An open letter to Maria Menounos and 23,000 other people I’m hiding from

If you’ve been reading here you already know that my anxiety disorder is a total dick and if yours is too then you probably also know the pain of being unable to return phone calls, emails or make plans to do things that normal people would jump at, but in case this is not you, here is a peek behind the door.

When my book Broken (in the best possible way) came out I had so many great opportunities to publicize it but my anxiety made me say no to a ton of them because I was in a dark place at the time and unfortunately you don’t get to plan your mental illness. One of those was Maria Menounos asking if I wanted to come talk to her on her podcast and I was so excited and also never responded to her at all until today when I felt almost human and not terrified of email. I have no idea if her email address even still works so I am sharing my response here so that she can see that I am very sorry and also so that you can see that if I have not responded to your emails you are not alone and are probably just too intimidating and should feel very good about yourself in comparison to me, a person who can’t do life right.

Also, if you are currently sitting on a mound of texts and emails you haven’t replied to, feel free to send this post as a message that you really do want to respond but just can’t because brains are awful.

Dear Maria Menounos and friends, 

You know how sometimes you get an email that looks like it would be really fun but it also seems lightly terrifying and overwhelming and you’re too intimidated to deal with it so you mark it as unread on your email so that you can come back to it as soon as you are less crazy, but turns out that less crazy version of you doesn’t actually exist and so you keep doing that over and over, continually reading and marking the email as unread every few months, forever hoping that future you will be able to handle this seemingly normal interaction and suddenly it’s a year later and you’re like, “Jesus, I really should respond to this so they realize that my anxiety disorder is the real asshole here and that I don’t think I’m too good for Maria Menounos”.   And I did write that email but then I got really worried about sending it so it stayed in my drafts and I kept coming back to it every few months but could never find the right way to say, “Hi, anxiety is a fucking prison that I can’t escape” and now it has literally been ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE WEEKS since you emailed me and my therapist is like, “Maybe you just send the email?”  So that’s what I’m doing.  I am sending an email 25 months late.  I have a problem, Maria.  It’s not you. It’s me. But since you were asking me to come on to discuss my new (at the time) book about being broken mentally I have to feel like you probably knew what you were getting into and that if nothing else, this has just proven that I am the very best person to talk about anxiety, if only my anxiety would allow it.  I apologize for my brain.



85 thoughts on “An open letter to Maria Menounos and 23,000 other people I’m hiding from

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Oh, Jenny, I SO feel this! Thank you notes that never got written haunt my nights, and then it feels too long ago to still send a note, but the guilt lasts forever.

  2. I literally just lost a job last week because of this exact thing. It’s frustrating (an understatement) to deal with but comforting to know that at least SOMEONE outside of my brain understands the struggle. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Gad, do I know this, and I know it well. Your letter to Ms. Menounos is wonderful.

  4. Thank you for sharing. It helps to see others who deal with stuff and still find ways to survive.

  5. Please don’t apologize for your brain <3 Just the bits that make your life so hard (hugs)

  6. The perfect response to explain an imperfectly perfect brain. Mental health issues suck, but I’m glad you continue to wade through. Thank you for being brave enough to share!

  7. We love you, Jenny. You’re the first person I consult for anxiety, after being told to just ” breathe” through a six hour ambush. ❤❤❤

  8. I love you, Jenny, for expressing so well the asshattery that goes on in my own inbox. Why is hitting the Send button so much like aerobic exercise I can’t make myself do?

  9. I have appologized for my brain, but then I see someone with a very clever, wonderful (in many ways) brain that I admire appologizing for their brain and I think, “We have to break the cycle of feeling we need to appologize for who we are.”

    Yes, we’re a little broken. It makes us who we are. Thank you for taking or leaving us as you find us.

