by Katrina Leno
Exclusive to Uppercase

A big part of Lottie’s character development in Everything All at Once is her beginning to learn how to manage her anxiety. Anxiety is a pretty common thing, and something that many, many people experience on a sometimes daily basis. I’ve lived with a general anxiety disorder that is sometimes situational (anxiety about being late to an appointment or flying, for example) and sometimes not (anxiety for no reason), and I really wanted to explore how that can affect the routine of someone’s day-to-day life.

In Lottie’s case, her anxiety is really triggered by the death of her aunt. She has always had anxiety that’s ebbed and flowed throughout her life, stronger at times, weaker at times (very normal for anxiety-sufferers!), but the loss of her aunt brings her anxiety to the forefront of everything. It’s sometimes hard for her to function on a basic level, with menial, everyday chores becoming a bit more difficult.

Her anxiety really comes to a head, though, when she is given the task of teaching one of her aunt’s college classes. She begins to feel the first symptoms of anxiety on page 190: “My stomach flipped over with every minute that passed, over and over and over until it didn’t know which way was up.” Sam steps in to help her with some breathing exercises—a trick that I myself often use when I’m feeling anxious. On page 191, he instructs: “Breathe in through your nose, as much air as you can take. Then let it out through your mouth slowly. As slow as you can.”

Using this breathing exercise, she is able to fight through her anxiety and successfully complete the class. Here’s the thing about anxiety, though—even though the class goes really well, Lottie’s anxiety comes back when it’s all over. On page 198, she notes: “All that energy, all those nerves—they were starting to turn against me,” and on page 199: “I was just suddenly having trouble breathing. It felt like I was underwater again, and I couldn’t figure out which way the surface was.”

This leads to a major panic attack for Lottie, which materializes over pages 202 to 208. She ends up at Em’s house, and Em has another trick for Lottie to help manage her anxious feelings. On 205, Em explains how to do a version of image replacement therapy, which is another tool I use often in fighting my own anxiety. In a nutshell, you think of a peaceful, soothing image—ideally a place or experience you have actually been to or had before—and you quite literally “replace” the negative thoughts with that positive one. It’s not an easy task, and it takes practice, but it’s another relatively simple coping mechanism to utilize if you experience similar anxious thoughts.

The most important message I wanted to get across in writing about Lottie’s struggles with anxiety is that it is normal, it is treatable, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you suffer from anxiety yourself, no matter how small or how enormous it might present itself, you’re not alone.

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