Raising The Curtains

Madison V., Class of 2023

I can’t do this.

I am standing in front of the mirror in the girls bathroom staring into my reflection. Streaked stains run down the length of my face and my eyes are tinted a light hue of red. With a shaking hand, I brush a lock of hair that was sticking to the side of my jaw behind my ear.

I can’t do this.

I turn on the faucet and reach over towards the wall to my right, grabbing a paper towel from the dispenser. I soak the towel in the water for a few seconds and scrunch out the excess while I turn the faucet off. I try to dab off the mascara that smudged underneath my eyes without ruining the rest of my makeup. I cannot look bad for the performance; for my parents.

Anxiety took hold of me before the play had even started. This was the first time I had ever participated in theater and it was way out of my comfort zone. Ever since I was young, anxiety had a tight hold of one of the reins controlling my life. I hated being in crowds or the center of attention. It got to the point where my anxiety was so high that I could not make eye contact with a restaurant server and I would run out of the classroom in a panic if a teacher called my name to answer a question. It was growing detrimental to my ability to engage in essential communication in everyday life.

With that being said, when there is something such as a mental disorder–like anxiety–present in a person, you have to start at the beginning. For starters, what is anxiety? Anxiety is a disorder that causes a person to have a strong, excessive fear during daily life. Generally, the cause of anxiety comes from stressful and traumatic experiences in the childhood or adolescent years such as physical or emotional abuse.

Before I got adopted in 2018, I was constantly in and out of unstable living situations; bouncing from my biological mother’s apartments to her co-workers to other family members. I did not live in one place for a long time. I moved from Maine to Oregon then back to Maine. I went to Oregon again, then to Colorado to Arizona and back to Oregon. Most of this moving happened before I was even three years old. As I reached my middle childhood years, I had to switch schools constantly and try to figure out how to live in a new place. My anxiety started to develop more strongly and it was becoming increasingly difficult to converse in my everyday life. When my anxiety and decrease in mental health began to affect me, I started going to therapies for help. Nothing really worked until after I started living with my adopted parents. When I moved in with them, I finally had a stable living environment that was safe and healthy. They encouraged me to do activities that I enjoyed and to try new things. Everybody that I had lived with before never seemed to put as much effort as my parents did in trying to help me get over my fears. I started doing things I had never thought I would such as horseback riding, playing violin, and theater.

Being on stage always seemed scary to me because the performers have to be in front of a large audience and they are required to memorize a bunch of lines. What if they forget a line or what if they trip over something? I had always wanted to be an actress but my nerves always got the best of me. When I started branching out and began trying to help my anxiety, I decided that I finally wanted to try theater like I always wanted to. In seventh grade I auditioned and made the cast for the play ‘Dorothy In Wonderland’. I was really nervous because this was different from everything I had done before and I thought I would fail. I doubted myself throughout all the rehearsals but in the end, the performance went really well and I made an important realization.

I can do this…and I did it.