Author Josh Malerman writes a horror novel about anxiety


Before I had a name for my anxiety disorder, I thought of it as a demon, possessing my brain. As a child, my anxiety – or the monster in the back of my head – would plague me with intrusive thoughts – like "You should shave off all your hair," "You should walk out into traffic," or "You should tell your parents you hate them" (which of course wasn't true). 

I would obsessively think, “If this happens…then this will happen.” Like, while watching the news on a snowy morning, “If you don’t get a snow day today, your dad will get cancer.” Or in gym class, “If you don’t make this basket, you’ll go to hell when you die.” (And trust me, I hardly ever made the basket).

I never talk about this because I always thought it made me crazy. I thought it wasn’t normal. But, after reading author Josh Malerman’s latest novel “Daphne,” it gave me the strength to open up and to realize that I’m not alone. 

I related a lot to Josh’s character Kit Lamb, a teenager who struggles with anxiety disorder, has a bottle of Xanax in her nightstand drawer, finds comfort in writing in her journal, and called 9-1-1 on herself the first time she experienced a panic attack. The comparison obviously stops when it comes to Kit’s basketball abilities – but, still, like her, I would also ask the rim questions, whether it was the basketball hoop in gym class or in our driveway. 

The book starts with Kit asking the rim, “Will Daphne kill me?” right before she makes the game-winning shot. According to the myth – which the team first heard about the night before the game – Daphne was listening to music in her car and fell asleep before girls from the basketball team closed the garage door on her, and she died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Now, Daphne kills anyone who dares to think of her – specifically targeting members of the girl’s basketball team.

Josh uses his platform to raise awareness of mental health and anxiety disorder through Daphne – the ghost of this 7-foot-tall denim wearing mad woman who is quite literally manifested by anxiety and overthinking. Okay yeah, that’s terrifying – if there was a monster manifested by anxiety, I would definitely be among the first to die. But there was also something therapeutic and hopeful about this book as Josh flipped this idea on its head – making the most anxious person in the story also the most heroic and brave. 

As Josh writes in his book, “I can’t stop thinking about Daphne any more than I can stop writing about anxiety. Know what? Watch me now. Let’s just go for it: ANXIETY. See? Doesn’t that feel good? Sure does. Because that’s me and I don’t know who I’d be without it. And guess what? I kinda like me. That’s right. I kinda like the person I am.” 

Just like in Josh’s book, when people are told not to talk about Daphne – it’s kind of like growing up and being taught not to talk about mental illness and suicide. I used to think, if you talk about it, people are more likely to die from it. But the opposite is true. When we talk about it, people are more likely to get help. When we talk about it, people are less likely to feel alone. And, most importantly, when we talk about it, we stop thinking that something is wrong with us because of our mental illness. Instead, we start to accept – and even appreciate – that part of ourselves.  

As Josh writes, “May you, reader, never keep quiet about the things that need talking about. ... And if you, reader, suffer any degree of anxiety, please know, you are absolutely not alone." 

Thank you to Josh for writing this book that has helped me and so many others with anxiety disorder feel less alone!

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