  10. I’m laying in bed under the covers in a puffy coat with a 130# Great Dane…… hiding from emails, the propane guy, the neighbor’s children, my phone, my best friends….. just hanging out with Anxiety

  11. So glad you exist and share what mental illness looks and feels like on the inside which is where I live pretty much all the time. You give me moments of okay-ness. Thank you

  12. Yesterday, I tried to explain to my raging extrovert, non-anxious husband how making a simple customer service phone call with social and general anxiety takes a two-day lead up, minimum, and I have to write down bullet points and intros and transitions because worrying about how to say things right to the person on the other end so that they take me seriously and help me out with that, e.g., credit card fraud is so important that my brain goes blank and I don’t know what I’m saying or how to make them understand what I need them to do… He still doesn’t get it, but you and your audience (and now Maria Menounos) do. Yes I have a weighty draft mailbox, too. I flag the incoming emails rather than re-un-read them, but same diff. Stay strong, Jenny. Brains can suck. ALWAYS better late than never.

  13. So many of us hear you clear as a bell, because we are there, or have been there too often. It is very frustrating, at times, but, I look upon it as part of the penalties I have to pay for being creative.

    Hang in there, and it will get better…and especially if you can reach out to your community for support

  14. I wish I couldn’t, but I do relate to this too.

    I have found Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) remarkably helpful though. It’s an 8-week, evidence-based curriculum that is done online or in-person and can be life changing for those of us experiencing anxiety and/or depression. It is typically offered by universities and mindfulness centers. I highly recommend it to anyone else who can relate to this. Best wishes

  15. This explains me perfectly, damn it feels good to know I’m not all alone with these struggles.

  16. I literally stopped checking my email because it had been so long and I’m always so tired and even though most of it is stuff I could unsubscribe to that feels even more overwhelming even though I know it would help me feel better and yeah, now it’s been 3+ years of only checking my email when I need to reset a password and hiding from every single email that isn’t that and screw that maybe what I really need is a nap. So yeah, that. I totally feel you!

  17. I have so many unread e-mails that I keep getting messages that my inbox is about to get shut down for having too many messages. I’ve been unsubscribing and unsubscribing, but it doesn’t seem to matter which makes me feel like no one is listening to me because obviously I’m not worth paying attention to and all the undermining voices in my head must be right.

    No stress there, nope, none at all.

    Thanks, Jenny, for putting it all out there. We’re in this together.

  18. “You know how sometimes you get an email that looks like it would be really fun but it also seems lightly terrifying and overwhelming and you’re too intimidated to deal with it so you mark it as unread on your email so that you can come back to it as soon as you are less crazy, but turns out that less crazy version of you doesn’t actually exist. . .” GET OUT OF MY BRAIN!! Hahahahaha. . .ugh

  19. I can answer emails and texts like a champ. Anxiety be damned! But it took me 4 months to get brave enough to go to the hospital to fix my lung cancer so there’s that. Maria laughs like a sheep bleats and works for Tony Robbins so I would have probably been too curious to not answer that, her story is pretty impressive.

    PS I wrote you an email after your first book came out and you answered me back and forth for a bit. I assume you found me non-threatening because I’m somewhat like a walking dumpster fire.

  20. Jenny – I love you and your broken self so very much. I am an older lady who has struggled with this stuff all my life. Your books brought me joy but also sadness for you and the rest of us who struggle with stupid anxiety. May we have an ok day today and maybe tomorrow too.

  21. My husband and I both deal with ever growing, crippling anxiety. We had tickets to an amazing concert last night in which we know members of the band, and we were trying all day to talk ourselves out of going!! Luckily we seesaw so one was always able to talk the other one out of it, but one day I know our friends will find us on our couch, with our chihuahua slowly eating us from the toes up!

  22. YOU of all people I think will understand this – I finally went back to the dentist last year after not going for FIFTEEN YEARS. Why? Because the well-meaning dentist back then said “You’ll have to get a lot of work done on your teeth and it will cost a lot AND IT WILL BE REALLY PAINFUL.” Yes, they actually said that! So I stopped going and ignored the occasional pain in my teeth because the fear was greater even though I knew I was being stupid and foolish. Happy ending is, I did go to a new dentist last year, and needed a little work done and soon will need a little more, but I still have teeth that work, no pain, and my dentist is so amazingly gentle.
    Fear is just a thing that stops us from having fun or doing the right thing.
    I’m glad you sent the email!

