some power away from my anxiety disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Upon consulting with my friends from the group, we creatively crafted my anxiety disorder as a faraway star in the night’s sky. This star’s name was Manson, the most evil of evil names, my friends convinced me, and I was told that he was the “divine being” I often let take hold of my marionette strings.
My anxiety, with the formal name of Manson, whispered in my ears throughout the years as it tugged at my threads. One string was pulled and I made lists about how to achieve perfection. Another sting was pulled and I formed routines of how to stay absolutely clean. A tight pull and I tried for perfect grades - a quick tug and I placed everything in its order, alphabetically - an unexpected push and I walked a certain way - a rough jerk and I spoke a certain way. All it took was one swift move on anxiety’s part and I was convinced that I needed to breathe a certain way. It became impossible to function at all. I began finding myself sliding down bedroom and hospital walls, battling for a breath in the midst of a panicky mess.
It was time to battle the anxiety.
The time I spent fighting Manson’s compulsions was one of the most confusing periods of my life. Why was I fighting the only aspect of my life in which I felt I would gain a comfortable control? Manson gave me a twisted hope when I felt poorly about myself. It was my way of overcompensating and covering up various insecurities I had collected over the years regarding my body and personality. It was a quick fix to my incredibly low self worth. I was discovering what existed deeper beneath the surface of Manson and it was painful and much more difficult than simply hanging loosely by his strings.
One day, at the same Intensive Outpatient Program I attended, I described my frustrations about my unsure relationship with anxiety to a close-knit group of friends. After I spoke, one of my closest friends recommended that I imagine a rocket shooting to the sky and exploding the Manson star as a reminder of my power over Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, even when it seemed to dominate me. I laughed.
The next day, the same friend seemed particularly distressed, but did not speak. I wrote her a short note on a post-it and handed it to her while no one was looking. “I don’t know what is bothering you,” it read, “But I hope it goes away. You are perfect.”
The following day, I walked into the program and found a beautifully crafted poster of a rocket lying on my backpack. On it was a simple little phrase: “Hello, I am alive and lovely.”
I made it my life goal to constantly remind everyone around me how alive and lovely they are. And I began with myself. Every day I make the choice to live and fight the OCD. I have a team of incredibly crafty weapons against my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and they keep my lovely little feet planted on firm ground.
A lovely little rocket will always be hanging on my wall, reaching a compassionate hand for when I will most certainly need it in the future. It is the reminder that, through all my incredible successes and all the impossible hoops of anxiety I jump through on a day to day basis, I am always breathing and stunningly alive. I have taken anxiety’s challenge, but the challenge of anxiety has not taken me. My name is not, and will never be, Manson.
It is still comforting to think that I might have a guardian angel, shooting me off above Mason and all its surrounding stars. This “divine being” is a handcrafted poster of a rocket ship hanging in my room, and it kindly states in bold letters “Hello, I am alive and lovely.”