Tether Ball

I am the youngest of four; two sisters and one brother. So as you can imagine, my brother really wanted me to be a boy. But… I was a girl.  

But I wasn’t the typical girl that enjoyed making flower crowns during recess or having her birthday party at Girl Mania.

I played handball.

And I played a lot.

I was the queen of the court. Yes, I am not kidding. I was second in command to the kid that beat everyone. He was the only one that I couldn’t beat. It was pretty awesome.  

I would spend all of recess and my time after school learning how to hit the perfect slider (if you played handball, you know what I mean). I was so hardcore that I had a scar on my left hand because I played so often.

But before I go on and on about my mad handball skills, I should probably tell you how I got there.

You see, I used to play tether ball.

But one day there was this awful girl that was beating everyone at tether ball. And she wasn’t afraid to tell everyone about her skills. So little scrawny Elyssa stepped up and thought she could take her down.

I was wrong.

The most vivid memory I have of this game was this girl yelling as loud as she possibly could in my face that she won. She was screaming. I think the birds fluttered from the trees because she yelled so loud.


So, I moved to something I could do, handball.

Now, yes, I know this girl was crazy. She was easily the meanest fifth grader on the planet. But I think she was on to something.

What if we yelled at anxiety this way?

Fast forward to this year, and my counselor asked me this impactful question:

If anxiety was an actual being outside of you, what would you say to it?

I had never thought of it like this.

So often my anxiety feels like it is taking over control of my body. It starts as a fear, then turns into worry, and then manifests into an alternate reality that feels like truth. It feels like I can’t escape it. It causes my mind to be trapped unaware of the situation and the people around me.

But what if I could tell it to leave?

When my counselor asked me that question, I slowly responded as my words became more heightened and more empowered…

Umm… I would tell it to leave. I would tell it that I am sick and tired of it controlling my life. I would tell it to GET OUT OF HERE.

I felt tears stinging my eyes as I searched for an explanation behind these emotions.

Fear is a natural response. We all feel fear. It is what triggers us to either fight or get the heck out.

But fear doesn’t need to have the driver’s seat. It doesn’t need to control my every thought, my every action, nor my every moment. It can sit on top of my car, for that matter. But it can’t drive the car.

This new realization has changed a lot for me. I have learned that I have power and control over anxiety. It doesn’t have to control my every move. I have power over it.

Some days I can feel that truth take place in my life. And other days it takes everything out of me to try and recognize that fear is trying to take control yet again.

This is anxiety. This is not reality.

This is my phrase that I utter to myself whenever anxiety begins to grab control. Sometimes it brings peace. Sometimes I can’t even get the words out.

But I am on this journey to begin to call out fear. To scream in its face like the girl playing tether ball. To take control of my tether ball court. To yell at anxiety…


Elyssa Schultheiss