Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community, and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
I’ve been dreading this speech for years. Why? I could just talk about people who have shaped and helped me, like my parents or my little brother. I could talk about a game I played in. But someone told me my senior speech should be about me and my bigger story, my struggles and achievements. Everyone has a story, but only I can tell my own. I’d really rather not, but here we go. This is my story.
When I was six, I began playing soccer, not because I had a ton of energy or seemed like the “athletic type.” I was a small, skinny kid who clung to her parents like glue, terrified of talking to new people. I did not have a lot of confidence and shriveled under pressure, but I was different on the soccer field. Soccer gave me a new sense of confidence and pride, and I was actually kinda good at it. I could be myself with people who shared a similar interest. Soccer seemed natural and came easy, where most other things did not.
When I was twelve, I joined a new team and started middle school. There were new kids, new teachers, a whole new schedule, and a new way of doing things. I was petrified. I felt pressure to fit in and succeed. It was a lot to handle for a measly twelve-year-old. My body agreed with me. I threw up almost every day before school started for almost a full term. Even soccer, a game I had grown to love, caused me extreme anxiety, to the point where I couldn’t make it through a game without throwing up several times.
Finally, I decided to ask for help. I saw a therapist who immediately diagnosed me with panic disorder. Basically, my body’s response to stress and pressure is to throw up. Gross right? Imagine the butterflies you feel before a big game, then multiply it times ten and add a nauseous feeling in your stomach. I had to fight this every day during practices, games, and conditioning sessions. I was constantly worried about whether I’d be able to get through each one.
As I got older, I learned how to cope with my anxiety. I wasn’t throwing up every day before school, but I still had problems during soccer games. I was frustrated because I could not figure out why my body was this way. I just wanted to play a full game, but my anxiety didn’t let me finish one without getting sick. I had to accept the fact that this was who I am and deal with my problems head-on instead of running from them. By the time I was fourteen, I had gotten hold of my anxiety to where I could throw up at halftime and still finish the rest of the game. For me, this was progress, and I started to take back my life by learning how to get nervous without getting sick. Then, I decided to really pull myself out of my comfort zone, and move to boarding school.
My first day at Shattuck, I threw up in the trash can outside of the dining hall. I knew no one, was afraid of speaking to strangers, and had zero confidence. Sound familiar? But my teachers and coaches were kind and accepting, and the people around me taught me to enjoy life and not worry so much. Anxiety is still very much a part of my life, ask anyone on the girls U19 soccer team, and soccer still causes some frustration, but at SSM I have learned to love the game again, and I have realized that I am capable of accomplishing more than I ever thought possible.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with anxiety or any other mental illness, I encourage you to talk about it, do something about it. There is no quick and easy fix, but life can get better. It all begins when you have the courage to ask for help. Thank you.