Anxiety is not just an emotion for me. It’s a daily state of being. It’s a feeling that lives within me that I can’t quite describe. It never goes away. I don’t know what life is like without anxiety as a companion. I don’t know what it’s like to not be at war with my mind.
I can’t trust my own recollection of events because anxiety distorts my memories, always painting me as the bad guy even when constant reassurance from loved ones tells me otherwise.
My need for reassurance never ends. I get anxious about seeking reassurance. When I’m given it, it calms the torrent of anxiety within me for moments before it returns, demanding more. More and more reassurance. Because it’s never quite enough to settle the storm.
The storm of anxiety inside me physically hurts. My stomach does somersaults thousands of times a day. My belly aches from the butterflies. My head pounds from the speed of the thoughts smashing against my skull. My feet and hands are weak from the repeated pins and needles.
It’s not just physical exhaustion though. The mental exhaustion outweighs it. Sometimes I can barely keep my eyelids open because of how desperately I need an escape from my own mind. The thoughts weigh me down. When your own brain rips apart your self-esteem, telling you that everything you do isn’t good enough and that you’re letting people down with each action you take, there’s little hope of convincing yourself otherwise.
So you fake it. You imagine chains tying your ankles to the ground so your legs can’t bob up and down. You imagine your heart-rate is half the speed that it is and force yourself to take deep breaths to remind yourself everything is okay.
Except, is everything okay? Or is there a reason my friend hasn’t replied to my text? Has something awful happened? Is she dead? Before I know it, I’m in floods of tears because I know something bad has happened. Five minutes later, I receive a text back. She’s fine.
I don’t just feel anxious in response to events, the anxiety is there before the event, dictating my perception, interpretation and response. I have to suppress it though, because releasing this anxiety gets in the way of me functioning. When the anxiety is finally released, usually under the safety of my car or my duvet, or in the company of someone I trust, my whole body shakes. Tears fall. I feel my body burning as the emotion is released. I wonder if I’m going to have a heart-attack this time.
Once, the feeling of anxiety was unfamiliar to me. I couldn’t pinpoint when I was feeling anxious and panic attacks would catch me out of nowhere. I wish the anxiety wasn’t so familiar to me now. It follows me everywhere I go.
I tell myself that once this event is over, my anxiety will quieten down. It will hibernate for a while. But no matter how many times I tell myself this, it doesn’t seem to ever get quieter. The list of things I’m anxious about get longer by the day.
I live with anxiety now. I try not to fight it, because the more that I fight it, the more it bites back. I’d rather live alongside anxiety than fight it constantly. I don’t have the energy anymore to do that, and my life is beckoning me. I am settled with the idea that I will live with anxiety in tow. It will come everywhere with me, and I don’t know if I will ever know the feeling that comes the morning after a storm. I have learned to enjoy things without it suppressing the laughter, but this is rare.
I hope that one-day anxiety will loosen the grip it has on me. I hope that one-day I won’t have to imagine chains holding me to the ground, but that I will feel grounded, stood on my own two feet and living with just me inside my head, not anxiety too.
For now though, anxiety and I come as a pair.