The Big Worry Day (Viking/Penguin Random House) releases 8-23-2022.
(TW: anxiety, trauma, death)
For as long as I can remember, I’ve worried. About everything. Money. Personal safety. How I look. If I fit in. If people like me. Making the wrong decision. Being misunderstood. Hitting animals with my car, and the roadkill already gone. Heck, I even worry about how many ants I’ve stepped on over the years, and if my potatoes are too salty. People without anxiety might think these stressors superfluous. Like why worry about roadkill and salty potatoes? But listen. There are no big or small worries when it comes to anxiety. There are only our triggers, reactions, and the tools we’ve found on our journey that help us process our fears.
The first time I recall being anxious was when I was four years old. I plopped down in my favorite blue wagon, stretched out my legs, and... suddenly didn’t fit. A sense of unstoppable change crept into my life, and I panicked. I’ll never forget stepping out of my wagon, closing my eyes, and wishing to stay four forever—and the shock when my next birthday came, wish or not. Not long afterwards, I outgrew my favorite “DYNOMITE!” tee shirt and mushroom pants. What was happening? Would this growing thing never end? I worried about outgrowing my house, and even my skin. But mostly, I worried about what would change next.
My grandfather, the anxious curmudgeon who hid Juicy Fruit gum on top of the fridge for me when I was extra good, passed away after my sixth birthday. Exactly one year later, my sweet and gentle mother, who’d sing You are My Sunshine to me as she stroked my hair before bed, died unexpectedly at twenty-six. After I lost her, I was left alone with my evil stepfather, and my anxiety grew out of control. I had no idea how to process the fears and worries raging inside me. No idea how to manage the terrifying situations in my life. As a child, I felt abandoned by peace, calm, and control, and never felt safe.
As an adult, the need to be prepared for anything and keep safe was priority one. Take my car for example. I kept it full of emergency items like sunscreen, duct tape, goggles, tire pumps, barf bags, pepper spray, spare clothes, blankets, emergency water, and even a just-in-case frisbee because you never know when there’ll be a frisbee emergency, amiright? Having these items on the road helped me feel safe.
Which brings me to my burse. Yes, I said burse. Because everything I need doesn’t fit in a regular purse, I carry a ‘burse’: a backpack/purse large enough for pepper spray, medicine, pens, several notebooks, a knife, toothpicks, definitely too many pairs of glasses, gum, the cursed blue diamond from Titanic . . . Kidding. Sort of. Anyway. As I was emptying my burse one day, I realized I barely used any of the ‘just-in-case’ things in my car or burse, so maybe I didn’t need them after all. This realization birthed another: my anxious need to feel safe and prepared for anything, just-in-case, rooted back to being a little kid with worries too big to control.
The idea for THE BIG WORRY DAY sprouted from those old roots. And the story of an anxious girl and her dog gathering a mountain of just-in-case things in preparation to play outside, was born.
I wrote THE BIG WORRY DAY hoping to empower and validate children who struggle with worry, anxiety, and fear. To give them creative and practical tools to help them relax and find their calm. Practices like breathing deeply and coloring. Meditation and drawing out their fears. Yoga with friends. Hugging it out at a stuffed animal tea party/therapy session. And my personal favorite for when my worries feel out of control, spending quality time with a big goofy dog, which I find the most healing balm of all.
THE BIG WORRY DAY is a story I wish I had as a child, and also as a mother when my own anxious kids were small. My hope is that this book shows readers that they can have fun, even with anxiety. That we are more than our worries and fears. We are loving and loved and in this together.
And, more than anything, we are not alone.
K. A. Reynolds is a neurodivergent author from Winnipeg, Canada, currently residing in Vermont. When not typing, daydreaming, or wandering some old, enchanted wood, she enjoys swapping bad jokes with her numerous offspring, herding various furry beasts, and reading strange and colorful tales expertly crafted by other imagination astronauts in love with words.