Alina was walking to school when a monster, tiny as a mouse, jumped inside of her backpack. With every step Alina took, the tiny monster grew a little bit bigger, and bigger, and bigger until her backpack was so heavy, she had to stop.
With a lot of effort, she took her heavy backpack off her back. Her heart was pounding, she was sweating and short of breath. She opened the backpack and saw a monster the size of a big cat snuggled between her math and science notebooks!
They both screamed, Alina fell to the ground and crawled behind a trash can, the terrified monster tried to hide inside the backpack, but its body was even bigger, and it didn’t fit inside it anymore.
Alina’s heart felt like it was about to jump out of her body. Both she and the monster sneaked out of their hideouts but when they met each other’s eyes they screamed again. It would have been a funny scene to watch if anyone was watching. But alas, there was nobody on that street and the last thing they wanted to do was to laugh.
“Who…who are you?” Alina finally articulated. The monster, growing a little bit bigger, now the size of a medium-sized dog, said “My name… is… Anxiety.”
“And… why are you here?” Alina asked, still trembling. “Well… that’s something you have to find out,” said the monster, its green eyes blinking insistently. “I don’t want you here!” said Alina.
“Here’s the thing,” said the monster “Only you know why I am here. I am invisible to most people around you, but the ones that really care for you can see me. I will stay with you until you figure out why I am here.”
Alina was confused. She felt so overwhelmed she even got dizzy. “I will just ignore you” she finally responded.
“Ignoring me will only make me bigger,” said Anxiety, standing up, cleaning the dust off its knees.
“I am sure no one can see you,” Alina said, determined. “People who care about you can see me.” Said Anxiety.
“I will deny you” Alina responded. Getting nervous, “Denying me will only make me bigger,” said Anxiety.
“I will hide you,” said Alina, her voice growing louder.
“You could. But here’s a secret, the more people see me, the smaller I get” said Anxiety in a calm voice.
“But they will laugh at me when they see you,” said Alina, as she paced from side to side on the sidewalk.
“Probably. But the better you get to know me, the less important their opinion will be” Anxiety said in a comforting voice. “Listen, knowing that Anxiety is always with you may overwhelm you. Don’t try to hide me or deny me, instead talk about me with people that can see me.”
Alina thought and thought. She was not in an ideal situation at all. “So… you won’t go away?” asked Alina. “No…” said Anxiety “wherever you go, I will go.”
Alina sighed and looked to the ground. She realized there was nothing she could do at that very moment because she had to get to school, even though she really didn’t want to show up carrying a huge monster on her back.
She got into her classroom in a rush hoping no one would notice the monster inside her backpack. But her friend Matt noticed. “Hey, what’s that in your backpack?” he asked. “Uhm… nothing” she responded. Anxiety grew a bit bigger. “No… there really is something going on,” said Matt. As he sat with her at lunchtime, they both spoke and had fun, and Anxiety grew smaller.
Alina got back to her classroom after recess. With every question the teacher asked, Anxiety grew and grew inside of her backpack, which became too tight for it. Alina started sweating bullets and when the teacher asked her a question, Anxiety suddenly jumped out of the backpack and the whole class screamed!
The teacher asked what was going on. Alina tried to hide under her desk. She was so embarrassed, but Anxiety stood up in the middle of the classroom, visible to Matt, the teacher, and Sarah, the girl across the classroom that sometimes smiles at her.
“Alina, can you please explain to us what is going on?” the teacher said. Alina remembered what Anxiety told her in the morning, “introduce me.” So, she took a deep breath. Shakingly, she walked to the middle of the classroom, standing next to Anxiety. She grabbed Anxiety’s furry hand and said to her teacher, “This here is Anxiety” Alina stated. And everyone gasped.
“Anxiety is my monster. It climbs in my backpack every morning on the way to school and as I get here, it gets heavier and bigger. It grows when I come across a new person, a new task, a new subject, and sometimes even when I think I forgot something I didn’t forget. Most people don’t see it, but it is big and heavy for me. Anxiety has told me that the more I speak about it, the smaller and lighter it will become”
Little by little the rest of the kids were able to see Alina’s Anxiety. Some were shocked, some giggled, some gave an empathetic smile. The teacher came closer to them, “nice to meet you, Anxiety. I hope you don’t grow too big for this room!” she said “but please know that I understand that you are part of Alina’s life, and we respect you”
On the other side of the room, Sarah stood up. With quiet footsteps, she approached Alina and Anxiety. “This is my Anxiety,” she said. Another monster appeared in the room.
“And… this is mine,” said Matt. Another monster appeared.
One by one the kids in Alina’s classroom stood up and one by one, bigger and smaller, anxiety monsters appeared, visible to the rest of the class.
Finally, the teacher said, “well kids… this is my Anxiety” another monster appeared in the room. “What are we going to do with so many anxiety monsters?” asked one of the kids. “I think… we can all say ‘Hi’ to them every morning, treat them with love and respect and they will stay quiet and small,” the teacher said.
Alina’s Anxiety became small as a mouse. She carefully seated it on her desk and asked it not to be too distractive. On her way back home, Anxiety crawled from her backpack to her shoulder and said, “Thank you for acknowledging me.” Alina winked at it, smiled, and said “you are welcome. Now please go back inside my backpack, I need to focus on my way back home.”
Anxiety is NORMAL! Most people feel anxiety at some point in their life.
Different things can trigger anxiety in different people – social gatherings, illness, public speaking, uncertain situations, and more.
The more we understand & acknowledge our anxiety, the better we can handle it.