As a teenager, it's assumed I still don't know much of anything. And it's true! I'm not an expert in anything and I think learning is continuous from the day we're born until the day we die. There is always more to learn. However the plain assumption that because I'm a teenager I can't be experiencing certain things or my opinions and thoughts should be discounted--especially when it comes to my own body.
Six years ago I was sitting in a movie theater when suddenly my heart started racing and I legitimately could. not. breathe. I sat and struggled for what felt like several minutes before taking a sip of my drink, which calmed me down a bit and allowed me to start breathing normally. It was honestly one of the most terrifying experiences of my life thus far, and the reason I still get nervous any time I go to the movies. This kind of attack happened several times a week, sometimes several times a day, for a good two years before I finally got the attention of an adult. It was three years ago now that I realized I had a pretty severe caffeine allergy. Before realizing this I figured these attacks were just my life now. I even began to think about death--I just figured one of the attacks would kill me. That's how bad it was: I was preparing myself for death at 12 years old because of my allergy that nobody took seriously. Now, it's not all the adults fault. I was still very timid at this time and didn't push the issue enough. I haven't had one of those attacks since the day I quit consuming all caffeine and that's only because I finally got up the nerve to insist to Mom that I wasn't crazy.
Before we go any further, I have to explain. My mother is one of the best adults I know. She's very open-minded and answers my questions honestly and truly, truly cares and loves me. I know this. But it's true, whenever I would bring up my fears about this thing that was happening to me she'd insist it was all in my head. It wasn't, clearly. Now, I don't hold any sort of a grudge against Mom because she didn't know! And I don't blame her for not taking me seriously, pre-teens, especially pre-teens like me: anxious and a serial hypochondriac, aren't taken seriously. I was constantly told to "stop googling your symptoms" and "it's all in your head" by everyone, not just Mom. Eventually I worked up enough nerve to basically yell it at her--and she payed actual attention. Since then, no allergic reactions.
And yet....I still didn't feel "normal". I began to wonder if everyone experienced the trouble breathing I had sometimes or if it was just me. I also began to develop some anxiety issues which totally didn't help the whole hypochondriac situation. I tried to take Mom's previous advice to get out of my head and stop thinking about it. I joined the scuba diving club at school--yet the proposition of being so far under the water with a limited air source scared the hell out of me, and aggravated my problem. Just before I was supposed to take my final dive to become completely certified, I backed out. Several months later I was diagnosed with asthma. Since then I've tried my hardest not to let any of this, the allergies or the asthma, to interrupt my life. I have my inhaler always and I've become an expert at calming myself down from an anxiety attack.
I think one of the biggest things I've faced during the past few years is trusting my instincts. Something kept nagging at me, something kept telling me that I wasn't okay and I was right. Now, I'm not saying that every twinge of pain you have or shortness of breath getting back into shape after summer break is a sign of an underlying something. But we as teenagers are so often told that our feelings aren't "valid". They're true to us--that's all you need to prove that they're true. Telling a teenage couple that they're not in love because they're not old enough to be in love yet won't stop them from thinking they're in love. And who's to say they aren't? They may be, they may not be. They may be in what they consider love now and 30 years down the line will look back and realize it wasn't even close to the love they know then. It is not for anyone to tell anyone else that what they're experiencing isn't true.
So....to wrap up this soapbox of an