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How 'Dear Evan Hansen' Helped Me Feel 'Found'

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“Have you ever felt like nobody was there
Have you felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere
Have you ever felt like you could disappear
Like you could fall and no one would hear”?

I will have been on antidepressants for anxiety/depression for a week as of tomorrow. I started them after one psychiatrist appointment where I learned I might also have ADHD. I’ve been slowly feeling the fog lift, dealing with side effects, and figuring out I still have a long way to go when it comes to talking about “stuff.”

I’m a theatre nerd. I’m often singing anything from “Into the Woods” to “Phantom” to “Les Mis” to “Hairspray,” and of course, “Hamilton” around my house, in my car, heck, practically in my sleep. The theatre community is one of the most understanding and genuine I’ve ever been in, and the love I’ve felt from my theatre throughout my diagnosis and before has been unreal.

“Rent” was important for several reasons. It highlighted the AIDS epidemic, gave the LGBTQ+ community a new voice, and opened up more roles for people of color. “Hamilton” is important because it blended hip-hop/rap music seamlessly into Broadway while encouraging diversity in a world that desperately needs a unifying voice.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is important because it shines a light on the very community The Mighty does. I saw The Mighty’s “high-functioning” anxiety video on Facebook and started crying because I’d never felt understood. Listening to “Dear Evan Hansen” did the same thing. And like I immediately read nearly every “Mighty” story on anxiety/depression and began writing my own experiences about it, I’m writing about “Dear Evan Hansen” and sharing my experience with it.

dear evan hansen poster

The musical tells the story of a 17-year-old high school senior with social anxiety. Evan feels alone and desperately wants to feel like he belongs. He wants to be understood, and his greatest victories and worst mistakes are out of a genuine love for people he’s come to know. When Connor, a boy Evan barely knew dies by suicide, Evan decides to help his grieving family by pretending the letters he writes to himself (a tip from his psychiatrist) were from Connor.

Evan creates “The Connor Project,” a school-wide organization that tries to make sure Connor (and all students like him) don’t fade into the background. “You Will Be Found” is the song Evan sings as he makes a speech about Connor, which is filmed and goes viral. Within that song, you can hear voices reacting to the message: “I knew someone needed this today, thank you!” “You’re right, we’re not alone! I’m not alone!” “None of us are alone!” “Sending prayers from Tampa… Michigan… London.” I think The Mighty and “Dear Evan Hansen” have that in common – we are not alone. There is someone out there somewhere who has felt forgotten, who has felt incomplete, who has felt like they could disappear without anyone noticing.

I’m convinced the more times I tell myself I will be found and the more times I’m the friend who finds you, the less alone we’ll feel.

“Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found.”

The song “You Will Be Found” is by far one of the most powerful in the musical, but the entire show deals with suicide, parenting, anxiety, individuality, broken families, friendship, and trust. The song “Waving Through A Window” details Evan’s fear of being alone, like he’s “on the outside, always looking in” all the time. “Requiem” deals with Connor’s family’s grief in the aftermath of his death. “Anybody Have a Map?” discusses Connor and Evan’s mothers trying to parent their teenage children when they can’t connect with them. The show lets you feel the characters’ emotions but still leaves you with hope with a mind set on changing others for the better.

I listened to the entire thing and felt so uplifted. I, like Evan, am a high school senior. I, like Evan, sometimes feel invisible, even as a raging extrovert. Evan’s love for people mirrors mine. I could see myself going to the lengths he does to make others happy. My mom is often as flustered as Mrs. Hansen when it comes to dealing with my “stuff.”

If you can get to Broadway, buy tickets; go support it. If you can’t, buy the cast album and share it. As the show says, “Take five minutes. It’ll make your day.” Share the story with everyone you can. It’s important. Now more than ever we need our voices heard, we need to feel together. We will be found. We are the Mighty. We are not alone.

To listen to the “Dear Evan Hansen” cast album, check it out on Spotify, and to read the show’s full description, head here.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Originally published: March 11, 2017
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