A fellow writer whom I’ve been exchanging essays with, providing feedback back and forth, recently read one of my pieces about anxiety. She commented that while she knows that I’ve mentioned my struggles with anxiety, she noticed that in our weekly zooms for our writing workshop, I look so composed and so together. I found this interesting because I thought …well, I am sort of composed and together. And then it occurred to me that it has been years of conditioning in a non-accepting world that I have spent concealing my fears and anxieties.  Hiding is a learnt behavior because I know that it’s not socially acceptable to wear them on my sleeve. There are very few people that I allow to see that side of me. It is such a painful, raw, unfiltered version of myself that I only share with a certain few.  It is a level of vulnerability that leaves me feeling splayed open and exposed.  I am running down Fifth Avenue, unclothed and with nothing available to cover myself.  My hands unsure if they should cup my breasts or shield my lower region.  In the midst of panic attacks, I tend to share with the people closest to me, that girl unintentionally streaking through Manhattan.   I am in such a raw place that I don’t even have the space to hold back.  I am fortunate enough to feel safe enough to divulge this side of me with a small handful of my people.  

And then… the feeling passes.  Dissolving like the tiny little pill I place on my tongue for relief; the aching subsides, and a new flood of emotions crashes in.  Shame.  Like wind whipping my face, the embarrassment burns my cheeks, an outward symptom of my outpouring.  Because sometimes, even with those select few trusted souls, I can look back on the texts, re-hash the conversations in my mind, recalling what I’d said in my moment of grief, and I identify with what I like to call the “anxiety hangover.” It is that moment of shame you realize you’ve divulged so much of yourself and you’re feeling a bit better and you think, “Why was I acting so crazy? What is wrong with me? Was it really that bad?”
Of course, nothing is wrong with me.  And yes, it was that bad, that is…in my mind it was.  The distance from that panic attack and the freedom from thought are eons away, even if they exist only minutes later.  It is merely my mind that has mapped out a path in which I’ve fallen down the well, and find myself scaling the walls, no rope in sight.   The juxtaposition between the gripping grief and the mental freedom feels insane.  “How did I get here?” I ask to no one but me.  “How could I have been so low yesterday and today I'm alright?”
In a world where mental health is slowly becoming more and more widely accepted, I find that it has become somewhat chic to feel anxiety and depression.  We grant grace to celebrities who have had a stint in rehab, or required extra support.  If the Average Joe confides in you, painting a picture of their mental hell, they can appear totally crazy and out of your normal realm of understanding.  I’ve experienced this countless times, specifically at doctor’s appointments.  Anything medical is a major trigger for me and when I have no choice but to act vulnerable because the pain, a knife too sharp to keep inside, slices the surface, I find the other person (the doctor, the nurse) as kind as they can be, are confused by my reaction.  Things that are seemingly “no big deal,” are a big fucking deal in my mind.  The compassion is there (sometimes), but the empathy is rarely present.  How can one consider themselves a medical professional with an intent to facilitate someone's wellness, if they do not examine the entire scope of wellness?

I find, even now, sharing these words on a public platform, there is an immense amount of fear of judgment.  And I’m working on that.  Who will read this? What will they think?  Will someone who I know doesn’t like me read his and criticize my struggle?  Do I even care?
I remind myself that there is power in sharing the struggle.  If I can bare my soul, naked, running down Fifth Avenue, and one person can relate, it will all have been constructive.  It’s worth it.  Is it comfortable out there, by myself, stripped down? No. Not even close. But I have that inner circle to bear witness, and they are essential. I am on a mission to make those moments of shame dissolve like that tiny white pill, and it is my hope that in speaking freely about this, without little fear, that understanding will emerge, and become as contagious as the pandemic. All anyone needs in those moments of hell, is someone who understands.  Someone who, even if they will never know the depths of the aching, will ease the morning hangover of shame, their open mind a tall, clear glass of water.  

And I hope someday I too, can heal the pain of the next day’s shame.

Vulnerability is the theme for my writing group this month.
Read more pieces about vulnerability from my fellow Illuminate members:

Quitting Cold Turkey by Mia Sutton
I Have Been Sick All My Life by Jennifer Brown
Butterfly Wings by Megan McCoy Dellecese
with love, eunice by Eunice Brownlee


  1. I'm so proud of you as a woman, a mother, and a friend, but right now—I am so proud of you as a writer. You're so gifted, Christine. Keep going! GO!! And I'm also proud of your honesty and vulnerability. This will help many!

    1. Dedra - your words touch my heart. I just love you!