Saturday, July 30, 2016

So Your Character Has Anxiety ... Featuring Katelyn @ On Writing, Life, & MBTI

I have experienced an anxiety attack three times. All weren't fun experiences. One was completely random on a train where a guy made me nervous, and I was just overcome by fear. The other two were shortly after my car accident in April. Having fear grip you in a way that you can't shake for fifteen minutes to a half hour is well ... scary. It's hard to imagine dealing with anxiety on a regular basis. The first time I'd ever become aware of anxiety was while writing the Hunger Games, but anxiety became real after seeing Iron Man 3 and watching Tony Stark struggle with severe anxiety after what happened to him in New York City.

So Your Character Is ... is an on going series where I interview or talk about myself about different people groups, countries, etc. for writing more accurate characters. This month has a special of edition of So Your Character Is ... where Katelyn is gracious enough to talk about her anxiety. I commend her for her honesty and I'm very happy to have her today on the blog. 

Let's welcome Katelyn!

Katelyn is a teenage aspiring writer. She is going into her junior year of high school and is obsessed with her fandoms, personality tests, and her fantasy worlds. She was diagnosed with anxiety in middle school, making her passionate about mental health awareness.

How does your anxiety physically feel? How do you think it compares to those who don’t have this anxiety? 

My most common physical manifestation of my anxiety is tension in my shoulders, and feeling like I can’t breathe. When I’m feeling more anxious, my hands get clumsy and I tend to be hypersensitive to loud noises or lots of people around me. Sometimes I hyperventilate. My heart beats harder than I can believe, and I stutter and have a hard time finishing sentences. I also feel like I’m going to cry or end up actually crying.

How do you feel about your anxiety? 

I’ve had it so long, I can’t imagine life without it. It’s just a part of me. It’s just a thing I have. Some people have asthma or diabetes. I have social anxiety. It’s a part of my life, and I deal with it. Everyone has challenges, and while my anxiety might be a different challenge than someone else might face, but that doesn’t make me some special snowflake. 

What challenges does your anxiety pose? 

Since most of my anxiety is social anxiety, it affects me primarily in how I deal with people. It makes the thought of inviting a friend over nerve-wracking. It makes it harder to ask questions at school, or approach a teacher about an assignment. I apologize a lot because I’m worried I did something wrong. It makes it hard to go to school events or large gatherings with friends, or small-talk with someone I don’t know. 

Is there anything you like about your anxiety? 

My initial response to reading this question was “What? Why would I like my anxiety?” But it does help me when interacting with my friends who also deal with mental illness. Even when someone close to me is “normal-scared,” I can use what I’ve learned from my own experience to help them deal with it and calm down. It also makes being normal-nervous much easier. I love feeling nervous without feeling anxious. My bad days make my good ones shine that much brighter.

Do you think your day differs from others because of your anxiety? 

Maybe not in any huge, noticeable way, but I think there are small things. I usually wait for my sisters or parents to answer the door. I usually carry a notebook around with me, since doodling helps me manage anxiety. I recently noticed that every time I pass someone I don’t know in the school hallway or on a sidewalk, I automatically look at the floor. I have a habit of carrying my binder or a book in front of my body, or just crossing my arms. I make plans for what I’ll do if I have a random panic attack in situations A-Z.

Do you have any cultural differences between others who also have anxiety and those who do not? 

It’s actually interesting to examine how I interact with a friend of mine who also has anxiety, versus how I interact with friends who don’t. I try to be open about it either way, but I’ll deliver things differently. With other friends, I’d say “an appointment,” but with this friend, I say therapy. It’s not that my other friends don’t know that it’s therapy. It’s just kind of instinctual. When relating anecdotes or stories to each other, my friend with anxiety and I will say, “. . .and I was feeling kind of anxious. . .”. It’s a more open dialogue, largely because we know the other will understand.

What are some stereotypes about anxiety that irk you? 

It drives me crazy when people romanticize or stereotype any mental illness. Social anxiety isn’t, “LOL I hate people so I’ll just stay home and watch Netflix and eat food.” Social Anxiety is desperately wanting to branch out and make friends and go out and talk to people, but having this thing in the pit of your stomach that says that if you go, something terrible will happen. It’s feeling awkward when you approach someone, and cowardly when you don’t. It’s overanalyzing every conversation, looking for everything you did wrong. 

What media portrays anxiety badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?

Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I haven’t seen a lot of characters with anxiety, good or bad. Out of the few I’ve seen, I’ve never seen a terrible representation. 

What media portrays anxiety well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?

I have known two characters with anxiety. One is Gena from Shallee McArthur’s book The Unhappening of Genesis Lee. Gena’s anxiety immediately helped me form a bond with her, and seeing how she finds ways to work through it and still be an awesome heroine inspires me. 

The other character with anxiety I’ve encountered is Phoebe, from the movie Once I was a Beehive. (It’s not well-known unless you’re LDS/Mormon, but it’s kind of a fun one. It’s on Netflix.) Her anxiety is a little exaggerated, but the entire movie is meant to be cheesy and fun. Phoebe isn’t the main character, but she’s still extremely engaging and relatable, and the actress does an excellent job. She has a dog to help her work through anxiety, and while it affects her character a lot, she’s also sweet and very intelligent. Both characters have anxiety, but are so much more than that. 

Who are your top three favorite characters who have anxiety in books, movies, or shows?

Gena and Phoebe are the only ones I know of, so this will have to be a top two list. I love both characters, because even if they’re different from me, they show me two things. One, they have different ways of living with their anxiety, and manage to be great characters all the while. And two, they remind me that other people have anxiety, too. They help me feel like I’m not alone.

Phoebe from Once I was a Beehive
Thank you again, Katelyn, for your transparency! This is such a wealth of information! Thanks for reading! Come back next month for So Your Character Has Diabetes ... on August 2nd!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)

Do you have any characters with anxiety? Did this inspire you to write a character with anxiety? Do you have anxiety and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Katelyn? Be sure to thank her!

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