I Am Anxious... Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
The hilarious cartoonist and author shares about the exhaustion of anxiety, her tongue going numb, and the importance of exercise and dance for mental health.
Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell is a New Yorker Cartoonist and the author of Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession.
This past January her guided journal What Did I Do Today? was released.
“It's a collection of all my practices that I use in writing to keep myself sane, find the humor in every day life, and process all my friggin’ feelings. Too many journals out there are about being more productive, getting more done, I wanted to make a journal that was like "hey, do less." If you can relate, this might be the right book for you!”
How long have you been an anxious person?
So hard to say... but i gave myself the shingles in 8th grade because I was so nervous.
What is your earliest memory of being anxious?
I have a really random memory of getting my first possible panic attack-ish thing. I don’t know what it was related to, but I'm in my bedroom and every time I try to move my body it looks like it's happening in fast forward. Scared the shit out of me.
Have you ever experienced a panic attack?
What are some of your anxiety triggers? What makes you most anxious?
Hahaha.... oh boy. For a long time — just men. Dating. Relationships. I had PTSD from a relationship in my 20s that left me so nervous that even if a boy was like "Can I take you to the movies?" my tongue got numb because I thought he might ruin my life. Isn't that cool???????????
How do you feel physically and emotionally when you’re anxious?
Chest pain. I used to have this whole "tongue goes numb" thing. I have to lay down usually. I can't physically do anything, and it gets so exhausting that I need to take a nap.
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?
There's a lot of great tricks out there, but the best thing for me is to leave the apartment, and go for a long walk, even if i'm in the middle of work. I'm useless if I'm feeling nuts, so getting outside and just walking for as long as I can and remembering there's a world outside of me. I'm also huge on dancing. It makes me feel more connected to my body and pulls me out of my head. That being said, it isn't a cure all. Grounding/breathing techniques are great, medicine is great when you need it, and above all — phone a friend.
How do you feel your anxiety affects your family, friends, and overall social life?
It used to largely affect my dating life, but I've gotten a handle on it (I think...) these days. I know so many people are like “I'm socially anxious!" but I'm oddly... not... I love being around people.
When you're not feeling anxious (simply in your day-to-day life), what do you do for self care?
Ah, yes, like I said — walk! Exercise! Move my dang body around!! Also avoid caffeine, which always makes it worse.
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?
That's so tricky... like it used to be just all manic pixie dream girl shit, but I do suppose it's getting better. I think the one thing that frustrates me is there's kind of one tone per mental illness on TV. Like OCD is just OCD — there's no nuance to it. But I know people with all different types of OCD — it's not just like "Oh, he's a clean freak!"
What are some of your favorite examples of Pop Culture that gets anxiety and mental health right?
All of Maria Bamford's comedy.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
An ex of mine told me when he gets too in his head, he calls every one of his family members to see how they're doing, because it reminds him that taking care of others is one of the best ways to feel better. Really loved that and I do it to this day.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I illustrated a book in 2018 called Everything Is Going to Be OK: A Real Talk Guide for Living Well with Mental Illness and I highly recommend it!!!!!
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity.
Thank you, Hilary, for sharing about your mental health journey. I can relate to so many things you discussed in your responses.
If you haven’t checked out Hilary’s work, I highly recommend it. Murder Book is genius, and her comics are some of the most hilarious and unique you’ll find out there today. Truly recommended.
Thanks again, Hilary!
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Be well and keep talking.
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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.