DEAR ANXIETY,

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You have always been a part of my story.

You’ve come in waves and seasons. Sometimes you were quiet and sometimes you were loud.

When I was a little girl I spent long sleepless nights while fearful thoughts circled endlessly through my brain. I couldn’t figure out how to turn you off. I knew it wasn’t normal, but I didn’t know your name.

When I was in high school I tried to solve you with control. I stopped eating and thought that would make me feel powerful. I did, but it also made me feel very, very, alone. You didn’t get weaker, you got stronger. I fought you, I buried you, and I resisted you, but it didn’t work. I still didn’t know your name.

You didn’t win, I got better.

When I got married you didn’t go away. You still whispered, you still bothered me. Sometimes when I became very, very, anxious I’d turn it into rage towards my husband. “FIX ME,” I wanted to scream at him, “make everything safe and not scary, tell me what I want to hear!” But he couldn’t fix me, it wasn’t his job.  Even if he read the script I asked him to read, it wasn’t enough.

There were times when your voice grew faint. I felt freer and happier than I ever had before.

When I held my firstborn in my arms my life grew fuller with purpose. Sometimes your voice got very, very strong, other times you faded away for months. As I had more kids, and we went through lots of change and stress, you came back with a vengeance.

I questioned myself as a mother. When I was anxious I struggled to be gentle and kind. Crumbs and clutter felt like a mountain crushing my soul. I wanted to scream, but I held it inside (most the time). My senses were constantly on high. I overreacted to every perceived danger, I couldn’t ever relax. I even had anxiety about the anxiety.

I’ve tried to numb you. There was a time when I used alcohol to quiet your voice. In the evenings the panic would start to rise in my chest like clockwork, as the noise of the kids at dinnertime would suddenly become too hard to handle. Too much! My mind would scream while my hands shook.

I started to know your name. I started to recognize you, but I also wondered if what I had was enough to be called “anxiety”. I wondered if I was being dramatic. I assumed others had it much worse than me.

The struggle made me angry and very, very, tired. I started to forget what life was even like outside of fear.

 

Finally I had a moment. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I tried every natural remedy, I addressed the deeper root issues, and I ran long miles to combat you. You made me feel frozen and confused, you made me worried about getting help, but then I realized something:

You’re a liar.

So I started to take medicine, and that worked for me.

After time, I felt better, a lot better. I felt like myself again and like my head was above the waves.

I realized that I’m not alone, and I never was.

Anxiety, here’s the thing: you don’t define me, and you never will.

I will continue to make choices that go against everything you tell me. I will continue to get on airplanes, take risks, and speak in front of people. I will continue to believe that I am a damn good mother, wife, and friend, even though you say I’m not. I will continue to believe that though I still have bad days, my life only gets better from here.

You are still in my life, but now I know your name.

You are Anxiety, and you aren’t the boss of me.

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