Monday night on The Bachelor: Women Tell All, we learned that the real villain of this season isn’t Corinne — it’s naps. To the other girls, Corrine sleeping through a rose ceremony when she was safe from elimination was unforgivable. Corinne, meanwhile, argued that she had an anxiety attack and literally could not be in that rose ceremony.
“I was actually very upset, and I actually had an anxiety attack,” Corinne said. “I was hyperventilating, and I was very, very upset, and I was not in any way ready to go down and stand in a rose ceremony. Like, I was not able to do so.”
The girls’ reaction? “Corinne, none of us were. We were all hyperventilating, we were all crying, yet we didn’t feel — even if we had a group date rose — we still got our asses down there,” said Sarah, speaking for all of Season 21’s nap haters.
This is where I have to switch from Bachelor villian-scoffing allegiance to realistic health writer, and come to Corinne defense. Because who are these other girls to minimize her mental anguish? No, Corinne has not set herself up to be the most sympathetic contestant of the season, but if she truly did have such bad anxiety that she couldn’t stand through a rose ceremony, that’s not something to be brushed aside, minimized, or even questioned.
All the girls may have felt anxious, but just because some can power through this situation doesn’t give them the right to dismiss another experiencing the same as incapacitating. “Just like with physical pain, people have different thresholds for psychological pain,” says Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., a New York-based clinical psychologist and creator of. “What’s more, we all experience stimuli very different based on our temperament and upbringing.” Translation: What sends one rose-wielding contestant over the edge might be no sweat to another, but it doesn’t make it any less real or painful.
As Corinne put it: “They can think what they want to think. I know what was happening in my own self that night.” And she’s in the right here. Part of what enables people with anxiety to function is knowing their own limits, Michaelis says. Corrine knows and reached her threshold, and shouldn’t be shamed for what is ultimately a healthy reaction to an unhealthy situation for her.
Okay, if she suffers from such paralyzing anxiety, then, yes, maybe Corinne shouldn’t have gone on a reality show that literally curates uncomfortable and psychologically exhausting situations. But we don’t know that she knew how deep her anxiety ran beforehand, or that she was in touch with the feeling at all. And anyone who has ever suffered a panic attack could certainly sympathize that the last thing you’d want to — or could — do in that moment is shower, curl your hair, put on flawless makeup, shimmy into a skin tight dress, strap on five-inch heels, and stand in front of a dozen or so women you’re competing against for the most vulnerable of all topics (let alone TV crews and millions of viewers), all the while projecting confidence.
Those of us who have experienced an anxiety attack can attest that the most you can do in that moment is crawl under the covers and hope sleep will lift the paralyzing panic. “Sleep is a retreat many of us use when we feel overwhelmed as a way of shutting down and restarting,” Michaelis adds. It’s like hitting refresh, interrupting the cycle of frenzied thoughts and allowing you to process information so when you wake up, you have more perspective and renewed vigor.
Yes, many people deal with anxiety and social anxiety. And no doubt multiple girls on reality TV are doing so while broadcasting their lives to the world willingly. I’m not refuting or rationalizing how either of those facts live simultaneously. But just because it’s a feeling many people have doesn’t make one individual’s experience of that pain any less monumental.
On Women Tell All, Liz spent about 10 minutes building up to what was ultimately a strong point that we should be true to ourselves and we as women should support one another instead of tearing each other down. So it was a bit disappointing to see another issue that women also suffer from behind closed doors not only get overlooked in topics ripe with opportunity to bring out into the light, but in fact minimized, shamed, and dismissed.
Maybe Corinne doesn’t suffer from anxiety. Maybe she really is entitled and slept through a rose ceremony because she was tired from making her own cucumber slices without her nanny and knew she could get away with missing the event because she let Nick lick whip cream off her cleavage.
But it doesn’t really matter whether what she’s saying is genuine or whether you like her. It matters that we support women who speak out about vulnerable experiences, particularly ones that are stigmatized and misunderstood.
This article was originally published on Glamour