I Am Anxious... Lorien Lawrence
The middle grade horror author opens up her lifelong journey with anxiety.
Lorien Lawrence is a middle grade author and a middle school English teacher from Connecticut. Her Fright Watch series of middle grade novels has been praised by the horror master himself, Stephen King, when he called the first entry The Stitchers (Fright Watch #1) “the perfect book for kids to cool off with on a hot summer day, because the chills come guaranteed.”
Lawrence’s latest novel Unmasked (Fright Watch #3) is available now wherever books are sold. The third entry in the Fright Watch series, Unmasked is a middle grade horror novel about a 14 year old monster maker who uses her art to help her cope with anxiety.
How long have you been an anxious person?
My whole life! But my earliest memories started around age six.
What is your earliest memory of being anxious?
I remember being around six years old. I remember being upset about some minor thing that happened at school, and then I was up all night, just kind of spinning out about it. It manifested as one of my first migraines. The older I got, the more migraines I had until they became chronic.
Have you ever experienced a panic attack?
Yes, a few times. They were awful and so scary! And I don't think people really talked about them, so the first time I just thought I was sick, or that something was wrong with me.
What are some of your anxiety triggers? What makes you most anxious?
I think I'm a people pleaser, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve certain things. If something doesn't go to plan or if something upsets my loved ones, I perseverate on it, replaying the moment (or the day) again and again so that I don't sleep, and not sleeping leads to migraines - that's usually how my symptoms manifest.
How do you feel physically and emotionally when you’re anxious?
Insomnia, tingly hands and arms, shortness of breath, tight chest, and then usually a migraine.
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?
Now that I'm older, I have a lot of strategies that I've collected over the years. I can recognize the symptoms, and I do deep breathing exercises, or I go for a walk, or I write. I've also gotten way better at asking for help, so that when I start to spin out, I talk to my husband about it, and he helps to put things in perspective or he helps me figure out a solution.
How do you feel your anxiety affects your family, friends, and overall social life?
I have definitely not gone to social engagements (or canceled them) due to my anxiety. I used to think that I was missing out on so much (which I guess is technically true), but I don't have any regrets because self care is more important.
I still get really anxious to do author events, and the thought of going to a party with people I don't know is terrifying. The older I get, though, the more comfortable I feel saying no and explaining why. It's nothing to be ashamed of.
My family is great about it now, but when I was a kid in the ‘80s/’90s, we didn't really have the language for what I was experiencing, so it was considered one of my "quirks" as opposed to something that needed attention. Now, though, my loved ones are super helpful and they know how to help me when I feel anxious.
When you're not feeling anxious (simply in your day-to-day life), what do you do for self care?
Walks are my life force! I also write a lot. People tell me I'm really prolific, but I think it's out of necessity. When I'm writing stories, I'm focused on someone else's (fictional) problems instead of obsessing about my own. It's my outlet, and I think everyone needs some kind of outlet.
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?
I think it's getting way better. I still think there's some degree of stigma surrounding it, and I think books are ahead of the curve for kids. There don't seem to be many movies or TV shows for kids/about kids with anxiety. (Maybe someone will turn Unmasked into a movie one day! 😉)
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for including me in this newsletter and for bringing attention to anxiety!
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity.
Thank you, Lorien for participating in the I Am Anxious… questionnaire!
I’ve been a huge fan of all three of the Fright Watch books, and Unmasked’s treatment of anxiety in adolescence is so beautifully handled. I absolutely recommend it to you and your kiddos!
Thanks again, Lorien!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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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.