• AKO

Highway Tennessee

Updated: Apr 6

Here is a short nonfiction story I wrote in my creative writing class. It's about my mental health and growth.


Until I drove the black Jeep throughout the Tennessee mountains, I did not know the fear I had, waiting within me. I did not know fear could come in waves of electricity vibrating through the beginning of your brain steam down to the end of your back, shocking each nerve in your body. I did not know fear clouded heads like they’re underwater, breathing in this water like I had gills, but suffocating instead. I did not know fear could reach out and squeeze my muscles and movements, fighting with my own body to push the brakes and pull to the side of the road. The fear made all the cars blend into the hills and all their headlights in the night blurred into one big flash.


Until I had my first panic attack driving through these mountains, I had not realized how fear could spread to every aspect of your life like a horrible virus. These panics came more and more like a thunderstorm transforming into a tornado, ready to blow down anything I built within myself. These fears sprouted like the flowers amongst the Tennessee mountains, touching all parts of conscious and unconscious thoughts. My inner monologue consisted of "you can't," "you'll die," "you're going crazy."


A simple trip to the grocery store turned into a nightmare with my scariest demons. I forgot simple things like how to breathe and not feel like a 400-pound boulder sat directly on my chest. Crowded places screamed EXIT for me. I couldn't even sit with a friend without the corners of the room crushing me in. Customer service work became impossible and people were all enemies that could trigger this fire inside that I did not know how to control.


Until I had to pull over on the side of highway I-24, I did not know how weak I could feel. The overwhelming feeling of failure turned my body, my mind, my spirit to a pile of ash. My driver’s door opened to my friend telling me to go lay down in the back; “it’ll be okay,” never sounded like a bigger lie.


Until I laid completely frozen in the back of the black Jeep, I never realized how many twists and turns the mountains had. Each bump and pothole jerked another tear down my face and hit another nerve in my body with fear. Why was I so afraid?


I had not known true self-discovery until I had a panic attack on those mountains. The climb up those mountains with the jeep was the beginning of a long journey to find what I lost. My climb and journey back to calming thoughts and self-love mending my horrible thoughts. I had not realized that being able to drive to work 20 minutes away from my home was a blessing once I was able to do it again. The mountains tore me down only for me to bring myself back up with all I got.


I had not known that the natural strength and beauty of the mountains lived in me as well. The mountains, once horrible soul stealing monsters are now my dream. I will climb and drive the mountains to their tops, kissing myself with each step I make. I will stand fearless on the peaks and scream my victorious cry that I do love myself, that I'm proud of how far I've come. All of the tears, the days spent hiding, the nights spend wishing, the emotions trapped inside, all of this was for something bigger.


My mom once said, “you have all the strength you need right inside of your beautiful body,” and that saying became my motivation to continue on.


Love, AKO

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