Anxiety Is An Invalid Excuse: A Year Later
Anxiety is a natural force, a tool in our expansive supply of defenses. It’s innate. It’s historic. It’s the tiny little voice in between your stomach and your ribs that tells you not to touch a hot stove, not to trust that new friend. It’s normal; but for some of us, anxiety is stomach-turning, sickness-invoking, over-dramatic manifestations of some unwarranted dread, leading back to an unidentifiable cause or a timeless confrontation. It knocks us down and puts us in bed, unable to breathe or think or move. It causes us to lose a part of ourselves instead of protecting it.
A year ago, I released a piece of writing titled Anxiety Is An Invalid Excuse. I wrote the piece of prose in a moment of extreme panic. It was the first time I was able to channel my anxiety into something productive rather than curl up in a ball and wait for my lack of breath to pass. It was a piece I was, and still am, incredibly proud of. It’s cliche, but a lot can change in a year, and I believe writing that piece was foreshadowing a lot. To all that read it, shared it, found your own voice in it, thank you. I think it’s time to catch you up.
The past year has been filled with some of my most trying moments, and ultimately, some of the best. Spoiler: I’m living well with a hold on my anxiety and panic disorder I never imagined I’d have. But it’s taken an incredible amount of work to get there. From therapy to outrageous amounts of self-reflection, I’ve become a new person, one who can find calm in most triggering situations and one who constantly forgets to bring her pill-stash with in case of emergency. That Xanax in my bag hasn’t been touched in nearly six months. It’s still unbelievable to me.
Clearly, while writing Anxiety Is An Invalid Excuse my mental health wasn’t in the best place; but my day to day life was in order. I was having panic attacks monthly, and still in a headspace to combat them consciously. I was fulfilling my schoolwork to the best of my potential (despite commonly missing class, which my teachers understood), and had just landed my dream internship at Rolling Stone. After publishing the article and receiving thousands of direct responses, I felt less alone: I felt on top of the world. That feeling lasted a few weeks before the weight of it all kicked in.
Putting my story into the world was ballsy. I have, for a long time now, been seen as the internet’s “anxiety girl.” It’s something I’ve been alright with because I do feel the platform I created was able to help a large amount of people. The messages I received explained estranged family members reconnecting over a new understanding of mental illness and tips on how to combat daily jitters. I felt a community forming, one that wasn’t afraid to speak out about their struggles. It ultimately inspired me to try talk therapy, which has been life-changing in the most therapeutic way. (I know, I know. But what better word is there to explain therapy than therapeutic?) But there were also messages that spoke of suicide, lost friends and lost minds. There were powerful stories that stuck with me and made me evaluate the mild conditions of my own circumstances. While the community was growing, so was my recognition that the severity of anxiety for its victims expanded far past my own understanding. My case, while poetically severe, was just a small pinch of the possibilities.