“The internet’s best friend.” Flare
From the author of the popular newsletter That’s What She Said,Nobody Cares is a frank, funny personal essay collection about work, failure, friendship, and the messy business of being alive in your twenties and thirties.
As she shares her hard-won insights from screwing up, growing up, and trying to find her own path, Anne T. Donahue’s debut book offers all the honesty, laughs, and reassurance of a late-night phone call with your best friend. Whether she’s giving a signature pep talk, railing against summer, or describing her own mental health struggles, Anne reminds us that failure is normal, saying no to things is liberating, and that we’re all a bunch of beautiful disasters and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
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About the Author
Anne T. Donahue is a writer and person from Cambridge, Ontario. Her work has appeared in publications and websites such as Esquire, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Nylon, Flare, and Rookie. She is the host of the podcastNobody Cares (Except for Me), and has contributed to CBC’s q. You can absolutely find her on Twitter and Instagram at @annetdonahue, baking or screaming into the night.
Read an Excerpt
Anxiety, You Lying Bitch
Some are born anxious, some achieve anxiety, and some have anxiety thrust upon them. I am lucky enough to have been blessed with all three.
Ten years ago, I would have never admitted this essential truth about me. When I began my romance with anxiety, I thought it was all a phase; that stress wouldn't manifest itself in my life (or in my stomach) forever and that, like all youthful dalliances, I would grow out of it — in the same way I grew out of wanting to be Lauren Conrad or marry Benedict Cumberbatch.
With every anxiety attack or anxiety-induced stomach cramp or inability to digest a meal properly, I told myself that it would all get better. That I could "beat" it by self-medicating with booze and sleep aids, or by denying it existed entirely, or by making myself small enough that it might miss me. Because anxiety is a liar, it convinced me that I was the only one it ever visited. It'd whisper its toxic nonsense to me when I was too stressed to question my relentless mental narrative. It kept me pinned down by quietly insisting that if I ever opened up about it, I'd be all alone.
There were certainly signs that anxiety would become A Thing as I grew up: I cried every day in first grade because I missed my mom. I couldn't stay overnight at a friend's without assuming that something bad would happen to my parents unless I was home. I couldn't fall asleep unless my mom promised there'd be no burglars or fires and that she'd check on me every ten minutes "just in case." In middle school, I developed an irrational fear of tornadoes (despite never having seen one) that morphed into a teen and twentysomething fear of food poisoning. (I wouldn't eat meat at a restaurant, ever.) And then I failed a math class, and anxiety spiraled me into a full-on existential crisis.
When I think about that math-defined summer, almost every moment is defined by what I can now identify as severe anxiety: by all- consuming destructive monologues and all-encompassing worries and refusals to acknowledge that what I was feeling wasn't the product of me being a failure, but of my brain being a liar. I'd get anxious about going out, about eating, about having to pretend I was the same person I'd been a few months prior. I'd curl up on my bed on weekends instead of going out, crying because I was afraid to eat dinner since I hadn't been able to digest anything properly in weeks. I'd sob in front of repeated screenings of Sense and Sensibility, unable to articulate to my parents what was happening to me or why I was feeling the way I was. And, because anxiety spreads as well as it lies, it began manifesting about work, about friends' birthdays, about my own birthday, about ordering from a restaurant menu.
Anxiety followed me when I changed jobs, during my first year of university, and throughout the following autumn and winter. It hung around when I started to drink more, when I started to drink less, and when I got sober once and for all and was forced to process life without numbness. It would hover over me for days before finally swooping in to convince me that I was failing, that I was weak, that I was alone. It would worsen when I tried to push it down. It thrived in the dark and in my solitude, and the longer I kept it there, the more anxious I became.
Well into 2015, I kept chiding myself for not being better — for not yet outsmarting the narratives that made me feel small and trapped and afraid. So, fueled by comparison with the people around me who seemed to have their lives under control, I threw myself into self-improvement: I decided I needed to commit to being bigger and better, doing more, being more, being smarter, being more involved, less thirsty, more enthusiastic, busier, more relaxed, and, and, and. Perfect, perfect, perfect.
