How "Dear Evan Hansen" Has Helped Me

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Liz Chrico

If you had asked me before last weekend which of the two shows I was going to see would have the most profound impact on me, I would have said Come from Away. The music and lyrics to that show moved me to tears before seeing it on stage. And yet it’s Dear Evan Hanson that caused the ugly crying (multiple times) and is the one I’m still pondering days later.

I suffer from anxiety. I’ve seen a therapist on and off for it. I have my arsenal of tricks and coping mechanism, and I’ve learned to recognize most of my triggers. It’s not something I talk about outside my closest circle of friends but the anxiety is a part of me and always will be. I have never seen a character, or show for that matter so thoroughly embrace a part of me and what I consider the worst part of me. This show doesn’t shy away from the pain, the heartache, the issues anxiety creates and causes and the havoc it wreaks. It takes the stigma of mental illness and says we’re all as important, valued, needed and worthy of love.

“Waving Through a Window” is perhaps one of the show’s better-known songs having been performed at the 2017 Tony Awards. This song can apply to anyone dealing with any number of mental illnesses. For me, this song most resonates when I’m in select social situations. I’m great meeting new people. I’m great trying new activities. It’s when the two combine that the anxiety comes out to play. And yet I constantly do it with dance classes, theater groups and the like. Sometimes I can overcome the anxiety and fake it till I make it. Other times I’m the one waving through the window, jealous of the groups that have formed, always assuming others are looking at me to judge and ignore me, wondering how and where I fit. Or if I’m even needed. Sometimes I step out of the sun and sign up for the easier class or sit in the corner quiet for fear of how I’ll be judged, how I’ll be treated. It means I rob myself of opportunities, it means the first impression of me can come off as cold and distant. Anxiety is cold and distant not me.

“So Big/So Small” ripped my heart out. After an 18 month battle with infertility, my husband and I are expecting come November. Man- parental fear and guilt start early. Like before she’s out of the womb early. Knowing I struggle with anxiety makes me wonder how it will affect her, how it will affect my parenting. How do I show her it’s OK to struggle without passing my fears down to her? Knowing I will miss moments, that I will come up short in my eyes as her mom because of a billion reasons I can think of now and reasons yet to make themselves known to me. I’ve never seen motherhood portrayed in such a real, horrible, vulnerable way. Heidi was doing her best and had no idea everything happening around her because she couldn’t. Because Evan couldn’t or wouldn’t let her in, because she was wrapped up in her own life not in a selfish way in the way she had to be to make things work for them. Connor could easily have been Evan. My daughter can and will run into a hundred problems I can see and plan for and a thousand I can’t.

“You Will Be Found” this is the song I never knew I needed to hear. This is the song anyone struggling with anything in life or not struggling with anything needs to hear. It says we are all seen for who we are. That we are all loved for who we are. That one person, one hand reaching out can make the difference in someone’s life. That everyone- those struggling, those not, we’re all tied together we’re all meant to muddle through together.

If you struggle with anxiety or mental illness- like, share, repost. If you know someone who struggles- like, share, repost. If you can be that hand to someone today- like, share, repost. If you need that hand to reach out to you, I will come running.