I was in the 9th grade. I was crying on Mrs. Boyuka’s math test. Not the kind where you are sitting upright at your desk crying, I literally had my head down in my arms on the desk soaking the piece of paper. I’ve been memorizing numbers like a computer coding system for as long as I can remember but understanding them is just something that is not a part of me. I picked up my head finally, with my hood up, and every time a student walked in front of me – sitting front row and center trying to be a good learner – to hand in their paper I just cried more in shock and shame wondering, “How are they doing this? How do you know all of these answers? How are you done so fast?” And I don’t think I knew a single answer to that entire test. I remember handing it in completely blank.
I don’t remember Mrs. Boyuka saying much to me that day but she sure as hell said something to my Mom who was teaching slightly disabled students down the hall because there I was, in the doctor’s office after school that same day.
I don’t remember many precise moments of anxiety throughout my life but I have a weird history of throwing up a lot all four years of high school. It actually became the common joke amongst my two best friends and I, that if just about anything would happen, I would probably vomit. I also don’t remember ever sharing those things with my parents either. It happened at weird times when they weren’t around.
“She has anxiety,” said Dr. Cadet, “I can give her something if you want.” None taken, we went home.
I played a lot of sports – at least one per season. It didn’t matter what the sport was: soccer, track, softball, volleyball, boxing, I would sweat in the car on my way there or walking to it. I always had butterflies in my stomach and the few parts about crippling anxiety I do remember are all the times I idiotically used every last drop of my adrenaline in one sprint. I would learn to control that later in college. In high school, I hit a wall within maybe ten seconds of any initial gunshot or whistle in sports. When I say wall, I mean every minor to major muscle in my body turned into concrete, the skin on my face had the same sensations as people I hear about on ecstasy, my chest physically moved outward abrasively to accommodate the harshness of breath, and it made me lose a lot. In track, I accepted not being very good and losing a lot of races under the subconscious thought, “This is who I am, I have a body of concrete adrenaline.”
We got home from the doctor’s office and my mom hadn’t decided if she thought we should medicate my anxiety. She wanted to talk to my Dad about it. This is the same visit that caused me to become labeled learning disabled, inclusive of time and a half and separate location whenever I wanted it. Those accommodations followed me into college where I decided otherwise for myself after year one and dropped all of those documents, offerings and assumptions out of my life. I would need nobody, nothing, no help from anyone. I would control my life.
My Dad came home. The man that never took medicine on broken legs, a broken skull, stitches, body part removals, lost teeth, insomnia, any illness, all until the age of 68 when he suffered three month long pneumonia and finally swallowed some antibiotics. “Len,” said my mom, “Sara has anxiety. She can’t function at school, she cries in class, I think we should get her medicine for it.” Regardless of what I wanted, which was unknown after a traumatic day at school, uproar is what happened next. Instead of responding to my poor mom, which was completely disregarded all together, my Dad stood up from the kitchen table, looked at me, and asked determined, “What are you so worried about?” My answer didn’t matter. He pointed his finger at me, his voice rose, and he said, “SARA! THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU!” He moved his finger aim from me to his own brain and continued, “YOU HAVE – TO LEARN – HOW TO CONTROL YOUR MIND!” I teared up, I knew he was right but I didn’t know how to do that. To be honest, I never even tried that. My Mom got frustrated, she knew he just did not believe in 99% of all medicine or the jumping to conclusions that we need medicine at any given time. She began an argument, he yelled again, “SHE’S NOT TAKING ANY MEDICINE! FORGET THE DOCTOR! THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HER!” My mom stopped, left the room. My Dad sat down in the only chair I’ve ever seen him sit in in my entire life at the kitchen table. It was between the short side of the table and our long bay window and wall. He sat with his legs facing next to the table – they only went underneath it when we were eating – and he rested one tired hand on his head, the other arm around the back of the chair and watched the birds eat from his hand made feeder out the window.
I left the room. My anxiety, medicine and that day never came up with my parents again.
I hated adrenaline at the time. It made me lose so many things and I wanted to be good at everything. It even made me a mediocre student. Without realizing it back then, anxiety is what caused my adrenaline. There is a lot of power to be had when one feels the exact moments of that physical transition: From anxiety to adrenaline. With a lot of other given circumstances in high school, anxiety pretty much ruled me. Back then, I could not control the transitions. They happened whenever they wanted and they were exerted by me jumping at them. I was a puppet. I remained a puppet from the 9th grade until my sophomore year of college when things started changing, I felt sparks go off in my brain a few memorable times. Each spark was like a slap from a sergeant, and I would not be the person I was before it again. Ideas from education and life began racing through my head so often, writing them, talking about them and developing them was like a race. If I don’t execute fast enough and the next one comes I miss it, and then I miss that one and then I miss more and I had so many things to do and accomplish. I had a slap in study hall once, I had to tell my teacher my thought. I had a slap while I was driving on Anderson Hill Road in Purchase, NY and I had to call my mom and tell her we were going to be financially okay forever, I had a slap while I was on the treadmill once and I would control my level of exhaustion from then on, they just kept happening.
My sophomore year of college was a lot of electric inside me. The beginning of the year, we were in preseason at soccer practice and I was still hitting my concrete, spider-crawling-face walls. It was the day of the fitness test, and thinking I was ready for that one mile exam, I was so amped up before the whistle that my arms and hands were visibly trembling and my future captain actually said, “I can’t even run next to you or I am going to throw up.” And she moved backward. I was like a disease, so nervous that I even made other people nervous. I thought I was going to do well.