And anxiety clapped back.
One summer evening, my friend Nicole and I had plans to see a movie, and for the first time in my life I was early. I waited for her near the concession stand and scrolled through Twitter while trying to take deep breaths because I'd been feeling out of sorts all afternoon. I'd felt inexplicably rushed on the way over, overemotional when cut off by another driver, and I'd begun to fixate on where we should go for dinner later, convinced that my diva stomach could handle only bread. I was so lost in my what-if narrative that when three guys approached and began chatting me up, I didn't have time to put my mask back on. And now I was trying to dodge conversation starters from a trio of bros who'd opened by telling me to smile more.
Angry and annoyed and hyperaware of how outnumbered I was, I felt my cheeks and palms getting hot, but I was shivering. My stomach was going to fall out of my body, and my legs felt like I'd just run up several dozen flights of stairs. I knew I had to get to the bathroom before I threw up or passed out or projectile wept all over everybody. I mumbled my excuses and texted Nicole to meet me in the bathroom when she got there. I stood over the sink with my eyes closed, breathing in and out, in and out, in and out until she showed up. She was kind in not acknowledging the obviousness of my meltdown.
The next day, I made an appointment with my GP, assuming I'd be prescribed anti-anxiety medications. But he declined. Had I been actively working through my anxiety with my therapist (I hadn't) or doing any exercise (I wasn't), he might have. Instead, he suggested we start by me talking (and breathing) through it.
Which is a much longer road than a paragraph in a book — talking to my therapist was not one conversation that led to me overhauling and retraining my brain. Instead, it is and was a long, tiring, and frustrating work in progress. To this day, I'm still anxious, it still manifests physically, and I still actively worry about what to eat before going anyplace with a questionable bathroom. I'm simply learning how to keep anxiety in a guest role instead of as my co-lead.
I've found ways to quiet my anxiety, to balance my work and the rest of my life, to take breaths, to say no to plans. I've learned that no one will die if I need to reschedule, and that Jessica Jones is onto something when she closes her eyes and recalls the street names of her childhood neighborhood. I've learned to keep track of my plans by writing them down, by asking friends if we can do dinner at someone's apartment instead of at a restaurant if I'm not feeling well. I've stopped going to parties I never wanted to attend in the first place. I leave when I want. I've also learned that anxiety isn't indicative of weakness, but a symptom of being a living human person. It's also an ever-evolving creature you have to constantly outwit to keep it lurking and not thriving. For the most part, I've learned to do a good job of it. Then there are weeks when I feel like I'm back at square one. But, like the bags under my eyes, I consider my anxiety a badge of life experience. Or at least proof that my brain is still mine.
And my life isn't over because I'm open about it. Pretending was exhausting. When I finally began testing the mental health waters by opening up to friends about how I was actually feeling, my revelation wasn't greeted with shame or pity, but with most of my friends admitting the same. I've yet to meet a person who's never felt anxious or sick or overwhelmed. (And if I do, I will assume they are sociopathic.) Which has made it way easier to say what's happening as it happens, instead of excusing myself to a movie theatre bathroom where I'd try to remember how to breathe in a silent panic.
Today, I went to the drugstore after my anxious stomach insisted I give it as much Pepto Bismol as possible. And there, in an oversized sweat suit with flat hair and arms full of drugs and saltines, I ran into someone I hadn't spoken to in about eight years. She looked great. She was fit and tanned and picking up diapers for her kids, looking like my hometown equivalent of Reese Witherspoon's character in Big Little Lies. Me, I was pale and blotchy, my eyebrows weren't filled in, and my face had broken out because adult acne is real. Then, within seconds of saying how good it was to see her, I accidentally dropped everything I was holding as she very kindly said, "You look great too!"
Picking up my grab bag of anti-nauseants, I abandoned all remaining fucks and said, "No, I don't — but I'm for sure shitting my way to my bikini body!"
She laughed. The cashier laughed. And the people around me in line laughed, and not out of pity, but because who hasn't? At some point, even the coolest, hippest, prettiest, hottest, richest, most together, all-powerful people have needed to take Imodium, all while desperately trying to keep their shit together.