  23. I totally understand. There are too many things to list that I didn’t/don’t do because of anxiety, and it just adds to the truckload of guilt that follows me around; it’s depressing to think about. I went to therapy for a year and a half and it did help, and every now and then I am able to let go of the guilt and worry about what people must think of me. It always comes back and I have to feel it for a while before I realize I need to let go of it again. The thing I hate most about anxiety is that you have to do the things that make you anxious to get over being anxious, and sometimes I just can’t do that.

  24. Fellow Anxious Annie here. My kids have their birthdays coming up, and I’m actively discouraging no parties because I can’t handle being around people I don’t know, and having to make small talk, which is pure torture. Now parent guilt sticks its dumb head around the corner, and says “Don’t you feel bad that your kids can’t have a normal birthday party like other kids, because of YOU?” I hate anxiety

  25. I inadvertently caused an autoimmune flare up because I was worked up about the fact that some asshat was gonna shove my head in a cage and then try to slide my body in tube (Brain MRI) and did I have enough drugs to keep me from destroying medical machinery, so I didn’t even open the email this week, and now I’m pretty sure I’m gonna flare up again when I see that there are over 5000 unread emails….does selecting all and clicking mark as read count?

    What my run-on sentence is trying to convey, Jenny, your email is heroic and I’m totally going to cut and paste.

  26. Thank you for writing this. I feel for you because my brain is the same and I struggle with it all the time! It good to know I’m not alone, but dang, I wish none of us had to deal with this at all. Hang in there. I love ya!

  27. Honestly a 25 month late response to an invitation to talk about a book where you claim to be broken seems kind of like an appropriate level of I-told-you-so, so I think you’re good. Congrats–you nailed it!

  28. You are not alone! I have to speak to a dietitian tomorrow about my huge weight loss and I am terrified! Anxiety is an asshole! Love you Jenn

  29. This made me cry. And I know I say it all the time, (in comments) but thank you for being you. And brave. Because you let us in to see, and by doing that, you let us forgive ourselves s tiny bit for our own issues. I love you Jennie Lawson. You are fabulous.

  30. I get so many emails on any given day that my inbox got unwieldy. .so I took a friend’s advice and went through it, and moved all the important stuff that needed attending to into a new folder called “Action” to make those emails easier to access so I could finally get through them and do all the stuff.
    That was 3 years ago, and I’ve never opened that folder once. All it accomplished was moving those important things so they were no longer taunting me in my inbox.
    So if you sent me an email and never received a reply, this is why. Sorry about that.

  31. I understand it, and I’ve passed it on to my daughters and grandsons. Not that I tried to do that, it just happened before I knew it. Bless your heart, kiddo. Most of us totally “get it”…

  32. This is me with phone calls. I will do everything possible to avoid them. I used to be fine with them but now they feel impossible.

  33. So…is this like the anxiety I’ve had for the past 18 months about asking you to come on my podcast Brilliantly Resilient? Been in and out of the pit most of my life and when I’m good I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad I’m horrid. And btw, I’m not nearly as famous or intimidating as Maria Menounos, so if you have any interest in alternating with some sane/crazy talk, I’d love to have you join us. You make me laugh and cry, Jenny, about some very unfunny stuff. Love to you!

  34. Jenny, I am in awe of how you do life. Seriously. You keep on swinging the bat at it, no matter how fucked up your brain tries to make you. You are an inspiration to all of us who have broken brains and need to keep on swinging at life. Love you so much for being our poster woman and superhero.

  35. You are not alone, but you know that.
    It took almost that same amount of time for George and Brad to send a postcard. Brains have time delays for a purpose, I’m convinced of it.
    And the most important thing to celebrate- YOU SENT IT! Go, you!!!

  36. Bless you. I haven’t opened regular mail for at least a month. Thinking about shredding it all.

  37. Hi Jenny,
    As always, your timing is impeccable.
    I received a very annoying email this morning asking me to clarify the date of a group meeting. It took me 15 minutes to find the original email, which she had already received, so I sent it back to her, highlighting the date in BOLD and colored it RED. I was rather snarky, otherwise.
    It turns out there have been 20+ back-and-forth emails regarding changes in the date/place of the meeting that I somehow missed or automatically tossed into the trash because I already wrote down the original dates like a responsible person . . .
    Since the meeting is in less than two weeks I wrote back to her (nicely this time) because she’s really loud in person and loves to call out peoples’ mistakes in front of others.
    I think we’re all broken, somehow or another. Thank you for bringing us together and helping us know we’re not alone. <3

  38. to J, #43: I have SEVEN grocery bags filled with paperwork that needs to be sorted, and some of it shredded. They are hidden under tables, in closets, etc.
    I’m almost 75 and am wrestling with whether to just give it up, burn it all in the fireplace, or leave it for my kids to sort out (only one of them deserves it, and she won’t be doing anything to help when the time comes).
    You are not alone.

