How the author of "Divergent" is helping us all talk about anxiety
Last week on Twitter, acclaimed author of the Divergent series (and forthcoming Carve the Mark), Veronica Roth, spoke eloquently about her issues with anxiety. Her anxiety, she says, peaked at the height of her success. You can read all about it here. When you think of someone who performs at her caliber, struggling just as so many of us do, it provides a sort of comfort — a solidarity — in knowing it can literally happen to anyone. Luckily for Veronica, the supportive YA community rallied, so her words could reach more people and, hopefully, show them they aren’t alone either. I applaud Veronica, and anyone who has the courage to speak openly about their struggles, because according to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness in America with 18% of the population affected. If talking about these things publicly opens the dialogue and helps just one person, it’s completely worth it.
It is my hope that, together, we can erase the stigmas attached to anyone battling any form of anxiety of depression so that we may live without fear of judgement. On a personal note, I’ve not been shy about speaking about my anxiety. Having dealt with it for so long at various levels of severity, it sometimes feels like it will never end. I am utterly exhausted at the thought of having to learn another coping mechanism or another set of breathing exercises to master. At times, I wonder if I’m capable of being me without the anxiety. I don’t know anymore, but when I read stories like Veronica’s, I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.
After reading Veronica’s post again and again, one thing I am struck by is how eloquently she describes going through the thick of it — the ugly parts — therapy and medication and the two not necessarily fixing the anxiety at first (or second or third) pass. This really hits home, as I am currently in the eyes of my own storm with new medication, hoping this time is the time everything will fall into place. Even as I type this, the side effects feel too big a hurdle to feel much relief.
Awhile back, I attended regular therapy sessions and made great progress. My anxiety felt manageable for the first time in a long time. Fast forward to the news of my Gram’s passing. She was everything. From that day on, there would be parts of me I could never recover; will never recover. I still find myself searching for the thing that can fill her void, and then I realize there is nothing but her, and she’s gone. In the time since the funeral, my OCD tics and panic attacks worsened. I often talked myself out of leaving home because the mere thought of being around people was too much. If there was a scheduling conflict, as there was with a big event back in February regarding a TV show appearance, I’d resort to a detached state while my insides fried themselves to a crisp. It’s hard to explain a brain like mine. I want to go out and be “normal.” I want to feel whole and happy. Instead, my brain confuses all this emotion and turns every small thing into massive, inescapable turmoil.
As I drag through this day, having awoken at 4:50 a.m. due to more medication side effects that have ruined my sleep, I re-read Veronica’s post again and am lingering on something her therapist said during a time Veronica fought against medication (I can SO relate to this one): “you don’t have to fight so hard.” This resonates with me so deeply because I’m nothing, if not a fighter, but sometimes, being strong is the last thing I need to deal with a monster like anxiety. Sometimes I need help. Sometimes I need medication and if it doesn’t work, I need to try another and another until something does work. Sometimes I need to relinquish my idea of what my life is supposed to look like and give in to the life I currently have. Other people need to know that these things are okay to do, too, which is why sharing our stories is so important.
Though I am re-examining my treatment plan at the moment, I won’t give up. I’ll keep trying whatever I have to until I am whole again. If you are going through similar times, please know you aren’t alone in the slightest. I appreciate every email sent stating similar themes because it shows me by speaking out, we can heal together. It won’t always be easy but I promise; we’ll find our way, eventually.
And thank you to Veronica, not only a literary hero but all-around inspiring human, for shedding light on anxiety and showing us all that we don’t have to be so strong, and that if therapies and medications don’t take the first time, that it doesn’t mean we should give up. Try and try again.