Sometimes literally, sometimes not.CHAPTER 2
In Case of Emergency
There's this moment in Happy Valley that I think about all the time. Catherine (the series' main character) walks down the street and shouts, "WHAT A SHIT WEEK!" And boy oh boy, what a slogan for what feels like most weeks.
Here is what most of us already know in the year of our Lord 2018: for a very long time, everything has been feeling scary and bad. Everyone's feelings and emotions are heightened. Most of us are walking the line between cynicism and feeling absolutely bananas, sensitive to the point of wanting to strike down anyone who disagrees about how disgusting cilantro is. (It is extremely gross!!!) Me, I have stuffed my feelings somewhere near my spleen. Mainly because I have no idea where my spleen even IS, so I assume I will just forget about having emotions at all, and I can just continue on with my life without doing a lot of processing. Every terrible thing necessitates an "Of course this is happening right now," and all of us are very tired.
So let's acknowledge that.
Also, let's acknowledge that right now, in this moment, in this second, you are living and breathing and moving through the misery marathon with the rest of us. This is something you can tell yourself to keep on keeping on when you're starting to feel like you are just about to fall off the planet. You are ON this planet, you fucking freak (I love you), and on this planet you shall stay.
So you're feeling like an anxious mess? Let's get you centered.
Are you breathing? Please breathe. I'm not kidding. I want you to just sit there for a second, and I want you to breathe in and breathe out and take your time and concentrate only on doing this. Tell any other thought to fuck off. This is your time to fill your lungs with air. A cool thing. Fuck off, everything else.
Are you drinking water? Drink some water. Jesus. Look, we've all lived on the fumes of caffeine and sleep deprivation while forgetting to drink water because we are idiots. If you're me, you'll experience a beautiful anxiety attack spurred on by running your body into the ground and chasing a Venti Something with another Venti Something. Not a hot look, and not a terrific feeling. So drink some water. Water's great! It's boring as fuck, but that's why carbonation exists.
Have you eaten? You have to eat something. Even if your stomach is staging a coup, have a banana or some crackers. You need something in your bod, dude. You don't need to eat a meal. Just snack it up! Give yourself some fuel. (Also if your stomach does what mine does, start with the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. Then work your way up. It's fine! You're okay! Also: Imodium and Pepto Bismol are helpful choices if you're in a situation where you would rather walk into the ocean — and poop there — than use the bathroom right now.)
Are you eating what you're craving? My new M.O. is literally to eat anything I'm craving because I figure there's a reason. Fuck it. (Ed. note: We feel it is our responsibility to add that this might be ill-advised since Anne has the flu, like, 78% of the time.) Most of the time, it's avocado rolls. Often, it's all-dressed chips. Once it was a Cherry Coke. Life is short; eat the thing you would like to eat. Enjoy the goddamn candy you can't stop thinking about. Make some brownies. Eat some cabbage. Yesterday I popped frozen appetizers into the oven and ate them all by myself for dinner.
When was the last time you went outside? I'm not going to tell you to hike, because I would rather die than go on a hike (or do most activities), but I will say that a second outside can be a nice break from staring at your computer and screaming "WHY!!!!!!!" Put your feet on the concrete or grass, and take some breaths, and look at the sky and at the trees or the cars or the driveway or the deck, and think about what you're doing: you are standing outside. That is it. That is what you are doing. Look around and name the shit around you. "I am on the driveway. The car across the street is brown. There is a bird chirping." Keep it simple. Remind yourself how big the world is and how, in this particular second, you are whole and breathing and this is the only thing you need to do right now.
Can you take a second to walk around the block or sit outside, sipping some tea? Is that possible? If not, can you do it tonight? I am asking you this, but also I am asking myself because typing this made me realize I've been cooped up for about 29,428,525 days and "driving someplace" is an accurate descriptor for my only non-indoor activity.