  39. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If love from zillions of complete strangers could make your brain be nicer to you, you would have zero anxiety and live your best life ever. Because zillions of people love you, including me. This post really hit a note for me. I even have trouble responding to family & friends, paralyzed with anxiety, and not even to TELL them that I’m paralyzed with anxiety because it sounds so lame. But thanks to you, I’m going to respond RIGHT NOW to some of those emails I’ve been putting off. The phone calls… those will have to wait for a better day. Love you in all your imperfect perfection (or is it perfect imperfection?).

  40. Thank you for continuing to share your experiences and for being willing to be so vulnerable in doing so. You and your stories are why I finally found the courage to talk to my doctor years ago about anti-anxiety medication, and it (along with a great therapist) has changed my life. My brain’s still messy and I still stay home and hide sometimes, but sometimes I’m really good! ❤️ Sending you all the good juju.

  41. Dear Jenny, I have the opposite problem, I get horribly anxious if I don’t read and either delete the junk or answer the good emails on every single email I get right away. It actually gives me such stress I can’t stand it. I’ve been trying to unsubscribe from the junk, but I swear it creates a signal to the internet that I want more junk emails.
    But I do get anxious and procrastinate on getting my stuff organized around my house, so I am very much like you in my household clutter and stuff that I’m going to get to, someday, when I’m in the right mood.
    Thank you for being you, because you make me feel less alone in my anxiety and depression and my book collection obsession and various crafts and projects and interesting little knickknacks I have found and decorated (cluttered) my home with.

  42. I didn’t know that was anxiety. I don’t feel anxious. I just don’t feel that I have enough energy to deal with all the things. My thing is I have the energy for part of the things but not ALL the things. Like I can make the dental appointment but then I don’t have the energy to tell the boss I need to take the time off for it. I can make the birthday card for my friend but I don’t have the energy to write a little note in it or to put it into the mail. I hate that you have to work up to call one doctor just to get a referral to another because then you have to call that 2nd one and that could take a long, long time because no energy. Now I have to wonder if I have anxiety? Hmmm… well, I’ll think about that when I have more energy.

  43. I understand this because I do it all of the time.
    I also had a student decide to respond to emails for 5 years.

  44. I love you, Jenny. You have no idea how approachable you really are. Because as a completely fucked up anxiety ridden piece of fluxating emotions, I know you know what I’m going through.

    I went out on Saturday night and my friend sang NIN’s I want to fuck you like an animal in Muppet voices along with all the other songs he did and I’d laughed so hard that Sunday I couldn’t go to a big geek market being held because my rib muscles were in spasm. Yes, I laughed too hard. Because I laugh loudly.

  45. I have a greeting card that says “I’ve written you many times in my mind. Maybe I should have used paper.” That’s 100% me.

    (I’ve never sent the card, ftr.)

  46. Pretty sure she will understand. I know I do. Lived experience. I have several items to deal with this week as I have put them off as long as I possibly can. And because money is a thing (that I seem to require to live) I’d best get these calls done. I am totally patting myself on the back for tackling the largest of these tasks, that I totally could do because it wasn’t for me but for my mom. It is now done, with help from my daughter, but done nonetheless.
    Tomorrow, I hope to slay the last three phone calls I have been putting off.

  47. I’m sure she gets the “keeping it real”-ness of this whole thing, and will never hold it against you. Personally, I love you all the more for your realness. It makes you endearingly quirky. And endearing quirkiness is a rare commodity that must be nurtured.

  48. I hear you! Thank you for sharing. My list of emails to return is overwhelmingly long. You normalize so many things that I often feel I am the only one who does them.

