Author's Note: This is my first attempt at Next to Normal fanfiction. I feel a very strong connection to Natalie for reasons I won't go into here, and the show has truly changed my life, so I figured I'd give this a chance. This will be a chapter story that details Natalie's decline from "perfect student" to "partying druggie".

Disclaimer: I don't own Next to Normal. *sigh* Sad, but true.

Xanax. You looked at the label and read the information on the bottle. May cause drowsiness, dizziness, do not operate machinery or drive until you know how it affects you, blah blah fucking blah... So, it was an anti-anxiety, right? Just what you needed. Granted, it was extended release, because god knows no psychiatrist in their right mind would put your mother on the fast acting anti-anxiety meds, knowing what an emotional roller coaster they can create. Still...and you knew that she wasn't going to be taking the medicines...they shouldn't go to waste...and you needed them, right?

At first, you were in denial about the anxiety. Anxiety was strictly your mother's problem. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, whatever the hell else they had suggested she had, you had lost count after a few yeas of being aware of what it all meant; doctor after doctor would say it was one thing or another, then change their mind, the next doctor would say that the previous doctor had it all wrong... But what stuck in your mind was that everything related to mental illness was equivalent to being crazy. And you would not be crazy. You would not end up like her. You loved her, despite all that she did to hurt you, you loved her so much, but you were terrified of the idea of becoming her. So, you would escape all of this. You'd do so well in school that colleges would beg you to attend, and then you'd get a degree, and a job, and live some place far away from here. Anywhere but here. Somewhere where you weren't the daughter of the crazy lady, you were that successful and brilliant young woman. And it was all going well until high school.

A lot of people feel pressure once they enter high school. It's the time where the courses you take suddenly become extremely important, and college is suddenly so close you can taste the freedom...and the stress. It's when people try shoving an honors course or two onto their schedules to look better, and take test-prep courses and pile on the extracurriculars and volunteer hours and do anything they can to make their applications look great. But you think that saying it was harder for you is completely justified. After all, you had been worrying about these things as soon as you were old enough to understand how the college application process worked. By sixth grade, you had planned out which AP and honors courses you'd be taking. You needed to get everything done- and fast. You needed to graduate early, but do so in a way that looked impressive and not like you were just trying to escape high school (even though you were trying to escape everything) so that colleges wouldn't look at it as a negative thing.

And, so, freshman year marked the beginning of the panic attacks. At first, they weren't that bad. Just the constant "what if?"s racing through your brain and chest pain and feeling completely helpless and horrible. But, really, since you had grown up with a mother who hallucinated your dead brother and had major freak outs in public places that were newspaper worthy, your panic attacks really did seem like nothing in comparison. Chest pain? A little dizziness? Well, you weren't trying to make sandwiches out of Oreos and Pringles yet, so there was nothing to be concerned about.

It was the yet that killed you. You weren't completely crazy yet, but it could happen. You weren't stupid. You knew the symptoms of a panic disorder oh too well. And you also knew that genetics were a huge factor with things like this. You could end up crazy. Just like her. So, when the physical symptoms started to become more and more debilitating, you worried more about becoming crazy, which only increased the anxiety. There was chest pain, difficulty breathing, sheer panic and feeling like you were going to die, your head would spin, it sometimes got to the point of rocking back and forth, the textbook that had just fallen out of your lap lying haphazardly on the floor (later, you would also freak out about the pages being slightly bent and not in perfect condition).

But you didn't tell anyone. There were two reasons. One, you were still partly in denial. And you were terrified of what would happen if you told your dad. He'd rush you off to a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist, whatever. And you'd be analyzed and medicated and you'd be just like her. Round after round of different medications until something worked, or cognitive behavioral therapy until you could cope with it on your own, or both. You were terrified of that, and you didn't have the time for this shit with all of your homework. And, two, you didn't want to worry or upset your dad. He has enough on his mind with trying to help your mom, he didn't need another crazy person to deal with. Or, at least, that's how you saw it.

So, maybe you didn't get professional help. But you coped in your own way. You took Benadryl to induce the four hours of sleep you allowed yourself every night. (Unless you had a lot to study for, then the sleep could be reduced to two hours, or even nothing). You used caffeine pills and energy drinks and willpower to keep yourself awake and studying. And, in general, it worked. You were the perfect student. You were fucked up on the inside, but on the outside, no one would ever know. You felt like you were falling apart and losing control, but there was no one to notice or care. Your grades were great, you were on track to graduate early, and now if you could just get that damn piece down for your recital, everything would be fine...

Xanax. Extended release. So, it wouldn't get you high, and it wasn't abusing drugs. It was just something to calm you down a little so you could focus more on your school work and less on your family. And you would stop taking it as soon as you escaped and everything was less fucked up. It'd be fine.

Take 2-3 pills every morning, max daily dose 3mg. You weren't as fucked up as your mom, and you knew it was better to ease yourself onto medications...

You took one pill, put it in your mouth, and swallowed it down with a sip of Red Bull.

To be continued.

I'd love your feedback. Review please?