Discover more from Anxious Dude
I Am Anxious... Timothy Janovsky
The author and storyteller talks social anxiety, crowded spaces, racing thoughts, and the power of walking.
His latest novel New Adult arrived in stores this week!
“New Adult is a queer time-travel romance about the paths we take, the ones we don't, and who we're destined to be. It tells the story of Nolan Baker, a struggling stand-up comedian, who wishes on a set of magical healing crystals to skip to the good part of life, only to wake up seven years in the future with everything he's ever thought he wanted except his family, friends, and his true love. It's my spin on 13 Going on 30. It features ADHD and demisexual representation.”
How long have you been an anxious person?
I've been anxious since I was a young child. My mental health journey started in earnest around 2021 when I was editing my second romance novel, You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince. In a light, fluffy, Christmas rom-com, I didn't expect my main character to suffer an on-page anxiety attack. As I edited the novel, I realized more and more how much Matthew's anxiety was a key factor in how people misperceived him and in his own misperceptions of himself.
Spoiler Alert! Toward the end of the novel, after learning about himself via a wintery small town and a swoony love interest, he gets himself back into therapy.
This was a wake up call for me to seek out my own mental health counseling, and start treating my brain and emotions with the respect and care they deserve.
What is your earliest memory of being anxious?
My earliest memory of being anxious was probably in the first grade. I had misplaced my No. 2 pencil right before a test. My chest felt tight, I was sweating, and I started crying. My teacher took me out into the hallway to find out what was wrong because I was inconsolable. I explained about the pencil. She said, "This can't all be about a pencil..." It was the first time that I realized my brain and emotions might not function like everyone else's.
What are some of your anxiety triggers? What makes you most anxious?
My anxiety is triggered by crowded spaces where I can't find the exit and a fear of rejection. I often find myself planning far in advance and down to the minute detail when it comes to trips or going to new places. My anxiety feeds on uncertainty.
How do you feel physically and emotionally when you’re anxious?
Physically, I get overheated and sweat. A lot. It's awful. There's a sinking feeling in my chest. Emotionally, I experience racing, swarming thoughts. It feels a lot like dimming the lights on my ability to be present. On the other hand, sometimes I experience total paralysis. In these instances, the swarming thoughts lead to a frozen-in-place physicality that is really hard to shake off.
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?
When I feel anxious in a public place, I usually try to move to the outskirts of the main action, note my exits, and think through my affirmations — that I'm safe and I'm okay. If that doesn't work, I can usually go to the bathroom, turn on the ice cold water, and splash my face a few times to get the energy back. Since I'm a writer, I work from home, and if I experience anxiety while working, I often end up rolling out a yoga mat, lying on the floor to ground myself, and doing some breathing. Yoga or long walks help as well to get the blood pumping and my brain unstuck.
How do you feel your anxiety affects your family, friends, and overall social life?
Social anxiety is a big thing for me. As a creative and an introvert, I'm used to spending a lot of time alone. I usually need preparation before social interactions and time to decompress after social interactions in order to return to my baseline of energy and attentiveness. Since beginning my mental health journey, I definitely know my limits better. Before, I'd often say "yes" to everything to avoid any resentment or upset from friends and family, but now I'm better at anticipating my needs and making more informed decisions about what kind of events I can handle and what kind of events I should maybe sit out of.
For instance, you probably won't catch me at a basement club at 3 AM, but a mixer at 9 PM with music and dancing is manageable for me now. I attribute this both to a better awareness of myself thanks to therapy, but also to an as-needed anxiety medication I know I can take if my physical anxiety symptoms ramp up past the point of no return. It's not a crutch, but a tool at my disposal. Sometimes just having it on hand and not taking it helps reassure me.
When you're not feeling anxious (simply in your day-to-day life), what do you do for self care?
I usually walk two miles every day while listening to music or an audiobook. Putting on songs I love or listening to a story while being outside always helps me wake up. Every night, I take my anti-depressant and then read in bed before going to sleep. This helps me quiet my mind and body. The better I sleep, the less anxious I usually feel the following day.
I've fallen out of this habit recently, but I did journal every day for a while, which was a good way to track my levels of anxiety and pinpoint possible triggers. I'd like to get back into that practice! Handwriting helps slow down my mind.
Enable 3rd party cookies or use another browser
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 the romance genre is really doing the work when it comes to shedding light on mental health and anxiety. Since romances are known for their classic story beats, readers who have anxiety can rest assured that while the tropes and characters may change book by book, the happily ever after always awaits them before the final page. I think that's beautiful because a lot of anxiety can be triggered by uncertainty. You know when you pick up a romance novel that it's not going to leave you feeling upset or scared or hurt. It's a reprieve from the everyday, a world where love conquers all.
On that note, many authors struggle with their mental health and/or showcase characters who are living with anxiety in their books. Some of my favorite romance authors like Alison Cochrun, Mazey Eddings, Alexis Hall, and Jodie Slaughter have written wonderful, sexy, swoony romance novels that fold mental health struggles and triumphs into the DNA of their stories, which is so reassuring and comforting.
To see characters who reflect our experiences on the page is, in my opinion, a radical act of destigmatization and a strong reminder to the reader (and, let's be honest, ourselves) that everyone is worthy of love.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
The best advice I've ever received is "Write from the heart. The rest will follow." However, I use this as a guiding principle in everything, not just my craft. If I approach life heart-first, then I believe the right results will yield themselves.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity.
Thank you so much, Timothy, for your honesty and willingness to share such personal stories.
All three of Timothy’s novels are an absolute blast and I highly recommend them, whether you’re into rom-coms or not!
Thanks again, Timothy!
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.
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.