  49. Jenny, you get me. You really get me. My brain is such a f-ing a-hole. Procrastination and clutter central here. I have a package with gifts for YOU that I’ve been trying to send for over FIVE YEARS now, and just because I can’t decide what to write to you to go along with it, I’m stuck. I want to stick a fork in my brain and call it DONE.

    (And email – well, I have over 600,000 – yes that’s right – unread emails in my inbox. I gave up years ago.)

  50. I sent an email a few months ago to another member of a regional council for a charity that we’re both on. I don’t know her personally, we live in different communities, and we had attended a quarterly, virtual council meeting. She was quite outspoken about an issue in her community and was calling for action from the CEO of the charity. I agreed with quite a bit of what she said, so I reached out to her by email that evening, and just said that I appreciated her thoughts, her concerns, etc. She responded in kind to continue the conversation, and included photos of her cats and asked for photos of mine (since we volunteer on an animal welfare charity council).

    Do you think I have responded? No! And I started the whole email exchange and now I have all the regretful anxiety of “why did I do this?? Now I have to answer and find pictures of my cats for her! And it is several months later so does she think I’m a jerk?? I’m a jerk, that’s it! I’m terrible! A terrible lady with cats who can’t follow through and now I’m too anxious about responding months later and continuing on the conversation while she is waiting for my pictures of my cats, and how does it all end??”

    I might just email her after reading your post. I’m not sure yet, and I still have to gather my cat photos. I mean, I have seven and it takes some time.

    Thanks for another vulnerably funny post, Jenny! <3

  51. I am you. My dad passed 3 years ago, and I still haven’t dealt with it. Mail for 3 years, piling up on my kitchen table. Boxes filling the entry room to the house, even more in storage 4 hours away. Everything else filled a huge dumpster. This is only ONE thing out of several. Crippling depression and anxiety. I mean, medical keep me from being a soggy heap on the floor, but most days I am just getting through. We are with you Jenny. All of us get it and love you unconditionally anyway.

  52. I’ve ghosted all of Reddit because I asked a question that a bunch of people answered and the idea of responding was too overwhelming to handle.

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  54. I woke up this morning replaying my greatest hits of times I acted like a weirdo and was rude out of anxiety and reading this is very comforting.

  55. “Mark it as unread” is how I go through my email. And know to never look at it again. Then wonder why I have no friends.

  56. I am really struggling and have been for the past three years or so, during which time I was able to retire (the prep for that alone was excruciating). I got a traffic citation with two charges on it and it just crippled me, but I was able to do all of the required crap and I finished traffic school last week. Literally, “case closed.” There were WAY too many dentist appointments during that time, too, and I was literally crying and shaking in the lead up to each appointment. Someone up-thread wrote, “See also- going outside. Sigh.” I’m now dealing with agoraphobia in addition to anxiety and depression. Every day I tell myself to put on a bra and jeans and go somewhere, anywhere, but I always talk myself out of it. I live in sweat pants and T-shirts, inside my house. My favorite time of day is when I go to sleep. The second I wake up, I feel this heavy sense of dread and anxiety, which lasts all morning and into the afternoon. I wish I had a good husband to help me. I’ve stopped reading the news because climate change scares the sh*t out of me. Thanks for listening to me, and fml. It’s just too hard.

  57. It’s this honestly that keeps me following you for life. The way you can explain things like this is such a huge help for us struggling to put it into the words. Cut and paste is the greatest gift you give us. Never stop sharing. Please.

  58. Hi, it’s me again (oosala 69). I got dressed after my shower, went to CVS to get my drugs, and then went to a restaurant for dinner. I’m proud. Gotta work on my self-talk.

  59. Thank you ten times over for this pitch perfect post that sounds like my personal experiences under a pen name! I told my husband to read this to understand me, his anxious wife, a bit better. 😂

    You should be so proud of yourself that you sent that email-doing that took some serious courage! Email is the worst, as is social media (for me anyway).

    I have one email address that I regularly TCB through, but social emails have gone on the wayside due to my anxiety (social and otherwise) and also because of something that happened a while back.

    I had a very bad fall out with two prior friends (I was friends with two people particularly for 15 years..we were in the same friend group and there were very painful slow deaths of those relationships that none of the us wanted to see).

