The funny thing about promising your editor that you'll write something—anything—about anxiety is that with enough time between pitch and publication date, you'll become too anxious to write it. Or at least that's how I'm feeling right now (full disclosure: I'm sitting on my bed, it's 6am, and the only way I can get over the pain of looking at the empty Word doc is by filling it up with words I'll probably end up editing out). Also know that I'm desperately trying to make this less about me and more about us, dear reader. One can only write so many personal essays before the whole concept of baring your soul on the internet becomes existentially worrisome.
In my experience, everyone calls their anxiety something different. Maybe it's stress, maybe it's nerves, maybe it's “nothing'...which isn't to say that I'm interested in anxiety-shaming people into admitting they have a problem. Quite the opposite really—I tend to think anxiety is a relatively universal thing and not something to be embarrassed by at all. Even external tics—whether it's nail biting, some mild trichotillomania, or picking at your skin—while not always super nice to look at, aren't the end of the world. I get the sense a lot of people see these things as a sign that you're a jittery, worrisome mess, but I tend to think we're all humans, and as long as you're not intentionally hurting yourself, you're generally in the clear.
On a more personal note, I've never really wanted to get rid of my anxiety. Most days, it feels like a driving force behind my career. But, I do think there's a fine line between harnessing anxiety and letting it define you. I can't say that I have much advice on that front—mostly because listening to someone drone on about how you should be less anxious is one of the worst things in the world. However, taking a few deep breaths is always a good idea, stressed out or not.
Now, I do understand the greater implications of more serious anxiety and don't want to suggest that it's something that is always treatable with some good talk therapy and a brisk walk around the park. If it's really bad, see someone—ask for help. There's no shame in that. And with that on your mind—how do you deal? Do you write it out? Run it out? BAKE it out (wish I was a member of that camp)? It's Friday, so let's share.
Illustration by Lauren Tamaki.