“All it takes is one person to listen. To care. To make you feel like you’re not crazy.”
One of the reasons Julia Michaels’ music resonates with so many people is because of the artist’s open and honest songwriting style. But we were still blown away by the star’s raw confessions when she wrote an emotional essay about her struggles with anxiety. In a story for Glamour, Julia opened up about how having developed the disorder as a teen influenced her career.
“I started having anxiety for the first time when I was 18. I’d just signed my first publishing deal, and I felt so much pressure to perform that it sent my mind and body down something that felt like a never-ending spiral,” she shared. “I thought I was dying. Most days, I couldn’t breathe or leave the fetal position. I would rock back and forth, tapping my feet on the floor because I thought if I stopped I would pass out.”
“I became afraid of everything. Going out. Eating. Driving. Writing. My life became a string of, ‘What ifs?’ Julia continued. “What if I eat this and I’m allergic to it? What if I’m driving and get in an accident? What happens if I stop moving? I became consumed. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had completely isolated myself—even from the things I loved. This continued heavily for the next few years.”
Julia explained that her days were always different, and beautifully explained just how troublesome and confusing that can be.
“Anxiety feels like an earthquake shaking your entire body and can last for minutes, hours, or sometimes days,” she wrote. “It makes you feel like you were just in sunny California and teleported to winter in Chicago. It’s a lot like that friend who says they’re happy for you but secretly roots for you to fail. It’s always waiting to ruin you and make you feel small. It’s like you’re in a prison with yourself, like there are a thousand bricks weighing your body down. What’s really terrifying, though, is when those bricks start to feel comforting.”
Sometimes Julia’s anxiety manifests itself as terrible stage fright, which takes a toll on her as a performer. But fortunately, the singer was able to find help, and is able to look back on her progress now.
“It got to a point where I was having panic attacks every day. I had to sit in a ball and rock myself until I was back to ‘OK,” she wrote. “I remember thinking, If this is how the rest of my life is going to look, I can’t do this. I can’t live with this constant broken feeling. This constant gray cloud sending out hurricanes every chance it gets onto my skin. I called my manager and told her it was time I see a therapist. My first couple sessions, all I did was cry and panic. I didn’t realize how much emotional duress I was holding inside of my body. How much childhood trauma and avoidance account for anxiety. How the less you talk about how you’re feeling, the more it builds—until you’ve created an over-populated city in your head of everything you’ve suppressed your whole life. I learned that the more toxicity I surrounded myself with, the more toxic my mind became. The more therapy I did, the more the panic became less and less. I learned that for each thing to have anxiety about, I had an association to link it to. For example, when I get anxious before I go onstage I think to myself, Why? And then I think to myself, Oh, it’s probably because that one time when I was 12, someone really close to me told me I couldn’t sing, and I’ve held on to that. But that was a long time ago. I’m OK.”
“I started weeding out a lot of negativity and things that constantly made me feel emotionally tiny,” she shared. “I am learning every day that those moments will forever be a part of me, but they are not who I am. I am not other people’s projections of their own insecurities. I am my own. I have learned many coping methods and there are different ones for everybody. Rationalizing with myself has been the one to calm me down the most. When that doesn’t work, I do something called grounding, where I take my shoes off, no matter where I am, and plant my feet on the ground. It makes me feel centered, stable, and less confined.”
Now, she looks back on her decision to pursue singing — and not just staying a songwriter — as a wonderful opportunity to work on her anxiety.
“This year I’ve made so much progress with my mental illness. Even seeing videos back from where I started to where I am now, I feel an amazing sense of growth and accomplishment,” she shared. “When you’re stuck in that vicious cycle it’s easy to think that you may never get out. And when you realize that prison has an escape door, that Chicago winter suddenly starts to feel like summer again.”
We’re so proud of Julia for opening up about her struggles — and her triumphs! — in such a big way. We have a feeling 2018 is going to be even more amazing for her.