With a chart-topping song, six years of career behind her and a Grammy nomination, Julia Michaels has achieved plenty at just 24 years old—but there was a time the singer didn’t think she would ever be able to find success as a performer.
Julia, who made her solo debut last year with her song issues, has opened up about her battle with anxiety in a candid essay, detailing how the condition impaired her daily life and got in the way of her professional aspirations for years.
The singer, who was nominated in the Best New Artist category at the Grammys last night, recounted in Glamour how she first experienced anxiety symptoms after signing her first publishing contract as a songwriter, back when she was 18.
Candid: Julia Michaels (pictured at the Grammys last night) has opened up about her battle with anxiety, detailing how the condition impaired her daily life
‘I felt so much pressure to perform that it sent my mind and body down something that felt like a never-ending spiral,’ the singer wrote. ‘I thought I was dying. Most days I couldn’t breathe or leave the fetal position. I would rock back and forth, tapping my feet on the floor because I thought if I stopped I would pass out. I became afraid of everything. Going out. Eating. Driving. Writing. ‘
Over the course of several years, Julia became ‘consumed’ by the condition, and wrestled with anxious thoughts about potential accidents, allergies, and other alarming scenarios.
Julia also started struggling with intense stage fright. Last year, while singing Issues for the first time on live television during the Billboard Music Awards, she ended up having a major panic attack onstage, towards the end of the song.
‘The hug you see me go in for to my keyboard player was actually me turning to her saying, “I can’t breathe!”‘ she recounted. ‘I walked offstage and crumbled into a ball in a backstage hallway. I was so afraid that people could see me. I was so afraid what they would think. So afraid that I had hit all the wrong notes. That I wasn’t ready. Or, even scarier, that I was.”
Eventually, Julia started suffering from daily panic attacks.
Past: The singer (pictured on Saturday), 24, was 18 when she first started coping with anxiety symptoms. She eventually started suffering from daily panic attacks
‘I had to sit in a ball and rock myself until I was back to “OK.” I remember thinking, If this is how the rest of my life is going to look, I can’t do this,’ she wrote. ‘I can’t live with this constant broken feeling.’
The singer thus started seeing a therapist, who helped her cope with her anxious thoughts.
‘I learned that for each thing to have anxiety about, I had an association to link it to,’ she said. ‘For example, when I get anxious before I go onstage I think to myself, “Why?”
‘And then I think to myself, “Oh, it’s probably because that one time when I was 12, someone really close to me told me I couldn’t sing, and I’ve held on to that. But that was a long time ago. I’m OK.”‘
She also recounted how some people, including her father, didn’t realize right away how serious and overpowering her panic attacks were.
While driving to Illinois with her family, Julia suddenly started to feel like she couldn’t breathe. Her cousin, who was at the wheel, pulled over, and Julia had to step out and remove her sweater in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms.
Facing her fears: Julia (pictured right joining a group of singers during Kesha’s Grammys performance last night) started seeing a therapist to address her symptoms
Feeling liberated: Now that she is able to sing her own songs and openly share her art, Julia feels like she has managed to make herself heard and seen
‘It was 40 degrees, and I had stripped myself down to leggings and a bra,’ she wrote. ‘My dad had never seen it so severe before. It was the first time he didn’t look at me like I was crazy. That’s what anxiety does: It comes out of nowhere and causes chaos just for fun.’
Julia even explained that she now believes she remained a songwriter, instead of a singer, for several years, because of her anxiety.
‘I was scared I wasn’t good enough. Scared I wouldn’t be accepted. I was scared of not hiding anymore. I was scared of reaching a level of potential I had never reached,’ she recounted.
‘I was scared of myself. I convinced myself I didn’t want to be a performer. What if it goes horribly wrong? What if it goes right? I tried to weigh out so many pros and cons for something that I can’t control.’
But eventually, she decided she wanted to take a shot at performing, and ended up facing her dears.
During this past year, Julia feels like she was made significant progress when it comes to her mental health, and through singing, has managed to make herself heard and seen.
‘This is the most alive and free I’ve ever felt,’she wrote. ‘Pouring out these emotions, facing my fears, and confronting these things I’ve never been able to before is making me stronger every day.’