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Why P!NK’s Song 'What About Us' Is My Anxiety Battle Cry

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Driving to work this morning, I found myself crying big, ugly tears blasting P!nk’s song “What About Us” and singing along at the top of my lungs, intending every word to be a breakup anthem to my longtime partner, anxiety.

I have struggled with anxiety — the overwhelming perfectionism, the catastrophizing, the fear of rejection, the self-loathing — since early childhood, but didn’t have a name for it until a couple of years ago. Since then, I have been in and out of therapy, trying to understand that the traits I have long regarded as part of my personality are actually symptoms of a mental illness. It has been a difficult realization, and I still struggle to accept that things don’t always have to be this way. Getting rid of my anxiety doesn’t mean getting rid of me.

I identify strongly with the term “high-functioning.” To observe my life from the outside, it doesn’t look like anxiety has stopped me from doing anything. It hasn’t stopped me from landing the job I always wanted. It hasn’t stopped me from earning accolades as a straight-A student. It hasn’t stopped me from getting engaged to a man who loves me completely. It hasn’t stopped me from forging meaningful friendships with a group of wonderful people.

But it has robbed me of much of the pride and satisfaction that should come with these milestones, and left me teetering on the edge of destroying it all. It has replaced joy and fulfillment with worry, self-doubt and dread. It has reared its ugly head in frantic 3 a.m. emails to professors; and in days and weeks of being late to work because I can’t drag myself out of bed to face the day. In missed deadlines because I can’t start or finish a project for fear of failure. In nights spent sobbing to my ever-patient and supportive fiancé about how I’m not good enough and never will be.

P!nk’s song has helped me to finally boldly question my anxiety. To ask it, for me and all the other fighters out there battling mental illness, “What about us? Who do you think you are? And what good have you ever done for us?” As the song goes, “What about all the times you said you had the answers?” That voice in my head constantly telling me I’m not good enough, telling me I can’t do it, telling me my feelings are irrational and invalid — I can’t trust it like I have for years. That voice is not giving me the answers to my problems.

So, anxiety, “What about all the broken happy ever afters?” Never has anxiety given me a fairy tale ending. Despite what it tries to tell me, anxiety isn’t the reason anything in my life has worked out. It’s not the part of me that has made me successful. I have succeeded in spite of this constant weight dragging me down, not because of it.

And for myself, I can finally admit that, “I don’t want control, I want to let go.” My anxiety makes me grasp for so much control in my life that I become, as another Mighty article so truthfully put it, a robot rather than a human. I push down my emotions and my needs and my whole self in pursuit of some “perfect” ideal that only thinks and says and does and feels the “right” thing, somehow finding the one “best” path through a world of nuanced gray areas.

I have a long way to go in my fight against anxiety, but at least I have a battle cry. When I lose sight of myself and start listening to anxiety and its lies, I can ask it, “What about me?” And when anxiety has no answer to that, no good reason that I should continue subjecting myself to its torture, I will silence it, if only for a moment, and step up to reclaim all that it has taken from me.

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Lead image via P!nk’s YouTube channel


Originally published: September 6, 2017
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