There’s no UPside to anxiety. No matter the age, anxiety robs us from joy. And for children it’s an UPhill battle with little to be gained and a childhood to be lost.
Lily is an amazing fifth grader. She’s a middle child in a delightfully caring, smart, and musically talented family. I started teaching Lily in elementary school because she was ready to take on musical theatre roles and wanted coaching. Lily immediately sang the National Anthem at Fireman’s Field and auditioned for the summer musical Winnie the Pooh, dazzling Franklin Park audiences with her song and dance as a buzzing bee. Upcoming auditions for Annie seemed a perfect fit.
But then, in a strange turn of events that September, she experienced a perfect storm of tragedies: a death in the family, her mom’s absence while handling those details, Lily’s serious injury and infection requiring surgery and hospitalization, and bullying at school. Then a panic attack in the lunchroom snowballed into days and weeks of paralyzing anxiety, isolating her from all the things that formerly brought her joy. She missed school, social events, shows, and voice lessons. When she returned for lessons, sometimes we sang outdoors, or bottle fed my baby lambs. Sometimes we talked on the front porch; gradually we moved back into my studio.
And then one particular lesson, Lily came in with a vision. She had been inspired to write the lyrics and music for a song that she wanted me to accompany and record. Not only that, she wanted to share her story and her song. She understood voicing her feelings might help someone with the same struggle.
We recorded Lily’s first composition on her iPad, played on an out-of-tune piano by me, the voice teacher, trying to keep up with the passionate plea of my fifth grader fighting anxiety and coming out on the other side. We recorded Lily’s voice, a rallying fight song, so others might raise their voices and tell their stories.
Do I think there an UPside to anxiety? No. But things feel UP for sufferers when they get help with medicine, counsel, friends, family, and music, and maybe lamb therapy, too.
Did Lily’s experience change her? Yes. Lily bloomed this Spring. Over the summer she returned to the stage to dance, and then played the Duchess in Aristocats. This August, Lily begins middle school as a sensitive, empathetic teen focused on others. She’ll be just the kind of friend so many fellow teens need and appreciate, and she’ll be surrounded by family and friends cheering for her on and off the stage.
And here's Lily's song:
Half the time in this world I spend hiding in the corner What an I supposed to do Schoolwork Tummy Turnin Anxious No more of this Come on I need your help right now! I’m losing friends I’m losing loved ones! What am I supposed to do about that? Chorus: Anxiety What have you done to me? What am I supposed to do ? ( o o o o o) Anxiety What have you done to me ? What am I supposed to do? ( o o o o o) I bailed on someone 3 times Than I cried What do you do about that? Crying Screaming, yelling Hiding Someone help me Where are you all at? I’m losing hope I’m losing courage What do I do about that? You know what I’m not letting that stupid anxiety beat me!