Debilitating seizures and struggles with anxiety and depression nearly led Klamath Learning Center graduate Ana Meza to drop out of high school.
On Saturday, clad in black cap and gown, she was the first in her family to accept her high school diploma.
The 17-year-old transferred to KLC from Mazama High School shortly after the first week of her senior year last fall.
She had her first seizure last May while washing dishes at home.
“I just started twitching and I guess all of a sudden I went down to the ground,” Meza said.
“I blacked out completely,” she added.
No one in Meza’s family has any history of having seizures, but Meza said her mother also had health issues that kept her from graduating high school.
The seizures continued, making her go unconscious and sometimes turning her face purple. Ambulance calls and hospital visits were made.
Meza was told that the seizures were prompted by stress, and she believes it was linked to final examinations for science classes at school at the time.
“It could also have been sleep deprivation,” she added. “I’m like stressed really bad when I overthink a lot. That’s when I usually start getting my seizures.”
Her seizures are less frequent now after spending her senior year at KLC, where the atmosphere is quiet and the focus is strictly on academics.
Aside from seizures, Meza said she struggled with anxiety and depression during her sophomore year, and felt like dropping out even before her seizures started.
“I just felt like I couldn’t do it,” she said.
While at first a bit apprehensive upon arrival at KLC from Mazama, Meza thrived in the environment in comparison.
“Here it’s more like quiet and calm,” Meza said, noting that has soothed her anxiety.
Meza’s seizures only occur infrequently as well after spending her senior year at KLC. She still struggles with anxiety and depression, but she manages it, and keeps a self-motivated attitude.
One of the things that helped keep Meza motivated was a white board with the phrase “You can do it” written on it near her bed. She would look at it every morning and motivate herself to move toward achieving her goals.
“I know a lot of other people go through worse things and have gone through worse things than me,” Meza said. “But everyone has their own problems and deals, that they can only in other words be so strong for so long for, and they keep fighting their own battles.
Meza believes without a doubt that if not for switching to KLC, she wouldn’t have finished her degree in four years.
She’s been done with all of her credits since March and is now working part-time, with plans to attend Klamath Community College this month. In the next two years, she wants to transfer to Oregon Tech and become a nurse.
“I always think that I can’t let my fear get in my way of stopping me from doing what I want to do,” Meza said.
Meza said a variety of factors made her want to pursue a career in the medical field, including a tour of Sky Lakes Medical Center during a class her junior year at Mazama.
She credits her older sister and her mom with helping her to get to graduation day, both of whom planned to be in the audience on Saturday to watch her graduate.
“It’s going to be really a nice feeling and emotional at the same time,” Meza said. “I’m actually graduating when I thought I was going to drop out.”