For whatever reason, up until a year ago, I never really was able to give myself credit for anything I did.
During my freshman year of high school, I struggled a lot. It was taking me 7 hours to complete homework that should have taken much less. I struggled to balance that with swimming and eventually couldn’t take it anymore. I was diagnosed with ADHD after my freshman year, and spent the rest of high school trying to bring up my GPA from that. I went through some issues with my father’s affair when I was younger that have affected me ever since I was young, especially as I grew up and began dating. Around the same time as my ADHD diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with anxiety disorder. I began taking medication for ADHD which had some nasty side effects and fought the anxiety myself. The days felt so long, but I distracted myself with all different activities.
I began swimming for one of the best teams in New Jersey when I was 8 years old. I pushed myself day after day and spent hours in the pool while maintaining my grades and a social life. After being .16 off from the national team cut for the 100 butterfly in 8th grade, I became obsessed with reaching that goal. My anxiety affected me majorly in that sense- I would get dizzy and experience panic attacks every time I was behind the blocks to race.
My freshman year was tough, but I managed to get through with a 3.2 GPA. I swam varsity all four years as well as competing for my club team at the same time. Being the best swimmer on my high school team was an honor, but it was a given in my mind. I had been swimming for 10 years, and most others on my team hadn’t. If I wasn’t one of the best, I would have been doing something wrong in my mind. I wanted to do better. I wasn’t able to improve in swimming, which killed me. I was so close to what I wanted, and my mindset was keeping me from being able to do so. I gave myself no credit for the hard work I did, I just resented myself for not doing any better.
My sophomore year was better academically, but the anxiety about competing continued. I was not getting any better in the pool, and my panic attacks got worse by the minute. I put so much pressure on myself to drop time, that I couldn’t focus on getting there because I was so negative. That year, I began writing for my high school’s newspaper and magazine. I did some great work that I was recognized for, but it wasn’t good enough. I continued to be one of the fastest swimmers on my high school swim team, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t good enough.
My junior year, I began writing for a nationwide swimming news website. One of my posts reached 55,000 social media shares. I’d been writing for my entire life, and my writing, to me, was just okay. I was shocked that my work was accepted and reached so many, but I considered it luck. The anxiety in the pool continued and I was starting to give up hope. I didn’t think I could beat it. In my mind, I wasn’t nearly strong enough, and at that point, fast enough, to improve ever again. My grades were going up slowly but surely, but I didn’t consider that an accomplishment because they should’ve been high enough all along. I only blamed myself for not doing well enough freshman year.
Senior year, I became the captain of my high school swim team. I had put pressure on myself to receive this honor. I was one of the fastest swimmers on my team and I served as a leader to my teammates in the past. I didn’t give myself any credit for that, either. I was named a head editor of our school newspaper as well as editor in chief of the literary magazine. My co-editor in chief and I did some great work, but that wasn’t good enough either. Despite the severe anxiety I experienced when competing, I went on to accept a scholarship to compete at a Division I college.
Even my freshman year here, I did some great things. After four years of not improving in a single event, I finally broke all of my lifetime best times at our conference meet freshman year. Even that wasn’t good enough. I was relieved, but I told myself that I should’ve done that a long time ago. My job writing for the swimming news website finally began to be paid. My college GPA was much higher than my high school one, achieving Dean’s List first semester. The summer after freshman year, I accepted an offer to be a paid intern for a company in Connecticut. My resume already had a great head start. For whatever reason, I believed that these things were expected of me and didn’t give myself even a little bit of credit.
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed when I realized that I deserved credit for all of these feats. I had to look my obstacle in the face and tell myself that I was strong enough to move past the fear and anxiety that I experienced. I was forced to look back and reflect on all of the things I had pushed through and achieved despite the pressures of anxiety, ADHD, and growing up in general. Once I finally began to look from a different perspective, I realized that everything I had endured up until then would help me overcome this new challenge. I realized that for years, I had been stronger than I ever thought I was. Pushing through mental illness can take all of your energy. Being a serious athlete is a huge commitment.Some say talent comes naturally, which, in some cases, is true. However, acting on that talent and sharing it with others can be scary and difficult. Sharing your words with others isn’t a given, it’s an accomplishment. It takes work.
I wish I had taken the time to be proud of myself every day. I would have lived my life with gratitude and happiness. I would have been more confident and equipped to deal with the cards I was dealt.
Of all the challenges that came my way, being diagnosed was by far the hardest. However, it was also the one that changed my perspective. It’s the one that I give myself the most credit for.
Ever since I started seeing things differently, I have been so much happier. The littlest things make me happy these days, and that’s exactly the way it should be. Love yourself for everything you were and everything you are.
Did you ever notice that you always get through those things that you don’t think you can handle? You’re so much stronger than you think you are. Give yourself credit for your everyday accomplishments. No matter how small. Even just getting out of bed on those days when you feel like life is too much. Your life will be lighter, your confidence will be stronger, and your challenges will look smaller.