I haven’t done a discussion post on my blog in a while, and the idea for this one has been floating around in my brain for awhile. It became especially prevalent recently, as a string of book that I read had a main character that suffered from different forms of anxiety. It’s becoming a far more frequent occurrence in YA and beyond these days. And for that, I am so thankful.
For a very long time, I didn’t realise that the thoughts going through my head, and the emotions that I had been feeling were basic signs of anxiety. I’m not even that old! It’s not as though I didn’t know what anxiety was, and it was definitely (and finally) getting talked about more, becoming ever so slightly less taboo. However, I just never put two and two together. I never really spoke to anyone – a red flag in itself. And although my anxiety isn’t as debilitating as I’ve known others to be, it still affected me and my day-to-day life. I skipped out on many a social event through the fear; fear that I’d just be left out, fear that no-one really wanted me there, fear that I was really just a pity invite.
These thoughts still plague me now, at 24. I still struggle even though I have the most solid of foundations beneath me. I still struggle, and that’s okay, I’ve come so far.
Whilst in this period of my life I found sanctuary every Saturday morning in our city library. What I didn’t find in my haven – was anxiety represented in any of the books I read. I never saw myself there. It may have existed in books I never read, who knows there are a lot of books in the world. It may have existed in adult fiction, but I rarely ventured there, I still don’t now that I’m classified as a fully-fledged adult. All I know is that it didn’t exist in the books I read, but this is changing.
Although everybody’s anxiety is different – any form of positive representation is welcome. That small slice of relatability might mean the world to someone. This representation hopefully means that more people will recognise anxiety for the mental health issue it is. This representation hopefully means that someone out there, feeling lost and alone, might recognise themselves within the pages. This is what I have found myself doing more and more in recent reads. I have found myself amongst the pages.
I saw myself in Steffi from A Quiet Kind of Thunder. I saw myself in her minute actions that might be over-looked and her feelings.
“And then it happens. The panic. It’s slow at first, creeping through the cracks in my thoughts until everything starts to feel heavy. It builds; it becomes something physical that clutches at my insides and squeezes out the air and the blood.”
I saw myself in Libby from Holding Up The Universe. I saw myself in her fears and her worries.
“It is 3:38 a.m., and the time of night when my mind starts running around all wild and out of control, like my cat, George, when he was a kitten.”
I saw myself in Cather from Fangirl. I saw myself in her isolation and her escapism.
“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.)”
I saw myself. I saw my anxiety. Nowadays, using the phrase my anxiety is somewhat empowering and not half as scary as it used to be. These books helped me there. These books helped me be empowered. And more and more are getting published. These aren’t the only books that helped me, however, they are the three that instantly stuck in my mind whilst writing this post.
I really hope authors continue to positively represent mental health in YA and beyond. As the smallest similarity could be the reason someone gets the help the need. It could be the help someone needs after a bad day. It could be the reason someone realises they are not alone.
You are not alone.
Please know, you are not alone.