    There were hurtful things that were said that were directed at me (via email) that made me question our friendship, and also made me question my worthiness of goodness in general. I know it scarred me and has made me feel very unworthy of good friendships to this day.

    I regularly have to fight those thoughts, and remember that I have family who loves me, and a wonderful husband who loves me too. I deserve good things as do you, Jenny and tribe.

    Just know that you are not alone, and you should never guilty about your anxiety.

    No one ever asks anxiety to stay-it is the boorish, all-encompassing, unwelcome guest that some of us have no choice but to live with, that has the audacity to charge us emotional rent for its mental piracy. I wish I could forever evict that motherfucker.

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective with us. 💕💕💕

  60. Yep. I’m right there with you an email. I currently have 3,168 unread emails in my personal email and I think about 300 in my work email, probably 100 of those I’ve read and marked as unread at least 6 times. My personal is probably 2000 junk that just need to be deleted but every time I delete 4 or 500, they’re replaced immediately. I also still have a land line that gets maybe 4 actual calls a year and 700,000 robo calls or charity fund raising, or someone wanting to extend the warranty that’s about to expire on my 2005 car, or buy my timeshare (that I don’t own). But my work email. I really should try a little harder to deal with that…

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  62. Considering I bought your book when it first came out and I’m still only about halfway through it because the pandemic and everything that involved for me personally meant that I could no longer read (which I fucking love) or enjoy podcasts (which I fucking love)… I forget where I’m going with this but I hope you don’t feel that bad. We’ve all been through some shit

  63. I wanted to share a personal revelation I had recently. I’ve always known, at some level, that I am an introvert; however, it never occurred to me how negatively it affected my mental health. As an introvert I’ve always been ‘under pressure’ to ‘get out and do’ all kinds of stuff, most of which mortified me. Most of which I never did. Even family gatherings were tough for me. Being an introvert Literally Explains All Of It. This world needs introverts every bit as much as it needs extroverts. I am so in awe that you push yourself so hard to do the public things. I hope you know that it Really Is Okay to say No. Anxiety – especially anxiety provoked because you’re an introvert – is definitely a bitch… knowing whether or not you’re an introvert may help with that though. I love your stuff!!!

  64. Been here…Done that….Thank you Jenny for always finding the right words to share and for giving them the light of day. You boost all of us ❤️ Each time you do

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  66. I’m so happy you got brave. Perfection is an illusion and quirks are what make you interesting. Showing up a hot mess is better than not showing up at all because the world needs more examples of “crazy freaked and blubbering, but doing it anyway.”

  67. I share a birthday with a friend who lives far away. One year she sent birthday wishes via text and when I didn’t respond within a few days, I felt too ashamed to respond at all. Until the next birthday rolled around, and I texted her birthday wishes/acted like nothing had happened (even though I’d kept her guilt-inducing text in my inbox all that time to make myself feel bad). She was like ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW? And I wasn’t sure our friendship would make it, but thankfully it did. I get you!

  68. Ginger, I have literally started putting a ‘happy birthday to all of you as I will think of you on your birthday but probably not manage to actually message then’ message once a year (ish) on all my social media because of this…those who really matter appreciate it…or were already ok with me not managing friendship admin!

  69. I have 3 email accounts. One for work that I am usually locked out of because I never remember or change my password on time. One Yahoo account with 95,000 unread emails that I sign up for stuff I will never read to, and one I try to keep semi organized.
    I never make or answer phone calls unless it’s my kids, grandkids or husband. I rarely pick up my very important modern pharma scripts before they are returned to the shelf, and am occasionally unable to go inside the grocery after driving there with my list because it’s too peopley. The struggle is real.

  70. I snooze the emails I don’t want to think about. And when they turn up again like a bad penny, the word snooze is next to it in red, so if I’m still not ready to deal with it, I can snooze it again. I don’t recommend this bc, while I like not being able to see them, they’re like frequent unpleasant surprises. I just remembered I used to have a Pending folder in my email account, so I’m going to look for it now and if it’s not there I’ll create one. Maybe Limbo would be a better name, but I always found that word a little scary…which would be fitting for the scary emails, but I don’t want to see that word so often. Pending, it is.

    Wishing you, and all of us, the best.

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