Living with Anxiety and Hydrocephalus

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One Young Woman’s Experience

By Madeleine DarowicheMadeleine, Hydrocephalus Association Teens Take Charge blogger

This is a blog I’ve hesitated to write for quite some time, but I think now is finally a good time to share it. In all my years of writing blogs, this is probably, by far, the most difficult one I have written, but these words need to be said.

Anxiety is something I have dealt with since elementary school. Then, in high school the panic attacks started. At college, it got to the point where things just became worse. I had to drag myself out of bed every morning to get myself to class and face the day.

Can anxiety be related to hydrocephalus? I would really like to find out. Although I am far from an expert, I think it could be. For example, I still find making friends difficult. I have always thought of myself as “different,” which I think is due in part to the side effects of hydrocephalus. Don’t misunderstand me, I do not want to play the blame game here. Hydrocephalus has made me who I am. It has allowed me to grow and become a better person.

Returning back to anxiety, it certainly wreaked some havoc on my freshman year in college. I refused to do pretty much anything alone because of feeling so vulnerable. I would only do things if someone would go with me, and that included eating anywhere with the exception of my room. So, obviously, being a hermit holed up in your room studying isn’t the way to make friends. I am fortunate that I did make a few friends, but I tried to mask the anxiety issues, I guess you could say, for fear of lack of understanding. Even those few friends knew little of the things I have gone through and continue to encounter.

Although I open up a little and explain the basic gist of hydrocephalus, many times I never divulge the details of anxiety. Why? I honestly don’t know, as I am still grappling with the answer myself. To me, it is a more sensitive topic and harder to discuss. For instance, explaining panic attacks to someone who has never had one is tough because there won’t always be a trigger. Sometimes they just happen. One of the things I hate the most is the unexpectedness. I don’t know when one is going to happen. Even though I am now used to them, that doesn’t make them any easier. I have had to walk out of things several times because of them. I am the type of person that thrives on looking very far ahead and planning, but over time I’ve realized I just need to take things as they come, one day at a time. For me, that is an adjustment, but it has to be done. While many people use their freshman year to find where they best fit on campus, I am still searching as a sophomore.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something I can just get over. The “I have too much to do” excuse can only go so far. Avoidance isn’t the practical route. I’ve been there, done that. In my second year, I have been improving in some ways, but I still have a long road ahead before I’m a “normal” college student. I am thankful to have the gift of the written word to express my thoughts and opinions, because I am not very good at explaining them aloud or talking about myself.

Ask me to write about myself, and I can give you pages and pages. Ask me to talk about myself and I forget everything, and I mean everything! I get so terrified of speaking that everything leaves me. Dealing with the social effects of hydrocephalus as well as anxiety has not been easy, but what else can you do? You have to just keep on going. I know that is much easier said than done, but it is most certainly possible.

I have recently become better about opening up about what I go through, and as I mentioned previously, I think the majority of people I have spoken with understand it as best as they can. It just gets difficult when I have to leave something because of a panic attack and I can’t really explain much.

This semester I decided to take on the role of being a peer coach for the freshmen students. Sometimes I think maybe I should have used this semester to focus on improving myself, but helping others has definitely helped me. I am realizing that no matter how many setbacks occur, eventually things will work themselves out because struggles often, in the long run, lead to progress.

HA Resources for Teens & Young Adults

If you are a teen or young adult living hydrocephalus, or a sibling or friend, we encourage you to check out the Hydrocephalus Association’s Teens Take Charge (TTC) program.

Teens Take Charge (TTC)

HA has created a teen and young adult portal which serves as a place of information and empowerment for youth. Learn more about the resources available by browsing the different pages. Consider this a virtual hangout spot and please email us with suggestions and ideas! HA has also created a place for teens and young adults (ages 12 to 25) to talk via Facebook and Twitter; go check it out! Join us and help create a community of young adults making changes happen!

If you are interested in learning more about the TTC program or would like to become more involved, please contact Megeen White.

Publications & Online Resources

The Hydrocephalus Association has a number of useful resources and publications for teens and young adults. If you haven’t already, we hope you have a chance to read these publications and visit these other organizations online.

HA Publications and Resources

Other Resources


1 Comments for : Living with Anxiety and Hydrocephalus
    • Audra
    • February 19, 2016

    Has there been any research done on long term effects, like anxiety, from hydrocephalus? My son was not diagnosed until he was 14, but had years of pressure building inside his brain…he’s now 23 and I’m certain he is struggling with anxiety and probably depression, along with some anger issues. I have often wondered if these are effects of the hydrocephalus. I’m not sure where to look for answers or research results…

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