On Friday, November 4th, Get Nervous was lucky enough to be a part of Lit Crawl, kicking off the evening of over 40 readings and events for this literally madcap literary adventure. That is their thing.
There were more people at this reading than have ever been at a Get Nervous reading. I don’t know if the impending election was part of it. I don’t know if it was because it was an all-queer edition. I think it was a combination of all of those things. The unknown is scary. It is where I usually find myself festering and making a bigger deal out of everything than I need to. If you don’t know, you can theorize over all the worst-case scenarios. It took me until I was in my mid-20s to really come out. The unknown is scary. My point is, I think people needed some community.
I did. It is funny (maybe not FUNNY funny, but funny!) to look back on the way I was feeling at a particular time and connect the dots as to why. I was so sure the election would go another way. I was so sure I assembled a bunch of queers, in public, to talk about our mental health issues. To read about them out loud to a room full of strangers. At a major literary event in one of the most literary cities in the country. I thought that seemed like a good way to deal with what I didn’t even know I needed to deal with. And it certainly fits the theme of being audacious and loud about it all instead of hiding it.
The lineup was incredible. I don’t know how I got so lucky. It was such a blur we barely got photos. So here are some links instead.
Some of these folks told me they were honored to participate. And in those moments I slough off compliments because I just can’t believe it. My anxiety and depression don’t often allow compliments. But it isn’t about me. Being honored to be a part of this is to be honored to be allowed to show up, say what we feel, publicly. It felt major at the time because I had finally assembled a group of people that were so much like me. Not just mental-health wise, because all of the participants so far have held some significance in that way. But queers. We have stories of hiding ourselves in so many ways. Not just our fears. Not just our sexuality. Not just our gender expression. But all of it, at the same time. This is true for so many, and I don’t mean to discount that. But in that moment, it felt major. Afterward, looking back now, when I’ve finally had time to process the last month, and the ways we move forward, it feels even more major.
At the start of the event, I said:
“Welcome to Lit Crawl 2016! I am Ashley and this is the All Queer Lit Crawl Edition of Get Nervous! Get Nervous is a reading and performance series about anxiety and depression, things I have struggled with my entire life. Mental health is a complicated, messy, beautiful thing, but there is a lot of stigma around it and a bit of misinterpretation of it. You can’t really call in anxious and overwhelmed to work, for example. For the people that don’t have them, anxiety and depression are intangible, which makes them hard to understand. But 40 million American adults struggle with anxiety disorders and 15 million struggle with major depressive disorders, which accounts for a total of over a quarter of American adults who live with them every day. Anxiety and depression can be isolating, scary, and mean. They can convince a person they are nothing, and in this all alone. Sometimes I walk around with what feels like a steel box around my head, where my worries fester and bounce around my brain. No one can get in, and my worries certainly can’t get out. I would talk to my friends—maybe two or three in particular who I felt GOT IT—one of which is reading tonight—and they felt the same way I did. They had isolating thoughts. They had worries that ping-ponged in their own steel box. People I’d known for years and never felt like I could talk to about my anxiety because of my anxiety. Once we started talking and commiserating it felt better. But one day when I had some clarity, and maybe one of the sides of the steel box was open, I thought that instead of keeping all of this to myself—clearly other people had these things come up, too—why not get up on a stage somewhere and talk about them publicly? It is the opposite of what my anxiety and depression want. But it’s working pretty well so far. Dozens of folks have read at Get Nervous in the last six months and there is this link we have. This connection of being brave and audacious enough to admit, publicly, that we have some shit. But who doesn’t?”
I considered retiring this series after this event because I was feeling very raw after November 8th. I still am. I wasn’t seeing the value in this. I was getting too self-involved with it. But it isn’t about me. It has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the people that show up, speak up, and most importantly, don’t shut up on a daily basis. We are out here talking about our shit now. It does not fade away when the microphones are turned off. It does not stop meaning something when we are not on stage. It means more. Because Get Nervous has only ever existed as a catalyst to create conversations around anxiety and depression that can affect the every day. Now is not the time to cut the sound and scatter back to our corners. I cannot be quiet about this any more. I think it might get even more intense. Giddy up.
Get Nervous is looking for a new home. We need a new space to do these events. So if you know of a spot, email me here. I am aiming for January for the next show.
Thank you from the bottom of my curmudgeonly, scared, anxious, bleeding heart for being there that night. And being here still. I am honored. Thank you.