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I Didn't March in Washington, DC Because of My Anxiety, and That's OK

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Let’s talk about the color pink. Growing up, I took pride in my aversion to the color and my unwillingness to like something just because I was a girl and that’s what we did. I loved sports, so in the black and white world of a child, I chose being an “athlete” over being a girly girl. Thus began my public detestation of all things pink and my one child protest. But then I grew up. With time came the realization that I could have it both ways; I could be both a feminine and an athlete. Yet, to this day I still occasionally find myself hesitant when buying something pink, because deep down that fear of propagating a stereotype I never fit never really went away. But the cool thing is, the woman I am today can never be defined by the colors I wear or the sports I play. If anything, they’re just small insights into the complicated and beautiful human being I am learning to love more and more as each day passes.

Yesterday was the Women’s March on Washington and I wanted nothing more than to be there. I want to be in D.C. with my friends, yelling and screaming for what we believe in, and making history. But sadly what we want and what is best for us isn’t always the same thing.

Since coming back to school I’ve felt an energy and passion that I’d long since forgotten i had the capacity for. I wake up every morning itching to see what the day has in store. Just for comparison’s sake, the other day I had a stomach bug that kept me in bed all day. This is something that three months ago would have sounded like the perfect day, but was instead a day spent wishing I was anywhere else but trapped in my room going stir crazy. So while all of these changes just energize me to keep practicing the skills I learned in “Brain Rehab,” I’m fully aware that in the grand scheme of things my healing journey has only just begun. And that’s why I wasn’t in D.C. yesterday. I know this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I also know that in a crowd that big, somewhat trapped in a sea of people, my anxiety would skyrocket and I can almost guarantee a panic attack would come.

Coming to terms with my decision to stay home wasn’t easy. At first I was upset that my brain was denying me the ability to take direct action against the unsure trajectory of our country. As a two-time survivor of sexual assault, Donald Trump and his comments and views on women horrify me. As an ally, the thought that any of my friends could be subjected to even more hatred and prejudice during the next four years terrifies me. And as an American, the widespread belief that this country isn’t already great saddens me. It was for these reasons that I wanted to march today. They’re also the logic behind why I felt my decision to stay home was just another extension of my privilege and an act of complete selfishness.

Here’s the thing though: Self-compassion and knowing yourself well enough to know your limits isn’t selfish. If I had broken my leg and was on crutches, I wouldn’t feel bad about missing the march. Recognizing that I have a legitimate medical condition, rather than berating myself for circumstances that are out of my control, helped to shift my perspective. Instead on focusing what I was missing out on, it drove me to find other ways to be involved.

And so that’s how I found myself in the middle of Lancaster City at 10 a.m. yesterday morning, with lips painted bright pink, smiling wide as Ukelele Explosion sang songs of solidarity with the hundreds of other protests happening countrywide. I had the perfect view. Perched on top of a ledge, I watched as hundreds of people stood in the square wearing their pink pussy hats proudly; all there to stand not only with D.C., but also with every other American exercising their first amendment rights today.

It was in that moment I realized why this march was so important. Regardless of geography, when that many people from all walks of life rally around one common cause, something extraordinary happens. The hope and positivity that every single one of those beautiful humans radiated combined to create a practically tangible energy. It didn’t matter who we were or where we came from because during this rally we became one.

So thank you President Trump, because with your efforts to divide us, you instead gave us the motivation to come together stand truly united. You made housewives into activists, fathers into feminists, and strangers into friends. But most importantly, you changed my lifelong prejudice to the color pink. I no longer regard it as an archaic gender stereotype because after today, the color pink symbolizes strength, hope, and unity. And as hard as you may try, these are things no legislation or executive order can ever take away.

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Lead photo by Mark Dixon

Originally published: January 22, 2017
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