What are you watching? Is it comforting? I don't have the bandwidth to give a fuck about anything not comforting to me most of the time. I know that's "uncultured," but also I don't care because who are you, person challenging me? I want to watch Veep before bed because it makes me laugh, and I want to watch true crime documentaries, and I want to watch British actors in terrific costumes battling through emotions they weren't even aware they had. That's all. I'm tired. Find your comforting shit. Build your mental fort and hang out there.
Are you hate-reading anything? STOP THIS NOW. You don't have the time for this, what are you doing? (Especially if it's this book. Please don't hate-read my book. Burn it for kindling, but don't you dare keep reading it.) Are you hate-following anyone? Cut them out of your life.
Do you have boundaries? Bask in those boundaries. Fuck saying yes to things you don't want to do. Oh my Lord, you do not have the time for that. Can I tell you what makes me anxious on top of my existing anxiousness? Thinking, "Shit, now I have to go to [THIS THING I WOULD RATHER SLIP INTO A COMA THAN ATTEND]." And you know what? No. Nope! No thanks. No one is ever cooler or more successful because they went to that one party at that girl they hate's house that one time. They are usually just annoyed they didn't make dinner plans with a friend they actually like.
Do you have someone to talk to? Talk to them. A pal, a parent, a therapist — whomever. They may not have a solution to your problems, but don't underestimate how validating it is to have someone just to listen. It's okay to be like, "Wow, I am feeling feelings about things that are happening in my world." Articulate your thoughts. They're valid! Expressing your feelings can help you understand them better, even if your first instinct is to deny that you have feelings at all.
Do you believe you can get through it? "It" being life? Because guess what: you can. You can because you don't have a choice. Everything may be shitty right now, but you know what? Everything has always been shitty. There has always been a shitstorm upon us. And, as with shitstorms of yore, you will prevail. You will get through it, and you will help other people through theirs, and you have to believe that — or just repeat this until you do. Actively pep talk yourself. You have been through your share of shit, and this is just another share. Then it will end and there will be another wave, and you will have to remind yourself again that this is old hat: you've done it before, and you'll do it again because you are a tough motherfucker.
Surviving various catastrophes is hard and terrible, but this is how it works. So thank your brain and body for keeping you going and drink some water and take some breaths and eat a banana. Everything may feel like (and may actually be) the worst, but if it's going to get better, we need each and every one of us in fighting form.CHAPTER 3
I'll Read Your Cards
In June 1999, I was the recipient of St. Elizabeth Catholic School's Christian Leadership Award. (Please hold your applause.) And that meant that at my eighth-grade graduation, I got a plaque, I posed for pictures, and I basked in the glow of being my elementary school's equivalent of Miss Congeniality.
I was 13 and I believed in God. I'd never thought not to. My parents were Catholic, and I loved and trusted them, so I'd never had reason to doubt what they taught me. I'd gone to elementary school with the same 60-odd kids since kindergarten, and year after year we'd studied our religion with the same seriousness as spelling or math. I said prayers before bed (thus perfecting my imitation of a Precious Moments figurine) and took distance-ed catechism courses on top of my Catholic school curriculum for added grace. I was still young enough to believe that faith and fact were interchangeable — and that a Christian Leadership Award was cool.
It was the same year that my classmates and I were confirmed, continuing the long-standing Catholic tradition of pledging our eternal allegiance to the Church before we got old enough to question it. We took additional names (mine is Michaela), donned red robes, and ultimately made our parents proud with our public displays of Catholic-sanctioned affection.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Nobody Cares"
Copyright © 2018 Anne T. Donahue.
Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Anxiety, You Lying Bitch
In Case of Emergency
I’ll Read Your Cards
Near, Far, Wherever You Are
Things I Have Not Failed (But Quit Proudly)
“Why Don’t You Drink?”
It’s Called Fashion, Look It Up
Just Do What I Say
Friendship Mistakes I Have Made (So You Don’t Have To)
But, for the Record: I Am Not Fun
The Least Interesting Thing
While in the Awful
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love One Direction
Icebreakers: A Guide to Making a Real Splash at a Party
An Anne for All Seasons
Burn It Down
Get to Work
It Will Never Feel This Bad Again