Anxiety in the Margins


Lately, I’ve been participating in opportunities to help marginalized writers get published. Sometimes when I share this with my writer friends, they give me funny looks. They don’t say anything, because I’m a pain in the butt to argue with, but I can see their discomfort, see comments lurking in their eyes.

What is a white, middle-class girl like you doing taking advantage of those things? You always get your way. You’ve published more short stories than anyone else in our group. You’re so sneaky…trying to take advantage.

When I see agents and authors tweeting about how many non-marginalized participants they saw, I wonder if they mean me. When I ask how they know people are not marginalized, I get answers that seem like they think I am stupid for asking.


Maybe I can’t see those words dying to escape their lips and those comments are not directed at me. Maybe my anxiety is just making me think they disapprove. It’s hard to tell, because anxiety makes me think I’m a failure, that I’m a monster, and that sooner or later, I am going to ruin EVERYTHING but it never tells me what everything is.

It does make it hard to breath every time I send out a query letter or enter a pitch contest or submit a short story. It makes it hard to get up and go to work where I have to interact with people. It makes it physically painful to go food shopping, walk through a crowd, or go to a conference.

I called in sick today because I have an upset stomach. The thing is, I honestly can’t tell if it is a virus or my anxiety.

Anxiety makes it hard to not only do things are necessary, but it also holds me back from things I love. Anxiety is a disability.

It’s not the only reason I enter things like #DVpit or submit my work as #ownvoices.

I have a freaking master’s degree in English, but time and time again, I fail catch the most random, stupid errors in my own work. I’ve probably tried every proof-reading strategy ever invented, but in the end this is what it comes down to: I don’t like grammar, therefore I cannot focus on it. I also cannot have someone re-read a query or story EVERY SINGLE TIME that I make a change, because I never stop editing and revising.

I’ve over a decade of my professors and mentors complaining about my errors, and after successfully teaching other people to edit, I have come to realize I cannot produce error free prose anymore than a paralyzed person can walk.

And I KNOW I’ve gotten rejections simply because of errors in my work.

OK – maybe if took Adderall or Ritalin, things would be different, but just writing the names of those drugs makes the anxiety monster roar. Drugs scare me, even the ones I already take for my anxiety. I’ve found other ways to cope, but they can only get me so far.

Even if I did overcome my anxiety about certain medications, I would still have to get an official diagnoses to get the prescription. Two years ago, my primary care physician recommended a neuropsychologist who did ADHD in my area. Have called to make an appointment? No. Why? Anxiety.

It’s a vicious cycle that always holds me back one way or another, keeping me in the margins of the places I want to be.

In many ways, I am fortunate and privileged. My parents loved me. They always found a way to get me the things I wanted. I never went hungry. I’ve always had at least one or two good friends. However, I’ve also faced barriers and fallen through cracks.

I wasn’t poor enough to get financial aid, but not rich enough to afford anything but community college and state schools that offered transfer scholarships.

I was too smart and proud for extra help in school, but my GPA wasn’t high enough to get into top colleges, let alone get scholarships.

My parents did their best to research college, but they did not have the inside knowledge of people who went and graduated.

My anxiety makes in-person networking almost impossible. It keeps me out of writing conferences and most Academic conferences.

I may be more privileged than someone with a different color skin, but I do feel like it is ethically okay for me to participate in things like #DVpit, and #ownvoices when it’s relevant because I need the extra boost to even the playing field.

Should I worry every time someone tweets about privileged people posting where they shouldn’t ? No. Will I worry? Yes.

Perhaps the day I stop worrying that I don’t belong in events for marginalized writers will be the day that I actually don’t belong.

Published by Sara

Sara Codair lives in a world of words, writing fiction in every free moment, teaching writing at a community college and binge-reading fantasy novels. When not lost in words, Sara can often be found hiking, swimming, or gardening. Their first novel, Power Surge, was published in October 2018. Find Sara's words at and @shatteredsmooth.

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