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More than just a word

Jos Stallman | Contributor

Traveling east, just when one thinks 6th Ave. would completely expire. Backdropped with the Great Plains and some of the best sun rises in the city, resides Vista Peak High School. Within this new age architecture and ‘Blue Bison’ character is one of the most dynamic, self-investigative, and challenge embracing poetry groups in the entire state. This unit has been cultivated by APS instructor Elizabeth Truskin. This English teacher believes that maintaining space for self-expression and exploration makes for a healthier culture. For years now, students at the school get exposure to collegiate level ‘wokeness’ by inspecting mental health, social justice, community building, identity, and artivism.  During an afterschool poetry club meeting the A Story team got to sit down in a poetry circle and witness the power of this collective.  Students shared their truths and creative instincts in the form of spoken word poetry. Feedback was encouraged and one student, in particular, focused in on alerting her classmates on the journey that their poems took her on. Little did we know that she was going to take us on one as well.  This is Jos Stallmans Story ‘Anxiety | More than just a word.’


The Introspective

Were you always able to write?

I got involved in creative writing in this style this last year.  I was at a Kipp school and that school just wasn’t a good fit for me, it was very college prep and military styled.

You do this, you do that and then you leave versus this school [Vista Peak] is more like if you want to get something out of this you got to put in the effort.

And so I got into speech and debate and then poetry club and that was when I found that writing style of being able to speak my mind.

What are you trying to do with your relationship with poetry?

I guess just going through what other people see.

I just try to see what other people see.

I kind of use poems to teach something.

I love teaching so I kind of find a way to describe it as best as possible.

In a way that others can understand because I can understand it and I understand what I’m saying but can someone else?

What is it about teaching that you love?

I have been around little kids and I just love sharing my knowledge with others and seeing others grow.

I have always been the very motherly person of everywhere I’ve been.

Like my little brother’s troop and my little brother’s packs a year ago. So I have always just been in charge and taking care of others.

So I’m in this position and I might as well enjoy it.

What is poetry?

Poetry is like a form of expression, it’s another way for people to explain things.

Like how debating is a form of expression, poetry is a form of expression.

What makes your poetry your poetry?

 I guess like the metaphors and expressions I use are very me, like they’re mostly inside jokes and things you would need to know me to understand.

Do you have a favorite part about the writing process?

I love the editing section, because I get to get excited about the piece again and see where it can be polished. I think it’s fun.

write shot

When did you learn that you had anxiety?

I guess I’ve always had it, it just acted up to an extreme extent last summer at my job. I was under a lot of stress, and my anxiety acted up more than it had before.

It finally reached a point where I was like ‘this isn’t normal’, so I asked to see a therapist and finally got diagnosed.

What should society know about anxiety and how can society be better to support it?

I would say like, I wish people knew that anxiety comes in different forms and everyone has anxiety over way different things, like anxiety is not just this one THING, it’s a lot of differing factors and it comes out looking way different.

A person who seeks to understand anxiety should do what?

I would say like talk to people with anxiety and try to understand what it’s like for them, as well as see how they can create a ‘safer’ environment.

What makes you, you? What are your hobbies or your loves what your passions?

I love teaching people, and being able to see people grow and like helping others.

I’m also like really caring, like I care a ton about others, probably more so than myself at times.

Like, if I see a friend that hasn’t eaten, I’ll share my food, things like that.


Favorite movie?

A Dog’s Purpose.

What do you do to make the environment feel safer?

I  listen to music

Specific songs or Artists?

The song “Weightless” by Macaroni Union

Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song Reduces Anxiety by Up to 65 Percent

John Denver “Take me home, country roads.”

do you have any role models are inspirations?

Sabrina Benaim – “Explaining My Depression to My Mother”

Favorite food?

Dark chocolate and sea salt caramel

Favorite season?


Sunset or sunrise?


Where is your safe place?

Summer camp in Elbert, CO and the natural majesty of Mount Falcon.

hand text

The Verse Craft

Anxiety By Jos Stallman

A lot of people hear the word ‘anxiety’ and interpret my constant

Unnecessary nerves and jitters over the smallest things

As nothing but an annoyance, a mental block I choose to keep,

As if I want to hear my mom sigh when I ask her to help me order food again, call someone,

As if I want to remind my friends that I’m awkward, remember that I’m a burden to my brother,

Remember that I am too awkward to be cute, too standoffish to be considered a leader,

I’m too anxious to be normal, and I’m supposed to be normal.

Then people say “just conquer your fears”, to learn to “take risks”,

But they don’t realize that I can conquer my fears, I constantly  take risk after risk,

Don’t realize that I am capable of doing what I want,

Realize I can climb mountains and cross oceans with ease,

But there is another presence containing my body, a potent one,

A demon that places chains around my hands in the form of intrusive thoughts and caffeine jumps,

Washes and wears me down with constant fight-or-flight responses coursing my veins,

Shrinks my self-worth down by amplifying every glare and criticism I receive,

It’s not that I can’t handle the world, I just can’t handle myself.

I can stand in front of many and perform beautifully, but will I, is the true question.

I can order my own food but I forget my order, get flustered, get judged within the millisecond.

I can do this and I can do that but there’s something else shaking my hands, catching my breath.

I am a prisoner that has had to learn to enjoy the ride, to countdown the short breath bursts,

I have had to relearn myself in a time where I should only be learning about the world.

Anxiety is not this petite glasses-wearing girl that acts shy and constantly retucks their hair,

Anxiety is the looming shadow cascading their everything over that girl,

It is the wall between a guy shooting their shot and playing it cool,

It is the constant “I’m sorry” for simply existing, apologizing for someone else bumping into me,

It’s having conspiracy theories about yourself, but there’s not going back to life, this is your life.

And I wish I could say I could change my life, be able to control this toxic entity,

But I’ve tried, and I relapse, and I end up caving into myself time and time again.

My addiction isn’t heroin or Snapchat, it is to oxygen itself,

For I crave a decent breath that stays when I want it to, not owned by Anxiety’s grasp.

But you don’t see this, do you? You just see the constant worrying, the constant nitpicking, the constant YOLO’s followed by overdramatic reactions.

You just hear the excuses, the constant “oh, sorry, I can’t because”,

You don’t see the tears behind them, don’t know that I really wanted to go, I was planning to go, then I couldn’t breathe for the third time that day.

I had placed my favorite jeans and most beautiful button-up on the dresser, took time on my makeup, only for it all to feel my bedsheets creasing them all once again.

You don’t know so much, but you expect me to.

My parents expect me to know when Anxiety will act up as if it’s naturally on a cycle,

My teacher expects me to visibly shake and cry as if I have to prove my anxiety to him,

College expects me to be the girl gasping for air and hyperventilating but I do, just quieter,

Friends expect me to be weak or dumb as if a broken crayon can’t still color,

Of being expected to control my anxiety, or turn it off when they don’t want to deal with it,

Expect me to be cured with a pill that hurts when it goes down,

Expect me to be my own superhero, but you don’t realize I’m struggling to just be Clark Kent.

I’m standing here, in front of you, hands shaking and breath hitched,

Simply begging you to begin to understand that I didn’t choose this poison,

Begin to understand why kids like me choose other poisons to ‘cope’,

But you still want to know more, crave more, demand I do so much more,

So I am anxious to show you more.


Jos Stallman

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