Teen credits Day One with helping her tackle anxiety and depression

 Sydney's mom, Colleen (left), reached out to Day One for assistance for her daughter, Sydney (right).

Sydney's mom, Colleen (left), reached out to Day One for assistance for her daughter, Sydney (right).

When Sydney was 13 years old, a complicated surgery was looming in her future. She soon would be traveling to the Cleveland Clinic, where doctors would surgically slide a bar through her ribs to fix her curved sternum, which was pushing backward into her esophagus and heart.

"I was struggling to deal with my feelings about both the surgery and school," Sydney told a crowd of more than 300 people at Oakland Family Services' May 1 Building a Brighter Future Breakfast. "I kept watching YouTube videos about my surgery, fixated on worst-case scenarios. There was a 80% chance I would be fine but there was a 20% chance of complications and I was obsessed with that."

In addition, Sydney was suffering from severe anxiety, having paralyzing panic attacks at least once a week in school and was dealing with health issues from asthma and acid reflux.

“My racing thoughts told me I would get bad grades, fail high school, not get into college, never get a job and end up homeless on the street,” Sydney recalled. “I was scared. For a while I thought, 'OK, this is normal,' but then I started to suspect that this was not how I was supposed to function.”

Sydney tried to hide how alone and worried she felt but finally broke down one day and told her mom, “I need help.” Her mom contacted Day One, a program of Oakland Family Services.

“I honestly had no idea what was going to happen to me,” she said. “I could not imagine how I was going to get through it. And then I found my therapist. Kellie.

“Kellie calmed me from the start. She gave me tools, like grounding and deep breathing, to help with anxiety before I had a panic attack. She helped me learn to interrupt my negative thought patterns about worst-case scenarios and replace them with positive, calming thoughts. She listened and I improved.”

Luckily, Sydney’s surgery went well, but during recovery her anxiety returned, this time coupled with depression and anger. Even after she physically was doing better, she hid in her room, which felt like her only safe place.

“I cried at the thought of going to school, and my anxiety and depression were making me physically sick,” she said. “I was missing school and my parents started to receive truancy letters. I wasn’t participating in any school activities, and I was alienating my friends. I did not want to get out of bed. I just wanted to lay there. It felt like my problems would go away if I just stayed in bed.”

However, Sydney knew she could come back to Day One.

“I know that the issues I experience with anxiety and depression sometimes necessitate the help of an expert, which is what Kellie is for me," Sydney said. "The assistance I received from her, and from Oakland Family Services and Day One, has helped me so much, it’s difficult for me to put it into words. Kellie is there, no matter what, and she always has ideas and tools I can use to feel better. It’s kind of like how I had my safe space in my room, I have my safe space in her office, too.

“If I had not found Oakland Family Services and Day One, I would have been in my bed 24/7. I would have been failing all my classes and would have had no friends or involvement in extracurricular activities. Instead, I rarely miss school and am now getting straight As. I’m on the principal’s honor roll. I am playing volleyball, which I love, and am considering running track. It turns out that my acid reflux was being caused by my anxiety and now, I’m off that strong medication. I have let my family and my friends back into my life. I am using what I am learning so I am improving, every single day. I don’t even want to think about where I would be if I hadn’t gotten help. Instead I had Oakland Family Services and I feel so grateful for the difference they have made in my life."