There once was a princess in a magickal kingdom. I know these stories mostly start with "there once was a BEAUTIFUL princess" and I'm not saying this princess was or wasn't beautiful; I'm just saying it doesn't matter for this specific story how physically attractive she was and by which patriarchal society's standards.
The princess was born in a big castle, with lovely gardens and all of the ample amounts of privilege in the world. On the day of her birth, her parents the king and queen were visited by an evil witch demon. (Not all witches are evil, however this one happened to be.) The witch appeared with a dark cloudy flourish in the delivery room in front of the happy couple and newborn.
"Oh shit, who the heck are you?" said the queen, stumbling to cover up her nude bits with the sheet.
"My name is Anxiety," said the witch. "I am the demon that torments the inner thoughts and feelings of humans all over the planet. I prey on women twice as much as I do on men, and I am the most common mental illness demon in the universe. Yet there is nothing common about me."
"Well, then in that case begone with you!" yelled the king. "You are not welcome here. You should have said you were one of those cookie salespeople. Guards!"
"I will begone with myself," said Anxiety. "But at the same time I will always be here, in all of you." She pointed at her temple. "Before I leave, I bestow a curse on the princess. On the day of her twelveth birthday, she shall prick her feelings on a spindle, and forever be captured by me, imprisoned in a tall tower, only to be set free by true love!"
With that the demon with Anxiety raised her arms and vanished. The king and queen searched everywhere for Anxiety, but she was nowhere tangible to be found in the realm. They asked the old wizards and mages and wise people of less gendered terms for more information on Anxiety. Alas, the research and books about Anxiety proved somewhat subjective to a case by case basis and not particularly helpful for battling the demon beast.
The princess grew older, as most everyone does. She laughed and played and tried to get a long with other children. It all seemed simple and pleasant, and the king and queen stopped worrying so much about Anxiety's words of impending doom. On the princess's twelveth birthday, the castle grounds were crawling with guards; where the royal family purchased grounds that can crawl is a mystery. Removed from the castle were all spindles, anything resembling a spindle, and anything that seemed dangerous because no one was quite sure what a spindle was.
And yet it still happened.
It was subtle at first. No one noticed that the princess had been kidnapped and imprisoned by Anxiety, because the tower of her prison was located inside the princess herself. The base of the stone tower started where her heart was and grew tall up into her brain. The princess lived in the top of the stone tower, inside her brain, peering out through the single window, through her eyes, and watching her friends and family. The tower felt heavy in her heart and brain, taking up too much room entirely. She felt crowded physically on the inside of her body, while still trapped inside the brain.
The princess continued to grow up, although experiencing everything through the tower in her mind. She grew quieter and more nervous and worried. She second guessed herself and became sensitive to everything. She worried constantly that she was going to make a mistake, that her thoughts and decisions were hurting everyone. Around the tower piled books, movies, and music, a moat of things to prevent the princess from ever leaving the tower of Anxiety in her mind. The door at the bottom of the tower was locked from the outside any way. Things could get inside, but she couldn't get out that way.
Anxiety began to visit the princess in the tower. First it happened only under the cover of darkness and nighttime. Anxiety would knock on the bottom door in the tower, and the princess would feel a thud at the base of the tower in her heart. Though she never invited Anxiety in, Anxiety had a key and would enter the tower. As the demon witch traipsed up the stairs in the tower, the princess felt a tightness in her chest, which grew as Anxiety rose each step. The princess's breathing constricted and her heart beat more quickly. By the time Anxiety got to the princess's room in her brain, it felt as though her entire brain was trembling like an earthquake. Anxiety called this visits "panic attacks."
When the princess turned 18, a slew of suitors attempted to rescue her from the tower. Princes and white knights from all over the realm flocked to her, drawn and attracted by the vulnerability and weakness of the princess. They tried weapons such as "I bet no one has told you how pretty you are" and "I hope you like yourself enough to let yourself be happy" and "You deserve someone who sees how special you are." But none of them worked. All the white knights failed and the princess remained trapped in the tower of Anxiety. Part of the princess was scared to leave the tower anyway.
The princess grew older, smarter, kinder, and more thoughtful. She began to be visited by good fairies who would spend time inside the tower with her, reading books, playing games, watching television, and just sitting next to each other writing in their journals in comfortable silence. The fairies spread light and warmth in the tower, teaching the princess their magic tricks and giggling together. The fairies never tried to rescue the princess from Anxiety. Yet, Anxiety hated the fairies and tried to sabotage the princess's relationship with them by casting an evil spell that made the princess feel nervous that she was hurting the fairies. This made the princess cry and cry. Her tears fell out the window of the tower, dark tears poisoned by the spell, and they fell to the earth, poisoning the flowers that were starting to grow around the tower.
Then one fairy told the princess about other princesses that had been captured by Anxiety, imprisoned in their own towers in their own hearts and minds. The princess felt empathetic for the other princesses and wanted to let them know that they were not alone, that she had experienced what they had experienced, and that it was going to be okay. She wanted to leave her tower to help the other princesses, like the fairies had helped her.
"You can!" chirped the fairy.
"But how?" cried the princess. "The tower is inside me. It's who I am. How can I escape it?"
"You just do!" sang the fairy. The fairy winked at the princess. "Watch me!"
The fairy began to sparkle and flew out the window into the starry night sky. The princess ran to the window and looked up and the sparkle in the distance. She looked down the shaft of the tower at the long fall to the ground. Thorns and poison ivy had begun to grow at the base of the tower, a treacherous fall indeed. The princess cringed and leaped out the window. She closed her eyes, expecting the violent bloody death, and was surprised to discover that she was light, floating in the cool breezy air. She breathed in deeply, the smell of flowers and the ocean filled her lungs, and she felt able to breathe deeply for the first time in years. She looked down at the ground so far below her and realized she was flying. The princess had turned into a fairy herself. She giggled, and as she did so, she sparkled and her wings flapped open, free, taking up space.
The now fairy princess used her new found fairy magic to travel around, searching for other princesses trapped in towers of Anxiety. She also found princesses trapped in sunken caves by the demon Depression and so many more princesses that needed her fairy magic. She also could go wherever she wanted and whenever she wanted, without being terrified of making a mistake or hurting someone. She flew around the kingdom spreading light and joy. Sometimes she did return to the tower of Anxiety, because it had been her home for so long. The tower wasn't scary any more to the fairy princess, because she had saved herself.
She lived happily ever after.