Elizabeth W.

Second Place Winner

The air seemed to have gotten thicker and my limbs felt numb. I was having a panic attack. Unfortunately, these attacks were common for me because I had severe anxiety. Anxiety caused many problems in my life, but the most devastating was my complete lack of confidence. My low self-esteem was a curse, but I found inspiration in a book by Meg Cabot, called "1-800-WHERE-ARE-YOU." Even though it was not a book of literary merit, I was able to learn from the characters and their experiences.

My inspiration from the Cabot book would seem foolish to anyone unless they had prior knowledge of my struggle with anxiety. I cannot recall a specific moment when my anxiety developed, but I can say it appeared around my freshmen year in high school. I began to have a fear that I would get sick with cancer. I couldn't sleep because I had convinced myself that a tumor would grow; I couldn't even hear the word "cancer" without starting to shake and feel faint. My life was defined by a rare illness for a healthy teenage girl.

My fear of cancer quickly led to a fear of everything, including my peers. I felt I was such a horrible person that no one would befriend me. School became torturous because of this. I did nothing except bury myself in books and television. However, one day I was reading a book and it made me look my fear in the face.

Meg Cabot's "1-800-WHERE-ARE-YOU" series forced me to evaluate my life, and my fear. In the books the protagonist, Jess, has psychic powers and uses them to locate missing children. Jess is a confident, cocky girl. She has an incredible gift that could make her feel like an outsider, but she didn't care what her friends thought of her. I had a few things to learn from Jess. After reading this book I decided I wanted to feel better.

I believe the decision to fight was the biggest step in my recovery. It was not magic; I did not stop having anxious thoughts suddenly. It was a never-ending battle to fight my anxiety, but my determination did pay off.

After a year of therapy, I finally felt more confident and less anxious. I certainly owe much of my success to the book Cabot wrote. It was not a book of normal merit, but it taught me the most important lesson of my life.

I still fight my anxiety every day, and I accept that I probably always will. However, I am able to face my fear directly now. Today, I am a senior in high school and I am finally starting to trust other people and make friends. I feel confident in myself because I can see how much I have faced in my life. Meg Cabot's book will always be a reminder to have courage, even when facing life's greatest challenges.