Then, it happened again. I thought I had gained some control of my concrete body over the summer – running alone, training alone – and there I was… losing to over 20 girls running. I should have placed fourth that year. In college, you shouldn’t even make the team at an 8:20 mile. But, my coach knew better about me, my abilities in general, and an 8:20 mile called for an office visit immediately after practice that day. Coach was shocked, I was and I wasn’t. Shame was all I felt, I let anxiety win again.
I left the athletics complex, walked back to my room, and I could just see my Dad’s face from that day almost five years ago. “THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR MIND! YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR MIND!”
Junior year, I didn’t play for the team for a multitude of reasons, but I did play more than ever, alone again. I would train myself to break a 6:30 mile and run for up to ten miles at a time sometimes. I would run so long that during the run all I could do was try to control my mind like a psychologically gifted person from the movies trains their mind to move and levitate things without touching them. I would do this with anxiety, I would play with it.
I could think things that brought it on and when I got it to come on I could either quit or I could wage war and make a decision. I would make anxiety come on so many times in one run that I had trial and errors. I would go through one mile of my muscular concrete and just not stop running, anything to remain in even a trot, and then I would make it come on again and again and I would notice my facial sensations and I would push them down like rain inside me and push it into my chest and my legs. I would get electrical-feeling-shocks in my chest, not like a chest pain but like a shock that escalated my heart immediately to five or six extra beats per minute. Then I would get through another mile and make myself nervous and anxious again and then I could move the sensations in my face to electrically shock my heart and decide I was happy, not scared, and then something morphed. Then, I had adrenaline, not anxiety. The heat came back to my face, it filled my arms perfectly from my shoulders to my fingertips. Anxiety became the puppet. Now, I was in charge.
Another mile. I did it again. Nervous, stiff and tingling, then control, then the concrete softened, my heart could operate around 190 to 210 bpm for longer durations, I was amazing, not ashamed, and I could run faster longer. Finally, I went on a run where I remembered I use to run one mile in 8:20 under pressure and now I could run six miles at a 7:14 pace and no one was going to tell me I couldn’t do something. I began to control my mind, which thus led to controlling parts of my body.
My senior year I went back to the team. We had a new head coach and the fitness test was slightly different but equated to over a mile. I placed second and I could still break a flat 6:30 mile at around 6:27. My senior year I graduated the season as the “Minute Leader on the Field” playing all 90 minutes of every single game all season with the exception of sitting, I think, 49 minutes between the very first 2 games. While I attribute most of that to our head coach who was previously our assistant coach and favored my work ethic significantly, I would never have lived out his expectations had I not learned how to run for 90 controlled minutes without needing a break. I can recall times my entire line would get subbed out, or the entire team over the course of a full game, and it was never my turn. My brother use to scream on the sideline, “No break for you number 2!” I would be hunched, hands on my knees trying to recover, and he would finish with, “GET UP!” or “YOU’RE NOT DONE!”
Decision time. The game would go on and I would bring on my anxiety for the adrenaline all over again. It’s weird to be able to egg-on your own problem, tease the problem and then bully it. I did it exhausted moment after exhausted moment until each game was over. It was the only way I would last. Literally, anxiety became my toy. I would need it to survive in athletics from then on.
I use it often even at the age of 25. I still exercise at least 60 minutes per day and though I can go through phases where I lose control of anxiety every now and then, get into funks or something “bad” happens, it does not control me ever – even the times I lose control. Now, sometimes we both just go in spirals together, play off of each other, but I have never let it over come all of me ever again, never let it decide for me that I will or won’t win. I can still run under a 7 minute mile and though I haven’t run 16mph in quite a few years I am positive I could again if I decided it was time.
I live in the mindset that I do not need anybody, though I know I cannot accomplish a plethora of things alone. I believe that I can do anything that I set my mind to, truly, and I believe that all things are a decision or the outcome of one. I believe there is a God and a science that made me this way. I firmly believe that if I medicated my anxiety all those years ago, that I would have suppressed a gift.
I can learn and I can do. To medicate a personality is to silence a gift.
I have been employed in some way since the ripe age of 12 or 13 as a babysitter. On May 21, 2009 I landed my first legal job at Subway in Windsor, NY and then in 2010 moved to Long Island [only] during the summer to earn larger income as a waitress living with my sister - a living and working pattern I continued for 3 summers (on the Island). In 2015, I graduated from Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY with a Bachelor's in Communications & Media, where I was an NCAA DIII women's soccer player. With the support of my family and scholarships, I worked my way through college as a nanny, bartender and waitress, and a housekeeper. After becoming a first generation college graduate in my family, I moved to Wilmington, NC to become an American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer (ACE CPT) and National Academy of Sports Medicine Youth Exercise Specialist (NASM YES) for O2 Fitness until 2017. On February 13, 2017, Health Possible Inc. was awarded it's Articles of Incorporation and then it's 501(c)(3) status and by July of 2017, I quit my CPT position and was conditionally accepted into East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine for a Masters in Public Health, which I sorrowfully deferred for my finances and the well-being of my relationship. I was quickly recruited to work in private education administration where I currently am the Upper School Office Manager and the Director of Student Activities (leading community service and internship programs) while I am still focused on Health Possible Inc.'s self-sufficiency and success.
Health Possible Inc. was founded from facing front-of-the-line duty situations, daily, where people could not afford to prioritize themselves through personal training. The model of Health Possible Inc. is designed to medium the expense of preventive healthcare practice for those willing to commit and are ready to change with less financial means - and vise versa - take those committed and ready to change who cannot afford preventive care and bring them to professionals looking to fulfill their career missions to educate, train and counsel.