“Lane 3, we’re waiting on you! Are you coming?”
“Just a second! I’m coming”
“Okay, okay I’m on the line, I’m ready for the race.”
Throughout my childhood, it was always the same story before a game or presentation. Whether it was two minutes before the starting whistle or 10 minutes before the first day of school, I could be found doubled over a garbage can, dry heaving. But, as soon as I was able to release the tension in my stomach, I was totally myself again.
My family, teammates, and teachers knew this strange warmup routine, and came to accept it as just something I did. Despite their acceptance, I always felt weird and frustrated that I couldn’t shake my nerves without throwing up.
I often felt isolated because of this habit, and I worried that there was something wrong with me. And most of all, I wondered if this was something I would deal with for the rest of my life.
When I first read Guts by Raina Telgemeier, I couldn’t believe how much her story resonated with me. In the book, young Raina has anxiety around the thought that she might throw up. At some points, it gets so bad that she ends up making herself sick over it. But Raina's tummy trouble isn't going away... and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. I loved the way Raina depicts how anxiety can manifest itself in many ways.
Seeing the visual depiction of Raina going through the mental spiral of anxiety was extremely relatable, and for the first time gave me an image of what my own mind sometimes looks like. Raina’s journey through therapy and finding ways to confide in her friends reminded me of how isolated I had felt growing up. It can be difficult to put into words why you’re nervous or anxious. Just like Raina was nervous about how her friendships were changing, I was nervous about sports. And we were both super nervous about public speaking!
We know how important it is for kids to see themselves in books (more than ¼ of kids say they want to read about characters who are similar to them!), and I really wish this book had been around when I was in elementary school. It would have given me a way to show those around me what I was feeling when I couldn’t find the words to describe it.
Like Raina, I was able to open up to others about my nerves and eventually find ways to cope with them. While I personally don’t struggle as frequently anymore, I’m glad to have a book like Guts around to remind me that I’m not alone. Most importantly, I’m so happy that the young readers of today who may be experiencing the nerves and fear and embarrassment that can come with anxiety will be able to see themselves in the pages of Guts.I hope this novel shows them that they can find help and use this book as a tool for explaining how they’re feeling.