Recently, an essay of mine was picked up by The Mighty. For those of you that don’t know, The Mighty is a website dedicated to disability, disease, and mental illness. It reaches approximately 150 million readers (according to their website) and creates communities of shared experiences and support.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its flaws. The Mighty often relies on click-baity titles and, despite their far-reaching content, they don’t pay any of their contributors. Which isn’t great, but I still agreed to let them publish my piece because I think they do a lot of good despite their flaws.
That being said, I feel really weird about the piece they published — and it has nothing to do with their editors, website, or overall operation. Everyone I talked to at the organization was very kind and they made sure to send me regular updates as my article was being edited.
The fact that I haven’t shared the piece on any of my social media, given the link to friends or family, and this is the first time I’ve even mentioned it online (despite them initially accepting it nearly a month ago), makes me realized how embarrassed I feel about it contents.
The piece itself is fine. It’s arguably very good, because out of the dozens, if not hundreds, of submissions The Mighty gets on a regular basis, they were willing to publish it. But unlike a lot of my other published work, it is incredibly personal.
The piece in question, which can be found here, explores my relationship with anxiety and panic disorder. It’s fairly structured and relies mostly on metaphors and less on actual instances where I’ve had a panic attack, but it is still very honest and real. I enjoy the piece, but I don’t want anyone to read it.
Okay, I shouldn’t say anyone, because I’m totally fine with it being on their website. I’ve been kind of obsessively checking how it’s doing and it seems to be getting pretty good feedback. No one has left any comments on the actual article or Facebook post (which considering how terrible the internet can be, is probably a good thing), but it’s gotten almost 200 “love” reactions and has been shared 40-something times.
Which is awesome. I’m glad that people are interacting with my work and sharing it with their friends and family. I just don’t want to share it with mine.
I didn’t realize how bad my anxiety was until I was an adult. That doesn’t mean I didn’t experience anxiety when I was younger (I very much did), but I convinced myself that it was a normal part of life. It wasn’t until high school and college that it began to affect my life very negatively and I had to look for ways to cope with it.
I actually wrote the piece to cope with an impending panic attack. I stayed up until 2 or 3am scribbling down notes in one of my journals, crossing out and rewriting lines over and over again, and trying to keep my breathing under control.
For the most part it worked, I was able to get to sleep later that night and my panic levels never got that bad. After my anxiety passed, I realized that I had a completed piece, something that I had been struggling to do for a few weeks prior to that.
I briefly considered posting it here, but it never felt like a good time. Then I saw a Mighty piece on my Facebook timeline and I thought I could submit it there. I never really expected them to pick it up, but the fact that I submitted it somewhere, somewhere that was likely to let me down gently or that I would probably forget about, seemed like enough.
But then a few days later, I got an email back saying they accepted it. It wasn’t anything super exciting that made me want to jump around or tell all my friends. For one, it didn’t pay anything, and for another, it wasn’t set to actually show up on their website for several weeks.
I wasn’t worried about them publishing it. I thought it was pretty cool, and I still do, because I’m glad something I created when I was at my lowest could benefit someone else. At the same time, it’s a part of me that I feel a lot of shame and embarrassment about. I don’t talk to my family about my anxiety, even when it makes me miss family functions or call in sick to work.
Which doesn’t make sense. They are nothing but supportive of everything I do and am, but I don’t know how to explain my anxiety to them. I barely know how to explain it to myself. I’ve just experienced it often enough that I’ve gotten used to it. But it does make me feel crazy and not like myself, and if I have the option to not tell or let someone find out about it, I’m going to do that.
A part of me hopes that maybe someone I know will read my piece (which is why I’m talking about it now), but I also hope they realize that if they do read it, I don’t want to talk to them about it. It makes me feel scared and vulnerable and I’m not ready to cross that bridge yet. The fact that I’ve talked about anxiety so often recently should be progress enough for now.
Some day, I will talk more about my anxiety, specifically and in great detail. I want to be open about it and let other people know they are not alone, but today is not that day.