By Sydney Schwichtenberg
Inside her pocket-sized kitchen, Abigail Hall pours a can of beer into a wine glass and throws the aluminum into her recycle bin.
In the safety of her apartment, Hall, a journalism senior, forgets about deadlines and instead, focuses on her vegetables roasting in the oven. According to Hall, she isn’t the biggest fan of change. That was why she spent the last week surviving solely off of carbs.
Hall works as the culture editor at the OU Daily. In the newsroom, Hall is dedicated to her stories and keeping her desk on track.
Hall struggles with anxiety and depression, two mental illnesses that can work against her career as a journalist. Through years of therapy, Hall has learned how to understand her own needs.
Sydney Schwichtenberg: If you had one word, how would you describe yourself?
Abigail Hall: One word to describe myself? I mean, fucked up is two words so… I guess the real word would be anxious. We’re going to go with that.
SS: Tell me about a moment when you completely embodied ‘anxious.’
AH: I think a lot of my life experiences have been in anxious moments. It’s just been a perpetual state of my life.
SS: So, do you have anxiety?
AH: I do, I’m diagnosed with anxiety.
SS: What does that adventure look like for you?
AH: I’ve always kind of been in an unstable situation, just moving everywhere. I never knew where I was going to be the next year. I was constantly losing friendships because I was constantly moving. And so, I delved into books and stories as a way to stay away from change. That really defined my childhood.
I was homeschooled until the seventh grade. In the seventh grade, my parents decided to move us to the great land of Oklahoma. I was put into public school. That’s when my social anxiety came into play– trying to be cool. We didn’t have money and I was trying to wear Aeropostale, American Eagle and Hollister. I wanted to fit it in with all the girls. I never did. My mom always encouraged me to “just try, go up to them and just insert yourself into their lives.” I would do that. And they would ignore me. It left me wondering what could go wrong at any possible moment. And there are so many things that go wrong at any given moment.
That thought definitely developed into extreme depression and anxiety. It’s more natural for me to be anxious than not to be anxious. I’ve come to define the world around me through that lens.
SS: What does healing look like for you?
AH: I’m at this point where I have been through years of therapy, done all the journals and voice inflections, all of the “I can do this” while talking to yourself in the mirror. Becoming OK with it helped. Saying, it’s OK and it’s OK to talk about it. It’s OK to say in my place of work, I’m having a panic attack and I need to go home. I’m just learning to take care of myself through it, instead of being ashamed of my anxiety or actively avoiding it.
SS: What are some things that help your anxiety?
AH: Well, one thing I had to learn, and that’s through years of going to therapy and talking about it, sometimes you are going to be anxious and you just have to go through it. There are times when I can avoid anxious situations, but the career path I’ve chosen means I have to interview a lot of people, there are a lot of deadlines, there is a lot of chaos. I have to be OK with that. Even though it might be better for me to go to bed really early and have a lot of sleep to help my depression and general ability to connect throughout the day, there are times where I have to cover things in the evening. There are times where I have to push through anxious feelings and go interview someone or work on an approaching deadline. There are times where I have to say, “It’s sucks that I’m feeling this way, but I have to do this anyway.” I think, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good thing to say, “I understand my mental health and know what I need.”
Although I like being social, there are some limits. Sometimes, if I’ve had a hard day and already said I’d do something, I’ve become a lot better in the recent few years saying I can’t do that right now. I know that I said I would. I hate disappointing people. It’s very hard for me to say I’m going to do something and change my mind. There are times when I just say I’m going to take care of myself first.
I think we make this whole twitter joke about all white girls needing therapy and wine and face-masks. Those things really help. They’re not fixing the whole problem but they do allow a certain amount of emotional release and relaxation.
I usually rewatch some funny show that makes me feel good or reminds me of another time when things were easier, or the person I watched them with. If I’m really missing my boyfriend and I’m anxious about that, I’ll watch “The Office,” because we watched it together. He had never seen it before and I remember all those moments. It’s usually like that, and taking my medicine every day.
SS: Where is your boyfriend?
AH: He just got into med school at OU in Oklahoma City, we are only thirty minutes away but sometimes it feels farther.
SS: Has he helped you with your anxiety?
AH: He does. There were a lot of days last year where I was not able to do things. I would have interviews, and think that I could not leave this house. I would have panic attacks. He helped talked me down from a lot of things. It was also hard, because there were things he didn’t understand.
He would say, “Well, yes you can go and do that. You may not want to, but you can do those things.”
When you are in an anxious moment, that’s not very helpful. I talked to my therapist, and together we found ways he could be supportive.
He wants to help, but sometimes people who aren’t therapist don’t know how to help. Sometimes when they say things they think are helping, it doesn’t feel like help to you. It’s been a learning process for us.
SS: What is one word you hope to embody in the future?
AH: The only words I can think of right now are really inappropriate… but I guess… happy. I don’t know, the word circumcised kept coming to my head and that’s definitely not what I mean to say. But, yeah, happy.