For years, Sonya Valle had a secret: Starting in middle school, she would have moments where she suddenly felt so nervous, she thought she might faint. “My heart would race, and I’d start panicking, but I wouldn’t know why,” she says. Sonya kept these feelings to herself, ashamed that there was something wrong with her. So she tried to go about her normal life. She’d act in school plays and go hiking and camping with her school’s outdoor club, without anyone having any idea that she was suffering inside.
Then, one day during her freshman year science class, Sonya had what she later learned was an anxiety attack. “My face got really hot, and my whole body felt paralyzed,” says Sonya. “It seemed like the walls were closing in on me.” She left the classroom and went to the bathroom to try to calm down. When that didn’t work, she walked to the school counselor’s office.
“My counselor explained the symptoms of anxiety, and I was shocked by how many of them I related to,” she says. That shock soon gave way to relief. “Learning about anxiety made me feel like I wasn’t alone, because other people experience the same thing,” she says.