PORTSMOUTH — In her newly-published book, 18-year-old Grace Griffin dedicates its contents to "those who unknowingly saved me from my monster."
The recent Portsmouth High School graduate was once terrified to be called on in class. Sometimes, she ate lunch in a classroom alone, or other times, in the bathroom. She begged her parents to allow her to drop out and take online classes from home.
Her story of conquering high school with social anxiety disorder is one Griffin hopes others will be able to relate to, and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, Griffin is bathing in that light. In just a few weeks, she'll start her next chapter at the University of New Hampshire, with the hopes of studying neurosciences and behavior.
Griffin's book, titled "Creating Happy: How I Survived High School With Social Anxiety Disorder," is available for purchase through Amazon, and recounts the exhausting marathon that was her four years of high school, and the changes she made to turn her life around.
"I wanted to write the book because I struggled so much throughout my first three years, and during my senior year, I really made a change, my outlook on life," she said. "I wanted to write it to hopefully reach out to other people who were going through the same thing, or who will be, to let them know you’re not the only person going through it. I definitely felt at times like I was the only one."
Griffin, of Rye, said she always preferred smaller groups of people, and remained quiet in her classes with the hopes she wouldn't draw attention from classmates and teachers. "High school was really when it all exploded," she said.
"I started to just not want to wake up every day because the thought of having to go to school and see people and talk in front of people sounded horrible."
When her childhood friends joined team sports, and Griffin remained passionate about her singular sport, horseback riding, she began to lose connections, and was unable to reach out.
"The shyness, she wouldn’t take risks and put herself out there," said Alison Griffin, her mother. "She would literally come home, go up and go to sleep. Very sad, very emotional."
Thanks to a guidance counselor, a personalized education plan, and a friend who "dragged" her down the hallway to eat lunch with others, Griffin began to see the other side. She would force herself to sit with people, no matter how uncomfortable she was. Some of those "lunchers" are now her best friends, she said.
"I made changes," she said. "I made sure my mindset was positive towards, 'I’m OK, we’re gonna make it OK.'"
Journaling helped Griffin over the course of high school, so during her senior year, she began writing her book. "I just thought to try and help at least one person by telling how I felt," she said. "What I did to get through it."
Each chapter of Griffin's book begins with a different well-known quote, prefacing the chapters that chronicle her struggles, successes and advice for others.
The big three things, she said, are friendship, passion and hobbies, and finding confidence. Music helped a lot too, she said, and the book includes a playlist of the songs she found peace in during the battle.
"Even if it is just for her, it was helpful for her to do it," Griffin's mom said, though noting the book has begun to circulate. It's garnered a "big response from a lot of people."
"It was really tough because as a parent, you want to be able to fix it," Alison Griffin said. "It was so hard to see her struggle. People have remarked all the time, the difference Grace has, how different she is now than two years ago. Living through this, this is real."
Griffin said it "definitely helped" to write about her struggles with the disorder. The book has a sunflower yellow cover and sports in large font "Creating Happy."
Griffin is also running an Instagram account (@creating.happy) associated with the book where she plans to do regular motivating or inspirational posts.
Her book can be found at https://amzn.to/2Mxz8EJ.