“Where are my F$&king Keys?!!”

By Lauren Taylor

Coming soon! A literary tale of extraordinary bravery in the face of adversity as the protagonist traverses through a tough life living with hypochondria, a true depiction of an underdog’s struggle and triumph. Book your copies of this interesting read by signing yourself up to receive a notification when it goes on sale.

I knew I was different in grade school, but I could never accurately describe what made me feel so distant from the world that my peers were living in. The path of mental health struggles is a very private and lonely journey, especially as a young child who just wants to blend in and not get chosen last on the playground. I had my first panic attack well before middle school, which means adults and kids classify me as a problematic, weird child, student, friend, or peer. I will never forget the first time I was called a “hypochondriac” and the sting of the teacher’s words as she explained it’s meaning to me. I vividly remember trying to hide the look of horror on my face and replace it with one that says, “oh yea, that’s bad… good no one called me that…” I was lying to myself. I was constantly searching for an escape, somewhere peaceful to rest. A place that didn’t feel dangerous and confusing, something familiar that I could navigate with ease like everyone else around me.

I searched for normalcy every other kid seemed to possess effortlessly. A simple exchange of whatever dumb, childish crap was important at age 10. I wanted to know that currency so I could finally feel what other’s felt around me, the elusive feeling of being the “popular kid” maybe I only wanted to be known and popular among the people I knew and who knew me. While most were free to experiment with what makes someone “special” and what that attracts, I was desperately trying to fill colors in the world I felt trapped in. No one cared for the kid that kept wanting to phone home or go home due to an illness. While kids whispered about my mullet and obsession with Ken Griffey Jr. and vocalized their latest twist on a new nickname they had chosen for me because I looked like a boy. While that took place around me, I was still seeking safety within my own being. How is any place home? How is any playground fun? How is any new experience exhilarating when your own skin is what keeps scaring the ever-living-f*#$ out of you? Fast forward to a time when I could understand, channel and explain my struggles slightly better. Most people have at least one thing that would make their heart drop out of their ass if they encountered it. For some, it's snakes or flying. Some may even say sharks. All are pretty valid, and when you recognize that emotion, it’s a jolt that one feels when they have tipped to far back into their chair and quickly readjust to not fall back entirely. You get away from the thing that just made your adrenaline pump and prepared your body for age-old survival tactics to keep you from harm. You might feel sweaty, you might make the joke that “you shit your pants” because your stomach does suddenly feel like it’s failing you, and you may even cry and need time for the excess chemicals to flush out of your system. If a snake just made your legs quiver, you will probably not make plans to walk through tall grass in a place known to have a lot of snakes in the future. You will avoid that plane and not jump into deep water if you fear you will be a light snack for a Great White. You avoid it because who would want to experience that intense an anxiety? Here’s the thing… my body releases a bucket load of adrenaline in the grocery store when I casually try to remember if I need to pick up milk or making a simple life decision about what to make for dinner. Panic hits when I am in the car at the most serene destinations and not in danger. It hits 30 mins before I am supposed to meet a friend for dinner. I can keep doing the exercises to identify triggers, work on mindfulness, and use medication in conjunction, but I fear the body I live in at the end of the day. I don’t get to step out of my skin when I deem necessary even if I want to, my body becomes reactive and ready to evade and attack while I am just trying to meet an old friend. There is no reprieve. I know so many addicts, alcoholics, those into self-harm, sex addicts who are in the flux because they were also trying to divorce their own bodies. To not live in the flesh that makes relationships fail, friends leave, family misunderstands, and most importantly, to not be in the flesh that we are in 24 hrs a day wondering if another episode is about to occur. We all deserve to feel safe. I have lost a lot due to anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, but I have gained creativity, courage, and empathy. I’m grateful to have a voice and a platform to keep telling my truth in the hope it keeps reaching the vulnerable with an embrace and educating those who feel willpower is the most vital component for tackling such illnesses. I have learned we can try to end the stigma to gain wider acceptance, but the truth is, the real struggle has always been ending the stigma in my own head. After I exhibited strength and revealed myself through writing on a platform with thousands of people, this work took shape. I’m trying to end my own stigma that often tells me I “am less than” or “flawed”, or when people leave and I start blaming myself. This is what I have learned: I am not “less than”, in fact the mental fortitude I have built, the silent battles I have faced and SURVIVED make me powerful. They made me strong and helped me find my voice. I am not “less than”, I am “more than” I ever thought I could become when I started this journey. I am not “flawed”, but I am different, and while I don’t always feel the outcome is something I want to celebrate (for example, mid-panic), I feel a deeper level of empathy and creativity born in solitude and loneliness. I am different, and I am grateful. I am “too much to handle” for the wrong people. I feel anxiety and sadness to their profound depths, but I also feel joy, gratitude, and love at the same depths. Being “too much” gave me my career, and it keeps encouraging me to be the voice for those that haven’t found their own. I am proud to be “flawed” I am my own superhero. I am “too much” for some, but those aren’t my people. Being “too much” will be why I write the story of an underdog with mental health tribulations that rose to the top, not because she learned to suppress what she was told for so long was something she should hide, but instead celebrates it. To my fellow fighters, we will all write that story together. If you are reading this and it resonates with you, just remember you are not flawed; you are just the perfect plot to the start of the most beautiful story… keep writing it.