I don’t usually turn to reality contest shows for inspirational stories because it seems that they attract contestants with one caveat and exploit it to gain ratings. Maybe I just have a tooth to grind because I had one very talented friend tryout, but without movie star looks or a heart-breaking past he had no hook to remain in the competition. Sidebar over, I found Anna Clendening’s personal triumph over her anxiety and depression to perform on “America’s Got Talent” inspiring and genuine. It also made me realize how little mental health issues are discussed on national television.
Clendening is 20 years old and revealed that she has been suffering from anxiety disorder, depression, and panic attacks since the age of 14.
"It felt like my mind had given up on me, I just felt so bad about myself. I didn't like who I was, I didn't know how to bring myself out of it.”
After listening to Clendening’s story and learning that just a few months prior to her performance she revealed the she was at her worst really got to me. Additionally, there is one moment when her parents come on the screen and admit that as she was struggling, they felt like failures.
I could relate to Clendening because I have been there. I have spent way too much time not being able to get out of bed; when simply the act of showing up to life seems like the hardest thing to do because the sheets on my bed weighed a thousand pounds. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it… And I will always remember the day my dad came in my room and said, “I thought you would be the one to succeed.” And like Clendening, it took a lot of therapy and self- love to to recover.
What really hurt was the fact that a lot of people couldn’t understand or emphasize with what I was going through, which I have learned to understand, which at the time, just added to my downward spiral. I tried to explain to friends that felt abandoned and ignored that I was not doing this to them purposefully or singularly, it was like I had checked out of life for a period of time. It took me a while to realize that just like when you break a bone in your body, you need to give yourself time to heal. My point being that I am glad this issue is starting to get more coverage, and I am so happy that Anna Clendening can be a symbol of overcoming and living with a mental disorder. She is not a “crazy” person, but a strong beautiful woman with great musical talent. Watch her describe some of her personal plight and sing an emotional performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”