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Greta Hayworth

Greta Hayworth K-12 photos

SIOUX CITY -- Almost 19 years ago, during my stint working at the Carroll  Daily Times Herald, I wrote a column about the arrival of the first child in our family.

The Aug. 24, 2000, morning drive to Stewart Memorial Community Hospital in Lake City, Iowa, involved thick fog that moved schools to start classes two hours late, so I used that theme in relating the joyous tale of the birth.

It cited how all parents "hope for uncomplicated development" of their children,  and mentioned "the day that had begun with a fog was completed ...(with) tons of perceived light for an optimistic future for little Greta."

What I didn't foresee for her is a pretty long list.

Anxiety and panic attacks.

Sensory problems and depression.

A series of counselors over the last six years.

A schooling arrangement called dual enrollment, which school leaders thankfully shared as an option in Iowa, so that more classes were taken online than in a school setting.

"I am so sick of people asking me why I am so shy. Shyness is not the issue here," Greta asserted last week, saying she would be fine sharing her experiences during Mental Health Awareness Month. She said people don't understand the extent of mental health issues and how those impact day-to-day living, so "some people get overlooked."

Through all the challenges, she completed coursework to finish her senior year one semester early. I'm proud of that, as are the few family members who know the full story of anxiety and other issues in her life.

In the K-12 school photos composite I started years ago for a graduation party table, there are smiles, but the daily smiles haven't come easy.

Greta says school and some public places are trigger areas. She chose not to participate in the Sunday graduation ceremony. Greta also decided not to have a graduation party. That's not a reality I would have guessed years ago, but I respect her decision.

Then, she surprised me at the last minute by saying she wanted to go to watch the graduation ceremony. When she, her freshman sister and I walked into the commons area connecting to the gym site for the event, Greta saw the students lined up in blue robes and backed away, saying she couldn't pull it off.

I watched the ceremony in very conflicted fashion, being happy for many kids I've known since 2005. After imagining a void, it was nice to hear people applaud her announced name. I made all interactions very short and exited the school quickly.

Nearly one in five U.S. adults copes with mental illness in any given year.

The May issue of "Living Lutheran" mines the cover story topic of mental health. One snippet cites Michelle Townsend de Lopex, a pastor of Cross Lutheran Church in Milwaukee: "We're breaking the stigma that if you have mental issues, you're weak. Your soul can't be full and at rest if you have things in your head keeping you from living life fully."

As has been the case in recent years, where Greta goes is up to her. She has been given a series of family supports and health care access.

The many good therapists have aired helpful coping tips for navigating the world to feel more ease, amid the stressful times that arrive for all people in daily life. Following through can be dicey, given the way people with anxiety separate themselves, especially socially, so loneliness is a key reality.

So many people have medical challenges, including those that threaten to change family dynamics forever. Greta has to find a way to get out of, really, being stuck, to affirmatively cope and just flat out live and experience the world, for all its joys and heartaches.

The time is now. The future doesn't have to be foggy forever.

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