Editor's note: The Deseret News asked members of the community to share their experiences with anxiety. Read their stories here.
The interviewer was more than sweet, even worked around my crazy schedule and we finally got to speak at 7 in the morning. I have never been more nervous in my life.
I told him before we spoke we cannot talk about my past, the years prior to 2009. But sure enough after some caffeine, being up all night from nerves, the conversation went there. Which is why that podcast WILL NEVER make it on air.
On my drive home, after my interview, I went over some of the things that were said, exposing my personal struggles and things that I have kept hidden deep within. And I thought, those are my pearls/dirty laundry that I do not ever need to share. And for what? And for who? So he thankfully pulled it.
Why? Because before 2009, my life was nothing but anxiety. Friends, making high school sports teams, ACT scores, college, boyfriends who become missionaries who then come home early to try to persuade you to marry them after you dumped them on the awkward phone call on Mother's day, work, home life, speaking at graduation after making a list of all the boys you'd like to kiss before you leave high school regardless if they had girlfriends or not, and whether their girlfriends were your friends too, and then you check everyone off your list and have to stand up in front of your entire class and look at everyone in the eyes. ... DRAMA!
You see why I don't touch this subject. It's like when I talk about it, I relive it. And when I relive it, it's like I never moved past it. I have worked too hard and have the gift of time (10-plus years) where I am so far removed from it.
Now if my husband will just move me thousands of miles away from it, I'd be a peach! And I only have those feelings when I revisit those years and remember it all. Curse my good memory. But it wasn't all bad. There were times when I was able to channel my energy in a positive, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" kind of way.
For example, when dance got expensive we decided that I would stop doing dance at a studio and invest all my energy into my school dance team. Our middle school dance team was then cut from the budget, this now being my only source and access to dancing.
My two best friends and I went to the principal with a plan. We told her if we could just have the janitor open the school for us an hour and 15 minutes earlier before school started, we could save the middle school dance team. Our plan worked. We held auditions and had 25 girls attend our before-school dance company.
There were other times in my life when I had anxiety, and I didn't channel it correctly. When I was a senior in high school I had just finished my final drill season, I had been accepted on an academic scholarship to BYU. I had scored so well in both math and science on the ACT test that my credits were applied and those classes were waived in college. Which meant I didn't have to not only take those classes in college, but I didn't even have to take my AP tests for them either.
I went from being a very busy girl to doing absolutely nothing. I was asked by my assistant principal if I would like to speak at our high school graduation. Of course I did. As I was prepping my speech I started getting anxiety that I would never see my friends again. So I did something I still regret. I made a list of every boy I liked, and there were a lot, and decided before I graduate I would like to kiss each and everyone of them, And guess what? I DID!
The whole school knew about this list, bets were placed and it was fun in the moment, but it was a disaster. For many of the boys had girlfriends, and many of those girlfriends were my friends. I'll never forget when my little sister came up to me at school and asked if I really kissed her coach's (who was my age) boyfriend. I wanted to lie, I wanted to tell her I hadn't, but I had!
It was a mess. And then I had to give my graduation speech standing in front of all these people and friends I had hurt along with making eye contact with all their families, yikes! Talk about bad timing, I did not think that one through.
Meanwhile, I had a missionary in Finland who I had "Dear Johned" and confirmed our breakup on Mother's day when he called that I indeed was done "having a missionary." As soon as I graduated, I got my wisdom teeth out and while I was recovering I heard a knock on the door and my mom say "Shannon" — in the kind of tone that I knew I was in trouble, a very familiar tone to my ears.
There, on my doorstep, were four pieces of black luggage all with name tags belonging to my missionary. Was I hallucinating? Fast forward through the biggest fight of my life, my move to California, the proposal, and the final breakup when he came out and visited me to try to "seal the deal."
Talk about the craziest way to start college. But it all worked out for the best. Shortly thereafter I made the Utah Jazz as a dancer. I was getting stretched too thin and decided to quit. I was doing too much and the feeling I got when I called it quits was peace! For the first time in my life I felt peaceful and was OK about letting the dance part of me go. I just wanted to focus on going to school and work on my Mrs. Bird degree.
My current life has been busy, but manageable. Four kids in five years is actually easier and less stressful than my teenage years, honest! But sometimes I do get overwhelmed, and that is when I have to swallow my "I can do anything/everything pride," admit I can't do it all and ask for help.
And you know what? It's OK. I still get a pounding, racing heart when my kids take off their shoes and socks in public and I start panicking because there are way more of them then me. When my house is a mess and I have unexpected guests. I have just had to learn to let things go, or ask for help. When I am at church and my kids start acting up, I literally start shallow breathing and have to literally remove myself completely.
As a control freak I hate the feeling of being out of control especially in public. I literally cannot stand it. Circling back to my blog title, "teen anxiety," I, Shannon having nothing but anxiety when I go back to being a teen. I have chosen to literally block out those years completely!
I dealt with severe anxiety when I was a teen and when my mind takes me back, it all comes back out — apparently, so anxiety isn't just a teen thing. This is probably why I have always tried to run/move away from where I was a teen.
Ten years removed from that time, I have chosen the final stage of forgiveness by not talking about it. And I can see the good that has come from it instead of thinking "woe is me" or "stupid me."
Something that helped me get through anxiety is reminding myself that everyone is having a hard day in some way and instead of focusing on my problems, I like to ask (others have been known to say that I mask) myself how can I make somebody else's day better for them.
Something I used to do when I was a teen and still do to this very day is I challenge myself to look for someone who could use a hello, an invite to sit with at lunch, a ride to school on a rainy day, someone working at the gas station, a neighbor, a crossing guard, bus driver, anyone! And when I look outside myself I see how blessed I am, and how much power I have to do good in this world.
Teens are my favorite! I intentionally chose to be a high school health teacher, not so I could share my story, but so I could help other teens in their most critical time in their lives. I loved my students, and learning more about them. We spotlighted a different student every day and it always started with what was their talent.
Some students chose to share their talents as theirs were more visible to see. But I especially loved the students who claimed they didn't have any. If this happened, the classmates would then tell that student what we see special in them. "He draws amazing animation on his binder," "she has an incredible voice," "he has never missed a day of class," "she does nails in her basement," "he has 30,000 Instagram followers on his cat account," etc.
I loved when the classmates would call out amazing facts about their peers, who may have thought they were invisible. Like the time I got nominated in the high school yearbook for "having the best smile." I had always been insecure about my smile and had always wanted braces, so how did I get this nomination? And then I thought, oh yeah, it didn't say the straightest smile, the perfect smile, the whitest smile. No, it said the best smile.
Best can mean so many different things. I may never have the most poplar blog, the most followers on Instagram, the prettiest pictures, I may drive a minivan for the rest of my life, and I am totally OK with it. I can honestly say I love what I do, I love the people I share my life with, even though I have never met most of you. My wish for every person is to see themselves as special, unique and talented. No matter what your circumstance is, we all have something special to share.Comment on this story
Shannon Bird is the owner and creator of the family/lifestyle blog, Birdalamode.com. She tweets @Birdalamode. Shannon is a former NBA dancer for the Utah Jazz, a graduate of Brigham Young University, and now shares her life of motherhood to four young children — Hudson, 7; Holland, 5; Briton, 3; Brooklyn, 1 — through her blog. Shannon started her blog in the fashion niche, and was recognized as one of the top 100 fashion influencers in her first year. As she started bringing more children into her family, she opened her blog up to lifestyle, travel and motherhood.