Bricks in the Wall
When I was a child, I built a wall to contain the stress of school. Inside of it, all of my fears compiled as every year stayed the same. I wanted to do as well as I could in my classes and receive a 4.0 GPA for the semester. I was absolutely terrified to earn anything lower than a ninety percent in a class, mainly because I was dead set on showing that I was intelligent to my fellow peers. I tried not to “do anything to contradict that image” (Dweck) and as a result, I developed what psychologist Carol Dweck calls a ‘fixed mindset.
‘ Eventually, with the strain of entering high school also snapping at my heels, this frame of mind caused me to develop soaring levels of anxiety as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As a product of my fixed mindset, the anxiety that pulsed through my brain reached critical mass and ultimately led to a trip to the hospital for a panic attack. People with fixed mindsets tend to “want to look good at all times” and are afraid of anything that “holds the risk of unmasking their shortcomings (Dweck).” As I made my first feeble steps into high school, I was suddenly struck with the thought that I was incompetent and would embarrass myself in front of all my classmates. With this frame of mind, I typically shied away from every opportunity to participate in class due to the fear of being wrong.
This apprehension caused my stomach to constantly try to digest itself and one day, I found myself surrounded by bleached white walls, sterile smells, and stiff pasty sheets. One psychiatrist and a ton of anti-anxiety pills later, I learned that on top of being scared stiff of practically everything, I also had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. When the psychologist told me that I had OCD, terror immediately gripped me with its icy claws. The only thought running through my head at the time was, ‘I’m going to end up like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets.’ The panic attacks began to happen more frequently, sometimes as much as twice a day, and I had no idea what to do except curl up on my bed and let the tears try to wash away my pain.
The fixed mindset had left me with “few good ways of reacting to setbacks” (Dweck) and this led the anxiety attacks to cause so much misery in my heart that whenever I would attempt to cry, no sound would escape my lips, leaving me with nothing but a silent scream. The Obsessive Compulsive Disorder fed off of my fixed mindset and made me think that it would never end, that I would be stuck in an endless downward spiral for eternity. As a result, when I finally obtained antidepressants to help me recover, there was no glimmer of hope in my mind that said I would get better. I withdrew from my friends, ashamed of what I perceived to be weakness. I did not want to “feel measured by [my] setbacks and mistakes” (Dweck) and I was sure that if my peers found out about the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, they would shun me for being deficient.
Eventually, however, the medication began to kick in and I slowly started to realize that my thoughts were irrational. As time went by, I felt the wall begin to crumble, allowing the beauty of the world to shine through. The panic ebbed away along with the repetitive thinking and what was once a fixed mindset gradually evolved into one that was open. And although the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has not been completely erased, I no longer feel as if it and my anxious mind are trying to smother me. For “all in all, they were just bricks in the wall.”