Lights are hot on my face, my co-star is chatting with the director. He’s going to come onto the set, pour a cup of coffee, throw a newspaper at me and point. That’s when I say my lines. Crap. What were they again?
“Has anybody seen the script supervisor?” I ask timidly, though no one is actually listening to me. Camera is rolling. Uggh! I didn’t know. I thought the director was still chatting with… oh great. My co-star is ready and on his mark. He’s such a pro. I hate him.
“Action!” The director calls out and on cue my co-star rushes on set, does exactly what he’s supposed to do, and says exactly what he’s supposed to say. Then he points to me as instructed. And. I. Freeze.
“Cut!” The director yells.
“Sorry.” I say. “Um… what’s my line again?”
“Learn your effing lines, Dana.” My co-star mumbles angrily as someone with a script rushes to help me.
I nod and wipe tears before they can fall. What my co-star doesn’t understand is that I can’t learn my lines. Because of my anxiety disorder, I’m having trouble focusing.
I can’t do my job… at least not on this day.
In my new, debut novel Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now, 16-year-old Tiffany Sly suffers from generalized anxiety disorder. It took me creating the world of Tiffany Sly to admit to friends, family, co-workers and even myself… that I suffer from an anxiety disorder, too.
I’m not alone.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America, affecting 40 million adults. Teens and children are suffering, as well. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health says nearly 1/3 of Americans, both adults and adolescents, have an anxiety disorder.
Hard to believe? Perhaps. Especially if you spend a ton of time scrolling through your newsfeed on Facebook. In this age of social media, people are becoming experts at presenting a picture of well-being. It’s almost as if being less than extremely perfect and insanely successful is… taboo. Mentally ill? Ha! As if! I’m hashtag winning at life with pictures to prove it. See? I’m in Cancun! Yay!
And yet (Cancun Facebook pics aside) people really are suffering. An article in Forbes revealed that doctors write over 50 million prescriptions a year for anti anxiety medication.
So is this… our new way of life? Millions of Americans silently suffering? Our doctors writing prescriptions for our anxiety disorders while Facebook, Twitter and Instagram keep up the front that we’re living our best lives now.
I’m not gonna lie. I hope Tiffany Sly starts a revolution. Where people are no longer afraid to say…I am just not okay. At least not on this day. It’s my dream that we can live in a world (cue I have a dream speech) where admitting your weaknesses no longer makes you feel weak. But strong and powerful… and human.
I love one of the popular sayings from Alcoholics Anonymous: We are only as sick as our secrets. Can you imagine that? A world where we had no secrets. Where a Facebook post of your trip to Fiji is fun, but a post confessing your secret pain is healing. Now that’s some real hashtag winning if you ask me.
So let me end this by saying very proudly:
Hi. My name is Dana L. Davis. And I suffer from an anxiety disorder.
(Pssst. This is the part where you say… “Hi, Dana.”)