Wellness

7 Millennial Women On The First TV Character That Represented Their Anxiety

“To this day, Pooh's voice calms me down.”

Lizzie McGuire and Angela Chase from My So Called Life were two TV characters who made millennial women with anxiety feel seen.
Disney+/ABC

Nobody forgets their first time: the moment they see a character in a TV show or movie whose anxiety feels just like theirs, that is. Somebody else who over-analyzes, panics about social situations or other triggers, and worries incessantly? What a revelation! Though not every TV character had diagnosed anxiety, their personalities, from Piglet’s nervous nelly-ness to Daria’s sarcasm, helped millennial women feel seen.

For some millennial women, anxiety was a pervasive feeling in their younger years rather than an official diagnosis. “I always thought I was a little nervous and awkward, with unusual phobias like an unwillingness to speak on the phone or feeling overwhelmed in social situations,” Jade, 35, tells Bustle. But seeing a character go through the same things on-screen made them feel seen and understood, even if they didn’t have a name for their experiences until years later. Heck, plenty of people didn’t see their anxiety on-screen until the current crop of TV shows took the topic on.

“The anxiety mosquito from Big Mouth remains, hands down, the most accurate representation of anxiety I've seen on-screen,” Aurora, 31, tells Bustle. “Watching that character, I turned to my boyfriend (who doesn't have anxiety) and said, ‘That. That's exactly what it feels like.’”

Here are seven millennial women sharing the first moment they saw their anxieties in a character onscreen, and how that made them feel.

Daria & My So-Called Life

ABC

“The first time I saw my anxiety represented on screen, I couldn't identify it as such,” Jade, 35, tells Bustle. “I noticed, of course, that there were certain characters I resonated more or less with, but my anxiety wasn't clinically acknowledged until much later.”

Daria (Daria) and Angela Chase (My So-Called Life) were my favorite characters in the ‘90s. I felt a strong connection to them due to the fact that they, too, seemed to feel most comfortable in their rich internal environments. I think it's important that in these shows (and others), the characters didn't need to be explicitly labeled as having anxiety. Instead, it was part of their personalities, which is the most accurate and meaningful representation.”

Now and Then

“I remember first seeing "myself" on screen in Now and Then,” Becca, 35, says. The 1995 film follows four best friends through their young teens. “Each of the four main characters actually served to represent a different facet of my personality and, truthfully, my mental health struggles.”

“I, like Sam, was obsessed with finding ‘the truth’ about all situations, even when they were over my head. Like Sam, I researched things feverishly, asked incessant questions and snooped! Like Teeny, I longed for attention and felt seen when performing. Like Chrissy I struggled with the balance of wanting to be mature and still wanting to stay a kid. Like Roberta I fought against the rallying cries for me to put on a dress when all I wanted to wear was a flannel shirt over my Umbro shorts and Adidas Samba sneakers.”

Lizzie McGuire

“The first time I can remember seeing my anxiety being represented in TV was the queen of anxiety characters — Lizzie McGuire!” Amy, 30, tells Bustle. “She was the one that really helped me feel less alone. I remember I did my hair like her, dressed like her and everything.”

“I was SO excited when I heard Disney was bringing it back. There are so many coming of age stories for teens, but not many for people in their late 20s and 30s! I was devastated when I heard Disney canceled the show.

As Told By Ginger

As Told By Ginger, despite not being my favorite show, always left me feeling aggressively confronted by the way in which I navigated the world,” Alyssa, 27, tells Bustle. “Ginger herself is not necessarily an anxious character (unlike her friend Macie) but in her I saw and heard my own insecurities.”

“I was extremely young watching this and frankly remember being uncomfortable; her presence was anxiety-inducing. I didn't understand the concept of universal truths and felt as if my internal state had been trivialized.”

Winnie The Pooh

“Piglet comes to mind right away,” Sravya, 25, tells Bustle. “I always walked around with anxiety, worrying and questioning everything just like Piglet did. Seeing it on TV kind of made me feel like it was OK to feel that way, and that asking for support was normal, since I would see Piglet doing this with Pooh. Pooh kind of always calmed her down and I look for that with my friends and parents as well.”

“Their interactions also made it feel OK to need a little push or encouragement, as my anxiety makes me really insecure and affects my self-confidence. To this day, Pooh's voice calms me down.”

Ozark

“When I was a kid I never knew what I had was called an anxiety disorder so I never connected the dots back then or even tried to find people who felt like me,” Arianna, 31, tells Bustle.

“The first time I saw something on TV (at age 30!) where I truly felt connected to the character was Charlotte on Ozark, where she had a panic attack in the water and looked like she was about to drown. I thought the way that scene was portrayed most accurately described the feeling of anxiety and panic attacks — a feeling of drowning or being swallowed up whole.”

Rugrats

“I have generalized anxiety disorder and have struggled with it my entire life,” Aurora, 31, tells Bustle. “Growing up, I can’t truthfully say I saw Chuckie from Rugrats and thought, ‘Hey, he has anxiety like me!’ I didn’t know what anxiety was or how to name it. However, I clearly remember resonating with Chuckie’s apprehension, caution, and wariness. I also clearly remember being inspired by him when he pushed through his foreboding and found his courage.”

“I recently rewatched Rugrats as an adult and immediately felt seen. I couldn’t believe how much I could relate to Chuckie! It was refreshing to know that — even if, as a child, I couldn’t name what Chuckie and I were experiencing as ‘anxiety’ — I had him as a relatable character. I’m sure it helped me feel better about the ways I was uncertain in the world as I grew up.”