A Michigan teenager shares what it's like to live with an anxiety disorder.
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
Even before the pandemic, anxiety and depression were steadily increasing in young adults every year. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 teens meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. We're going to meet one of those young people now. And we're only using her first name so she can speak freely about her medical condition. Mira documented her anxiety and the ways she found solace earlier this year.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MIRA: My name is Mira. I have generalized anxiety disorder, and this is a week in my life living with anxiety.
Things you might not know are anxiety - believing everyone is secretly judging you, thinking you have to be perfect to avoid judgment, feeling unable or too afraid to speak up, worrying too much about your word choice. Oh, yeah.
OK. It's now...
I want to go to bed.
(Crying) God, I'm so exhausted. I just want to...
That was an anxiety hum, by the way.
(Crying) It's so hard.
OK. It's a Monday. Anyways, one of my teachers had to call my parents because she was, like - she was getting worried about my anxiety and stuff. And I don't know. I'm just stressed because I think it's getting worse.
I've had anxiety for a while. People ask me what it's like to live with this constant feeling all the time. It feels like you want to crawl out of your own skin or like that stomach-dropping feeling you get on a roller coaster.
Oh, like, you feel it in my - like, in my stomach. It's just, like, swirling around. I'm like, can you go away now? I'm tired.
Everyone gets anxious. I totally get that. But mine is maximized to a level where it's hard to function. For example, there was this one day...
I woke up like an hour ago. I'm...
I was looking forward to a day alone in the house for a while. My family's great, but my house isn't exactly a peaceful sanctuary. But that morning, I woke up to the sounds of my little brother playing video games. So bye-bye to my alone time. When I feel like things are getting away from me, like I'm not in control anymore, that's a real trigger for me.
...Home from school. So I have no mental health day at all. And I'm so tired. (Crying) I really needed this. And I don't get it anymore.
Listening back is hard for me. Seeing how much something as little as a day home alone can affect me, it's difficult. It made me uncomfortable to hear. But something that makes me feel good is seeing myself reflected in others. I've never really been into theater, but once I heard the musical "Dear Evan Hansen," that all started to change. It's about this anxious teen who feels alone and struggles to connect with others.
So I listen to this song a lot, so - "You Will Be Found." And I did "Stars On Ice." And one of the people who were doing it, they performed to this song. And I, like - I had no clue what it was. And then I, like, fell in love with it. And it was, like, when my anxiety was kind of first developing. And I'd, like - oh, it was such a support. I was, like, whoa. This has to be a big deal, right? They made a thing about this. It's so, like - here.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU WILL BE FOUND")
BEN PLATT: (Singing) ...To believe you'll be OK.
MIRA: I remember getting home and immediately Googling the lyrics and then listening to it. In the song, Evan Hansen for the first time feels heard and not alone. I couldn't believe somebody had written a song about how I was feeling. I was surprised that this was happening to other people.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU WILL BE FOUND")
PLATT: (Singing) Let the sun come streaming in 'cause you'll reach up, and you'll rise again.
MIRA: I thought it was just me. And listening to "You Will Be Found" literally taught me that I was not alone. (Singing) You will be found.
MCCAMMON: Mira recorded her audio diary in February as part of Michigan Radio's podcast Kids These Days. She says she's discovered some new ways to manage her anxiety during the pandemic like creating an oasis in her bedroom, watching TikTok videos and staying off Instagram. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.