In 2017, freshman Natalia Eddy was preparing to arrange classes for the beginning of her sophomore year. She had thoroughly planned out each classes she’d sign up for during registration at Community High school. Suddenly, with a swift and surprising approach, Eddy was experiencing an anxiety attack.
“[Registration is] a situation where my biggest triggers are set off,” Eddy said. “There’s chaos, uncertainty, and crowds. You’re constantly thinking ‘am I gonna get these classes?’ and you have run around a small room with a bunch of people you don’t know-it’s terrifying.”
Eddy, now a Junior, has been dealing with anxiety since she was in sixth grade –after she had started experiencing panic attacks. That year, the attacks continuously got worse, up to a point where she would experience them on the daily. The repeated attacks were then predicted to be a result of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which she was later diagnosed with.
“I was always the shy kid at school,” Eddy said. “I always had a whopping two friends [throughout] the six years I was there.”
Over the years since, she has slowly been learning to overcome the attacks through specialized therapy.
“Things are actually looking pretty good,” Eddy said. “[This year] has easily been the best [year when it comes to me] being in my comfort zone.”
Eddy has said she’s been experiencing fewer panic and anxiety attacks. The significant change behind her stress is primarily from her therapist Jodie-who she has been seeing since the summer of 2018. She also credits becoming more familiar with her surroundings.
“I feel like this is the point where I’m finally able to settle into high school,” Eddy said. “I’m comfortable with myself, I know how everything works and I have a good group of friends.”
A part of Eddy’s therapeutic successes is being able to face her biggest fears that trigger anxiety. So far, she has been able to cure her phobia of needles.
With help from Jodie, she was able to help Eddy rid her fear in around two months. They are currently using the same strategies to face her other fears through exposure therapy.
When they were using exposure therapy for her fear of needles, they used objects with a similar resemblance to needles and would gently poke at Eddy’s arm. They first started with a syringe and then through time, the object’s nozzle was replaced with something smaller and thinner.
“At first it was freaky,” Eddy said. “I poked myself once with it, and it neared the feeling of a shot. And of course I’d freak out, but over time, I’d use them (needles) more and practice (poking them on my arm) by myself.”
Now Eddy and Jodie are working on curing her of her other phobias such as death, spiders, and dogs.
Her fears of dogs and death are results from an incident where she almost died as a child.
“[When I see a dog] I feel like the earth will shatter around me,” Eddy said. “Seeing a dog off leash is something that sends me into full panic attack mode.”
However, it used to be much different. From the time she was a baby until she was four, Eddy’s family owned a dog named Phineus. He then, unfortunately, passed away. Within a couple months after his passing, Eddy suddenly developed a phobia of dogs and cats. Her phobia of cats eventually faded after she fell in love with the Warrior book series as a young girl. However, her fear of dogs still remains, and the reasoning may be from an awful event as a child.
“I almost died twice,” Eddy said.
Eddy was born with a diaphragmatic hernia and had holes in her organs.
“My ribs collapsed, I punctured a lung, and my diaphragm fell through my intestines.” In order to fix those areas, she had a large surgery. Nine months later she had a follow-up surgery and a large complication happened. The complications started after she had started coughing up blood. Eddy’s panicked mother insisted she was dying and needed medical attention-soon after the doctors were able to confirm she was.
“I’ve been through a lot, and have scars all over my body from tubes and incisions,” Eddy said. “But, because I was able to high-five death, I’m very scared of it or that the complication could happen again because it could.”
Even though she’s been through a lot. Eddy is determined to rebound her attacks and continue her exposure therapy sessions.
“It’s hard to feel the pain as sharply as you once did,” Eddy said. “We’re now working on my panic attacks and self-worth to see how anxiety and my OCD work into that. But until then, things are just going to get better and better.”