Navigating High School As an Anxious Teen
This week’s featured graduation address comes from Hailey Warhol, a 2017 graduate of Simon Youth Academy at Northgate Mall.
Hailey is the recipient of a two-year scholarship, valued at $8,000.
She will attend North Seattle Community College in the fall, studying Art, Music and Drama Education.
We wish Hailey all the best in her future endeavors.
Hailey’s Graduation Address:
My name is Hailey Warhol and I have been asked to share my story with you all today, which is something I don’t usually have a problem with. I mean, if you ask me on any random day, I will gladly recount my entire life story in great detail. But, I’ve found that there’s something about sitting and writing it all down that makes me feel like I have to do it justice and tell it right… so I am going to take a shot at this.
Our struggles do not define us, they are only a part of our narrative. What I will be sharing today is only one chapter of my story.
In the seventh grade, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, a panic disorder, depression and ADHD. That was one of the best days of my life. After years of telling people that I was hurting someone finally told me “I hear you, I know what’s wrong.” After being diagnosed and thinking back, I have never known a life without anxiety. One of my biggest fears was losing my parents, which made it hard to be away from my mother. I also developed a type of social phobia, where even the thought of school would induce a panic attack.
Halfway through my freshman year at Ingraham, I was withdrawn from all but two classes; the rest I took online. Thinking back, my high school experience before Middle College ended when a teacher I admired asked me what I was going to do when my parents died, which I had just confessed as one of my biggest fears. It was at this point that I fell into darkness. I stopped going to school entirely and shut myself away from the real world. I couldn’t do it any longer. I was tired of pretending that I was okay.
The darkness was a period of my life that lasted two years, where I didn’t leave my house. I lost contact with my friends, I stayed home, I watched TV, sorted little plastic beads and played with my cats. For about two years, that was my life.
I would like to take a moment to thank my mother; the bravest woman I know. Without her I probably would have dropped out of high school. She took on my battles when I could not fight for myself. My mother spent years fighting with schools and the district, searching for accommodations, making sure I was not forgotten. She has never given up. When I felt like people were upset or disappointed in me she’d say “They wouldn’t blame you if you had cancer.” She fought to get me what I needed so that I could succeed. She is the reason I am here today.
I don’t remember much from when I started at Middle College but what I’ve heard is that Courtney spoke with my mother on the phone for almost two hours discovering that MCHS would be my next chapter.
I started in the Home Study Program meeting once a week with a counselor named Geri Parker. We worked on classes at my pace, taking breaks to talk about our favorite shows and shared passions. With the help of Geri and Courtney I discovered that I was good at math, despite it always being my worst subject. Slowly but surely, we increased our time and began venturing out of her back office and into the classrooms.
Now you may ask “What changed? What happened,” and you know what to be honest I don’t know. One day something just clicked. I wanted to be with real people and I wanted a real life. I was done living in my imagination. My desire for friendships, relationships and life was stronger than any of my fears or worries.
That year I made the transition from Home Study to full time Direct Instruction. I joined the Japan and Leadership clubs. I met and got to know amazing people some of whom would turn out to be family. I founded the club Current Events. I represented our school by attending the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. In the last month of school, I was in charge of the first yearbook the school had in over ten years. This year, I served as President of the Leadership club and head of the Prom Committee.
I often talk about my old life like it was a past one, and in a way it was, because that Hailey, she’s gone. She is a part of me but I am not her. Climbing up from the darkness, I was able to pick up the pieces that I had once loved and put them together into who I am today. I would not be that person if it were not for Middle College High School and the people who love and support it.
Earlier I said I have never known a life without anxiety, but I feel something changing. While I will always struggle with it for the first time in my life, I feel that I am more than my worries.
Congratulations to the class of two thousand and seventeen. We did it!