My first thought when Spotify suggested that I listened to a song called "Anxiety", I figured it would be your typical pop song about a failed or budding romance making the artist a little nervous. Or maybe someone feeling unsettled at a party and singing about their issues while tipsy or high. However, my feelings totally changed upon listening to the song.
Turns out, the song was written by singer-songwriter Julia Michaels for a reason. In a piece on Glamour.com, she talked about how her anxiety developed around age 18, when her career really started to pick up. Even though singing on stage seems like fun, for her it can be a stressful experience ending in panic attacks and racing thoughts.
When listening to the lyrics, audience members can understand her feelings, especially if they have anxiety themselves. In the first verse, she talks about how anxiety prevents her from keeping up with her social life. When friends ask her to go out, she says no because she has to "hold hands with her depression".
Even though she wants to be social, she struggles to pull through, because she's worried about what will happen when they are together. Best case scenario, she is constantly thinking about how the interaction is going, but in the worst case a social situation ends with a panic attack. However, after rejecting plan requests from friends results in something that almost feels worse: a night of thinking about all the things you're missing out on.
The inside jokes you'll never understand, the close conversations that only bring friends closer. But the more you miss, the harder it is to leave your room the next time you get an invite.
The chorus talks about how it's impossible to explain to your friends. You feel like you must apologize for not socializing and for feeling the way you do. You can never explain what it feels like, because the only way to really understand it is to go through it yourself. Even when you try to explain, one of the first suggestions is going on some sort of medication. But popping pills doesn't solve anything, because in the end, it's not that simple. And at that point, people have given out so many solutions, but the only one you're looking for is a place to vent.
Julia Michaels starts the bridge by talking about her racing thoughts. This is a common side effect of anxiety. You're so worried about what is happening in your life, and all the sudden different thoughts are filling up your mind to the point where you can't focus on any of them. It's completely overwhelming, and can also result in a panic attack, because you just can't shut them off.
I'm so glad this song came on my Release Radar. The more artists write songs like this, the more awareness spreads to their audiences. For people with anxiety, hearing people talk about the same stuff you're going through on the radio is comforting. For people without, these pieces are a window into the lives of people who live with mental health problems. So here's to you, Julia Michaels, for paving the road to a future without a mental health stigma.