Chelsea Handler: Anxiety Doesn't Have To Be A Dirty Word

By David Konow 05/09/17

Handler opened up about her battle with anxiety in a personal essay for Self.

Chelsea Handler

Comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler wrote about her struggles with anxiety in a personal essay for Self magazine.

She confessed, “Someone told me the other day that I was fearless, and I almost spit out my Aperol Spritz. Whatever the opposite of fearlessness is, that’s what I have. It's called anxiety.”

Handler’s anxiety is not a recent problem. “It’s always been part of my life,” she continues. “When I was younger, I thought I would be less anxious when I grew up. If I could just grow up, then I’d be OK. I wouldn’t have to worry about fitting in at school. Or being popular. Or if my parents had any money in their savings account.”

It was partly Handler’s anxiety that made her so driven to succeed. “I wanted my own life, my own rules, my own money.” When she started performing stand-up at 21, Handler eased her anxiety with alcohol, and she kept thinking that a life free of anxiety was “just around the corner.” She grew more confident as her career went up the ladder, “but there was still that sense of stress and dread.”

Finally Handler came across an old letter her mother had written to her; it was the right advice at the right time: “Don’t ever complain about where you are, because you’re the one who got yourself there.” Handler then saw how anxiety is almost as if “your mind is complaining. Your mind is stressed about the commitments or responsibilities that you have chosen to have.” Handler’s solution to all this? “I grew myself up.”

Lastly, she added that anxiety “doesn’t have to be such a dirty word. It can be there for us to harness and turn into something fierce. I also feel strong when I’m stressed, because I know I have the drive to push through it and come out on the other side.” 

The anxiety still comes, and Handler’s pretty sure it always will, yet “knowing that’s part of the process helps me focus not on the worry itself but on the sense of accomplishment I’ll feel afterward.”

"I get more from going through with something than from walking away."

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.