I have terrible anxiety. Usually it hits me with no warning, and often with no reason. I’ll just be going about my day, and suddenly I’ll have a hard time breathing and I’ll have the irrational urge to crawl right out of my own body. I will find it near impossible to interact normally with other humans.
For a while I took xanex to control my anxiety, but over time the xanex made it worse, because I became dependent on it, and I needed more and more for it to take effect. So one day about a year ago, I quit taking it cold turkey. After almost two months of taking it everyday, I just stopped.
I couldn’t leave my house. The mere thought of conducting myself like an everyday productive adult and driving my car to get groceries would spin me into a cold sweat. So I began hermiting myself. I missed work. I stopped socializing.
After over a week of this behavior, some friends asked me to go hiking with them on a beautiful west coast California morning. Of course, being the self-confined freak that I was, I said no. So as I sat there, in my overpriced luxury apartment with the shades drawn and a blanket over my defeated carcass while watching some overly dramatic Lifetime movie starring Jennifer Love Hewitt or Tori Spelling, I began hearing music coming from outside. My apartment was four floors up, overlooked the street, and had a balcony with a sliding glass door that I always kept partially open. I heard people screaming from outside, “Julia! Julia! Julia, come to the window! Come out on the balcony! Julia!”
It suddenly dawned on me what was happening. I rushed to the bathroom and looked at the crumpled tangled blonde mop on my head, looked away from it because it was too scary, splashed cold water on my face, threw on some huge Jackie O sunglasses, and ran to the balcony like an imprisoned princess whose knight had finally come to save her.
As I looked down from my tower of despair, there were three of my best friends, Brianna, Nichole, and Kristin, and they were blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” from Brianna’s sporty SUV. Their heads, arms, and torsos were outstretched through the rolled down windows as they swayed to the melody and serenaded me. The leasing office was just downstairs and the smarmy salesmen in rented suits walked past with potential residents in complete awe of the John Cusack “Say Anything” movie moment.
And all I could do was laugh. Tears welled up in my eyes and I just laughed hysterically as I draped over the railing like a broken down Rapunzel. Fresh from their jaunty hike, these three friends took the time to cheer up my twisted up little soul. And they knew that the quickest way to my heart was through a well executed, pop culture inspired, public display of 80s music affection.
I remember Brianna shouting up something like she wished she had been strong enough to hold the car above her head as the music played. Once the song was over, they didn’t even demand to come upstairs. They knew enough to just sing the song to me, make me laugh, and go about their merry way.
I will forever think of this moment as one of the happiest in my life. In that droplet of time, I realized that these gorgeous, hilarious, and successful women knew what a messed up little freak I was, and they loved me anyway. They didn’t abandon me because I was hiding from the world. They knew me enough that if I just laughed hard enough and knew that people where there for me, that I would be free of my feelings of hopelessness.
I later realized that I was probably going through some sort of xanex withdrawal, and I soon recovered and morphed back into the sunny, optimistic goofball most of you know me to be. Of course I have bad days, and I still get anxiety, but when I do, I think about the Say Anything day, and I can’t help but laugh myself back into semi-sanity.
[From left, Nichole, Kristin, Brianna, and a happy me.]