Was It Even Real?: Existing Beyond Your Anxiety and Mental Illness

We all have a bag. We all pack differently. Some of us are traveling light. Some of us are secret hoarders who’ve never parted with a memory in our lives. I think we are all called to figure out how to carry our bag to the best of our ability, how to unpack it, and how to face the mess. I think part of growing up is learning how to sit down on the floor with all your things and figuring out what to take with you and what to leave behind.
—Hannah Brencher

I’ve often found myself asking this question, especially in regard to the games my mind has played on me and the tricks my anxiety likes to pull. When all is said and done, and we accept that it’s time to let some things go, was it even real? Am I even real? Who am I without my anxiety?

I’ve only recently learned that part of the reason why I’ve had such difficulty letting go of my anxieties is because they have made up a great deal of who I am. I’ve learned that I have always resorted to rituals and compulsions to make things right…

Let’s Not and Say We Did: Living Up to Nobody’s Expectations But Your Own

I suppose what I’m getting at is that, one way or the other, I never entirely fitted in. I was immature in some ways and overly mature in others. Adults assumed I was capable because, by now, I was tall and good at exams and well behaved in class, but really I was just trying to work things out and I still barely knew myself. I always felt something of an outsider.
—Elizabeth Day, How to Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong

This personal essay is brought to you in part by this iconic and timeless quote from Kat Stratford in the iconic and timeless film 10 Things I Hate About You.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve often found myself feeling stifled by expectations: the expectations of others and the expectations of the world, combined with my own expectations for myself. And I’ve learned that much of the reason behind why I’ve felt stifled by expectation is because I didn’t realize how much of a people-pleaser I had become.

In her book How to Fail, Elizabeth Day explain…

Summertime Sadness: Seasonal Depression in the Summer, Being Human, and Other Stuff That Happens

Summer, summer, summer. I loved and hated summers. Summers had a logic all their own, and they always brought something out in me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration. Summer was a book of hope. That’s why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.
—Benjamin Alire Sáenz

*Tina Fey in Mean Girls voice* How many of you have ever felt personally victimized by seasonal depression in the summer?

The general consensus and sweeping generalization is that the vast majority of people suffer from seasonal depression—also known by its official term, seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—in the winter months, when there is less sunlight and the days are shorter, and this typically causes people to fall into what we commonly call the “winter blues.” That is very much true for a lot of people. Winter blues is an actual psychological condition, and there has been a wide variety of research into the true a…

Don't Let It Get to You: And Other Lies I Tell Myself

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
—Joan Didion

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend overthinking? I’m a chronic overthinker. I like to believe that I have long since accepted that fact. But it’s still difficult to know when and where to draw the line when it comes to usual obsessive overthinking and over-the-top, out-of-control, obsessive-compulsive overthinking. The truth is, I don’t know where to draw the line. I’m still learning, and I don’t know if I’ll ever know for sure. Sometimes I have to remind myself that excessive overthinking and thought spirals are in fact unhealthy. I’ve spent most of my life having convinced myself that if I don’t overthink and obsess over every deta…

Too Much to Dream: Childhood, Adulthood, Anxiety, and Growing Up

How do you separate reality from illusion when you have been steeped in make-believe your whole life? 
—Natalie Wood

How strange when an illusion dies. It’s as if you’ve lost a child.
—Judy Garland

I recently finished reading Suzanne Finstad’s Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood, which marks the first biography I’ve ever read in completion. I decided to buy a copy after watching an episode of the documentary series Too Young to Die that focused on the life and death of Natalie Wood, an actress and star I hadn’t previously known too much about. Since watching that episode and reading the biography, I’ve gathered much more insight into her life, and have thought about how she has come to resonate with me. One of the few women in history to have a successful, long career as both a child actress and an adult star, Natalie Wood began working in movies when she was four years old. Her mother, Maria—a Russian immigrant—not only created and raised her for stardom but also robbed her of…

Maybe You Should Work On That: Voices in My Head and the Opinions of Others

The voice in my head is something most of us notice only when we’re stressed, as I definitely was … We spend our whole lives in the company of such a voice. The voice judges and interprets reality, determines our reactions, and chatters so constantly that we come to identify with it: we imagine that we are the chattering stream of thinking. If you doubt this account of what it’s like inside your mind, consider the possibility that this might be because you’re too closely identified with the chatter to notice.
—Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

Have you ever had someone notice something you’ve done, or something you just naturally do, and when they attempt to pay you a compliment about it, you are so puzzled because that thing you do is actually the result of your mind torturing you? For example, someone says, “Wow! Your handwriting is so beautiful!” and your immediate reaction is to reply, “Thanks! My life has been a silent yet cri…

7 Albums That Have Saved Me From Myself

Songs can be incredibly prophetic, like subconscious warnings or messages to myself, but I often don't know what I'm trying to say till years later. Or a prediction comes true and I couldn't do anything to stop it, so it seems like a kind of useless magic. As if the song is somehow speaking through me in its own language. And I am a conduit but totally oblivious to its wisdom.
—Florence Welch

Music and I share a very complicated relationship. I’ve always loved listening to music just as much as the next person, and the music I listened to growing up definitely helped shape me as a person. But a part of me has also always been afraid of music and what it does to me. With me and music—and with me and a lot of other things—it’s all or nothing. Blast the song as loud as you can or don’t play it at all. Sing along to every word at the top of your lungs or don’t sing it at all—it’s always been the way I’ve enjoyed music the most. But at the same time, music has had a tendency …