The truth about anxiety is that no matter what words I type, I want to hit the delete button. And that truth transcends into every aspect of my life. This weekend has been especially difficult—writing pieces of memoir tends to trigger me. Despite knowing this, I pursue it because not writing is worse. I’ve found it difficult at times to articulate why I would put myself into the spiral of what starts as a biting pain in my stomach that slowly grows through my entire body until I feel like I can’t breathe. There aren’t words that can justify two days of depression and hearing my brain repeatedly tell me all the horrible things I’ve believed about myself at one time or another. There is little I can do to make anyone understand why half my dinner got wrapped up in tinfoil and tossed in the fridge even though I was still hungry.
And then I remember: I don’t owe anyone an explanation.
When I started therapy this year, I took a different approach—after all, years of previous attempts failed. I decided to try. To be honest with myself. To not view it as a punishment for everything “wrong” with me. My medical doctor was the one who finally pushed me to get help again. I can be in physical pain for a long time before I register it (and get help)—she likened emotional pain having a similar dynamic. But it was one of my best friends who noted that being able to compartmentalize everything served a purpose for a very long time, and that maybe it was time to learn another way to move forward.
My first activity in therapy was to make a list of things I could reference as strategies when I felt the anxiety starting to build.
- Go to the gym
- Take a walk
- Talk to a friend
- Color my hair
- Play a game on my phone
- Listen to music
And aside from vacuuming (because I hate vacuuming) I did all the above. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. I’m sure it helped some, but it certainly didn’t stop the echoes rattling around my head in the quiet spaces in between telling me that I’m just that disposable girl no one wants, that I should just not eat for the next few days because—did you see that angle in the mirror when you were in the bathroom at Home Goods earlier?
This morning I woke up in my living room on my oversized fluffy bean bag chair—a place I’ve taken to sleeping from time to time—it was sunny and there was a cool breeze coming in off the balcony doors I’d left open. My eyes opened and were like an alarm clock to my brain which began to pick up where it left off the night before; I blinked twice, slowly and deliberately. I checked the time and opened Facebook. I read the first article that popped up—fortunately it was not an overtly political article. It quieted my brain long enough to get up and make coffee. All my energy was funneled into thinking about the article I’d read: classism in the US. I considered my own privilege and how at a venue the night before (as has happened many nights previous) I got looked over with the comment: Oh, you know the band. As if to make sense of the intruder among them.
Sitting down with my coffee and thoughts as fresh as ripped out stitches, I stared at the blank page. Please don’t make me have to write a page of L’s today, was my initial thought.* I tried to make sense of the dismissive commentary about my place in the elitist crowd—the crowd where one with bright blue hair clearly stands out against the platinum set. Then I realized that pain was outside affirmation of the inside. And I was angry. I started writing,
The truth about anxiety is that no matter what words I type, I want to hit the delete button. But I won’t any longer. The truth about my anxiety is that I own it. I don’t want platitudes from people and I don’t write about it to solicit anyone’s concern or opinions. Like every word I choose, I choose them for me. And if those words resonate with others, all the better.
*A writer’s block technique to hand write L’s when I’ve stared at the blank screen too long was given to me last year. I’ve more pages of L’s than I care to admit, but it works.