I Am Anxious... A.S. King
The author and speaker examines anxiety, trauma, book banning, meditation, eating apples, and more.
A.S. King is an author and public speaker, a teacher, a community volunteer, a painter, and a single mom. She “works a lot / is learning to nap.”
Her latest novel Attack of the Black Rectangles is a middle grade about book censorship and the importance of finding your voice.
“When I wrote this in 2019, I never thought we'd be where we are. Recently, Missouri took a step toward defunding its entire public library system—a move against knowledge and education dressed as some kind of moral normalcy. This book is a bridge to that conversation and it's a privilege to talk to people about how intellectual freedom and the access to books really advances us as a culture. (and why that matters!)”
King’s next book is The Collectors, an anthology of weird stories she’s edited with an all-star cast of contributors.
“Very excited by this. It's not every day you get to ask your writing idols to write you a story and tell them there are no rules.”
How long have you been an anxious person?
I have been "officially" anxious since 2010, but was probably anxious since I was little.
What is your earliest memory of being anxious?
I remember my older sister making me chase basketballs across our dangerous road, and I remember a moment where I didn't want to do it, but I knew she'd be furious if I didn't, so I froze...and did it over and over with a tight, breathless feeling in my chest I now know was anxiety. I was probably five or six.
Have you ever experienced a panic attack?
Yes. They are terrible. I also had a brief dance with panic disorder in the later years of my marriage.
What are some of your anxiety triggers? What makes you most anxious?
People who lie, are intimidating, abusive, or flippant. So many small things. Anxiety is nuanced.
How do you feel physically and emotionally when you’re anxious?
Dizzy, first of all. Tired. My temperature fluctuates. If it's worse and borders on panic, it's hard to stop the idea in my head that I'm dying. I immediately need a safe or cozy place. Emotionally, I feel frustrated or sad. I blame myself and feel stupid or small.
What do you do when you feel anxious? How do you take care of yourself in those situations? Do you have any anxiety management tips or tricks?
I rarely "seem" anxious—though if someone is screaming at me directly, I show signs. I no longer spend time with people who scream at me.
I am big on meditation and at any given moment I will have at least one set of meditation beads on me. (I make them.) So when I feel anxious, I breathe deeply, sit down, and try to feel my feet on the earth and ground myself in the here and now holding those beads. If I am outside, I literally ground by getting my bare feet on the grass.
If I don't meditate one day, I can tell the next day, so it's more of a practice—and it also reflects in my life. I try to make the practice my life and be calm and kind in my dealings. That keeps me grounded.
How do you feel your anxiety affects your family, friends, and overall social life?
I think my work and life situation affects my social life more than my anxiety. As a single mom, I have my hands full at the moment, but on the flip side, I am focused on my kid and all he needs. So I don't have as many opportunities to live in my head, which is good.
On a wider level, I isolate a lot. My friends seem to understand this. They knew me a long time as I navigated some really heinous stuff and know I am busy.
When you're not feeling anxious (simply in your day-to-day life), what do you do for self care?
Meditation, walking, eating apples. I know that last one feels weird but it's my new thing. I had a stroke in February, and some intense anxiety arrived back for the first few weeks afterward. Apples = feeling healthy = feeling less anxious.
How do you feel about the portrayal of mental health and anxiety in Pop Culture (books, movies, music, etc)? Do you feel it's accurate?
Oh wow—as a suicide loss survivor who also educates folks about suicide loss and how to responsibly talk about mental health and mental illness, I could talk all day about this. But in a line or two, we have a long way to go to represent mental health realities better. We are far more ready to judge than learn—and the truest thing I can say about mental illness is: it can happen to anyone at any time.
The biggest factor right now, as far as I can see, isn't pop culture but politics and the media covering them, and the ridiculous and harmful things said by elected officials about mental illness. Empathy is in short supply. It's scary. I am not much of a consumer of pop culture, though, so keep that in mind.
What are some of your favorite examples of Pop Culture that gets anxiety and mental health right?
Captain Fantastic is #1 on my list of movies for this reason.
Music: I just listen to music that makes me happy. Mostly Capleton.
Books: I can't list them all. But I am happy especially that YA and MG books have become more responsible in recent years when dealing with this topic.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
“Hitch your wagon to a star.”
My grandmother wrote that in my autograph book when I was 9.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
A lot of people think meditation has something to do with "clearing your mind completely" and that's just not true. All it is is breathing and being aware of that. Don't beat yourself up for not being "perfect" at meditation. Everyone has their own way. You can only find yours once you start!
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity.
Thank you, Amy, for participating in the I Am Anxious… questionnaire. Not only is Amy one of the best humans ever, but she’s also one of the most talented and important writers working today. Her books are essential. Thanks again, A.S.!
If you are interested in being a part of the newsletter in the coming weeks and taking the I Am Anxious… questionnaire, please email me (email@example.com) and I’ll get you on the list! I’d love to have you. I would love to get to the point where we are sharing so many reader stories that I’m backed up for months.
Be well and keep talking.
Anxious Dude is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
DISCLAIMER: I am, by no means, a medical profession. If you need help, please seek qualified medical attention. This newsletter, while informative and fun, is no substitute for the real thing.