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How My Time as a Conan O'Brien Show Intern Helped Me Overcome Anxiety

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It had been over a year since my last routine checkup, but only a few weeks since experiencing my first panic attack. It was a secret I was too embarrassed to admit, including to myself.

“I guess the stress from midterms and finals got to me,” I finally told my doctor.

It was true. I never took breaks in between classes and work. That would burn anyone out, both physically and mentally. It led to anxiety, making it difficult to focus, eat and sleep.

“OK that was last semester,” my doctor interjected. “So, why are you still nervous?”

She looked annoyed, rather than understanding. On the hot seat, I had no answer. Why exactly was I nervous all of the time?

I only listened to her next words, “You’re never going to make it in the entertainment field if you get panic attacks. Get a Plan B.”

That was the last time I ever saw her. I cried on my way home, fed up that my own doctor refused to help. It was a low point in my life, especially when I tried convincing myself that the panic attacks would just go away. It had to be a “phase,” right? Everyone gets “nervous.”

My panic attacks had only progressed. I had flu-like symptoms; from body aches and chills, to fatigue and feeling nauseated. It became a problem when I struggled to get out of bed.

Fortunately, I got help. Therapy gave me the tools to take control, rather than let anxiety run my life. I threw myself into work, including job applications. Imagine my reaction when I received an email from the Conan O’Brien show: We would like to schedule an interview with you for our summer production assistant (PA) internship position.

But, I was still hesitant because of those words, “Get a Plan B.” Part of my healing journey with panic attacks was to always work through the negativity, including self-doubts and fears. Panic attacks can do that — worry and imagine the worst case scenario for everything, which triggered anxiety in the first place for me. That was why I had accepted the internship.

It was the first time living away from home, learning on my first work day that most of the interns were from out of state. We were all in the same boat, being away from our loved ones that summer. Interning had its perks, whether it was helping out the employees or occasionally running into Christopher Nolan on the lot. Conan and Andy Richter were also chatty with us interns (Conan also slays at the guitar to Jack White songs).

Ironically, during my final work week, I saw the People’s magazine interview with Emma Stone, who opens up of her own history with anxiety, as well as coping mechanisms for being both on and off film sets. So, I counted the number of panic attacks I had that summer: zero.

The truth is that panic attacks are common in every work industry. It is also “normal” to feel anxious because everyone has dreams and should never give up on them. Conan even once said that one should always push forward with their dreams, no matter what they encounter. Panic attacks do not stop dreams because they certainly have not for mine.

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Lead image via contributor

Originally published: March 27, 2018
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