Oh NO! It’s The Dreaded First Day!!!!!

First day of what????  Well, for some of you, its the first day of school.  Others, maybe you are starting a new job.  Whatever the case is, anxiety runs rampant on these days. There are many issues that people face on their first day, and even after times goes on, like bullying.  Bullying is no longer just an issue that goes on in the classroom, but goes on in the workplace too.  With the internet, there is all kinds of harassment and bullying that can be done, which can cause many to be anxious to go back to work after their weekend, or back to school after a summer off.  Maybe it has nothing to do with bullying, but you are starting at a new school or a new job.  There are many new faces, new procedures, new workloads, new environments.  So many new things that its overwhelming and you break down.  Or, what if you are just returning to the same school after summer break and you just feel anxious.  How on earth are you going to survive the first day?

Deep breaths.

It may not be easy, but it’s easier than you think, and it can be done!  Trust me.  I am a person FILLED with anxiety and first days were always NIGHTMARES for me!  I would start getting all worked up almost a week or more in advance!  I would get physically ill and my stomach would have a mind of its own.  But, after the first day was over, I felt a little better and by the end of the first week, I felt a LOT less anxious.  How did I make it through the first week, let alone the first day?  Well, here is a story about a younger Bipolar Hot Mess!

I’m 32 (almost 33…YES THAT’S MY REAL AGE! I WILL ADMIT IT!) I have survived 4 years of high school, 5 years of college, went to work in corporate america for a few years at 2 different companies, landed in the hospital 7 years ago this past Saturday, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and sent to a partial hospitalization group, when 4 months later, I started my first day of law school.  That is 13 First Days that I survived.

When I was younger, I had anxiety about the first day of school every year (actually, about every single day of school in high school was woken up to with anxiety), I have had anxiety about my first days of work at each new job because I was going to be working in law firms with big cases and important clients, where my mistakes could be detrimental to a case and thus our firms reputation and their relationship with the client (talk about feeling a little bit of pressure), but nothing compares to my first day of law school.

Day 1 of law school.  I was still in my partial hospitalization program learning how to manage my bipolar disorder and other issues during the day and so I was going to law school in the evening as a part time student.  We would have one class per evening Monday through Thursday and each was 3 hours long.  Well, it had been 4 years since I had been in school, so I was terrified beyond belief!!!! I was also having major issues with socializing because I was just starting to come to terms with my diagnosis and I felt like I was wearing a big red “B” on my shirt, like The Scarlet Letter, announcing to everyone that I had bipolar disorder.  I was 27 years old and fairly young compared to the others in the class since it was night school; however, my I brought my Hot Mess flair with me as I walked into class with my bright pink laptop case and my law school issued backpack full of my books. (Picture Elle Woods on her first day at Harvard.) I walked into the huge classroom and I purposely chose the table closest to the door.  Why did I choose there?  Because I knew that at anytime, the anxiety might get to be too much and I would need an escape route that was quick and as minimally distracting as possible. It was a fear of first year law students that drawing attention to yourself would likely get you called on in class and that was the last thing I, or any 1L wanted! I did NOT want to be called on and then look like an idiot if I didn’t know the answer or didn’t answer it correctly!  That would cause even more anxiety than what I had experienced just attending the class itself.  So, I sat by the door which brought me comfort and I made sure I knew where the bathroom was located so I could easily run and hide if panic or anxiety took over. Escape route in place, I took deep breaths until the class began.

Class began and within the first few minutes of his introduction to the class the teacher took one look at me and called on me to answer a question. I was not surprised since law schools generally have a more predominantly male enrollment and the legal field in general, as it pertains to attorneys, is predominantly male.  But, having worked in law firms for so many years and gotten one bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and my other bachelor’s degree in Paralegal Studies, I knew the answer because it was a question related to basic legal procedure. I answered it and when the professor declared I was correct, the room looked at me kinda baffled. I apparently was not what I seemed.  (Again, picture Elle Woods from Legally Blonde)

The classmates then found a respect for me, but despite that, I still kept sitting at the table by the door. I always claimed it was because it had an outlet to plug my laptop into and my laptop had an old battery and wouldn’t last the whole class unless plugged in, but it was not for that reason that I chose the door. It was my safety net and my safety zone. Even though I was no longer afraid that I would make a fool of myself in class, I needed that safety net to quash the anxiety.

Find your safety net, whether its a seat by the door, or by the window so you can look outside and focus to something out there. Maybe it’s a rubber band on your wrist that you snap when you feel yourself getting anxious and need something to catch your attention or focus;  whatever else that makes you feel calm (deep breathing, a few quick meditations), have a back up plan. If the situation starts to get too overwhelming, that is how you will make it through today, and not just today, but the rest of the year. And the year after, and after. There will be many more first days to endure as life throws out more and more opportunities to all of us, but even as we get older, those first days of classes, first days at new jobs, etc.,  can still cause the same kinds of anxiety!  The key is being prepared with what to do when the anxiety strikes!



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