I’m no stranger to visits from Anxiety.
She drops by unannounced, with no warning. Not even a text, a five minute head start to let me prepare.
I feel sick.
Please don’t make me throw up.
Nothing I do keeps her away. She’ll break down every wall, pick my locks, and climb through broken windows to get to me.
Does she enjoy watching me crumble?
Sometimes she talks about the past and everything that’s gone wrong.
As if I don’t remember those things just fine on my own.
But tonight she pulls me close and whispers about the future. She reads my palms and tarot cards, peers into her crystal ball, and breathes life into the fear festering in my heart.
I wonder why.
Most days I tell her to leave. Slam the door in her face and pretend she’s not there, hiding under the covers like a child running from the monster in the closet. Or lock her away and try to starve her of the thing that keeps her alive.
But tonight– tonight I let her in.
I don’t know if it’s bravery or resignation but I offer her a spot on the sofa, wrap a blanket around our shoulders, and I listen.
I let her speak, spilling her thoughts–
–And the fears that follow.
I let our tears flow and for once I don’t wipe them away or try to hide them.
I let us feel everything, fully and without restraint.
And when she finally stops, out of breath, our eyes puffy and red, I wrap my arms around her shrinking body.
In my embrace, she’s a fragile creature, trembling with the effort of simply existing; in my arms, I see how delicate she really is.
The monster was never her.
She’s just a glass overflowing.
And–for the first time in a long time–she is drained of what keeps her chained to me.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “I’m sorry for not listening.”
And when she tries to apologize too, I finally see where I went wrong.
“Anxiety, you are a handful. Often more than I can handle. But I know it’s not your fault. I’ve ignored you for so long, pretended that you aren’t there, and when I have acknowledged you it’s been with disgust and hatred.”
All this time, I’ve only ever thought of myself.
“If only I’d listened, given you a chance to speak your mind, I would have seen that that was all you really needed. And I would’ve been able to say what we both needed to hear;
It’ll be okay.
Our fears, while not unfounded, are a little ridiculous. And I see that leaving you to your own devices has made them grow unchecked and out of control.”
Consequences of the things I’ve done.
And not done.
“Anxiety, I’m sorry. For making you feel unheard, unwanted, and ignored. I’m sorry for doing to you what I fear others will do to me.
You are a handful. But I am too. We go hand in hand.
What shapes us will be acceptance and what defines us is how we move forward.
Anxiety, when you knock on my door, I will not shut you out. Nor will I force you into hiding. Instead, I will invite you in. We’ll have tea with too much cream and sugar, just the way we like it. We’ll wrap ourselves up in our favorite blanket and talk. We’ll feel uneasy and jittery and we may even cry but I’ll let you stay for as long as we need to sort it out. And we will sort it out.
And when you leave, our shoulders will be lighter and we’ll see that everything really is okay.”
So yeah, I’ve been dealing with anxiety again. Nothing new here. But I’ve decided to try a new approach.
If you know who Thomas Sanders is then you might know where I’m going with this. If not, here’s a crash course. Thomas is a wonderful human being who also makes YouTube videos and one of his most (if not the most) popular series on his channel are the Sanders Sides videos. In them he’s decided to show/explain who he is using personified versions of specific aspects of his personality. So far there are four main sides; Morality, Creativity, Logic, and Anxiety.
Still following? Good.
In July of last year, Thomas released a two-part video entitled “Accepting Anxiety”. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it but in this video we’re faced with the two questions:
What if he had no anxiety?
Can anxiety be good?
Now Thomas’ method of dealing with his anxiety has shifted but since then I’ve somewhat envied him for being able to change his mindset so “easily”. I was jealous because I thought I was “falling behind” and “not doing enough”. And my anxiety still held a strong sway over me and not in a positive way.
That is until last week when I had a panic attack.
In the midst of that attack I did the one thing that comes naturally to me: I started writing.
I wrote about my own anxiety in a way that I hadn’t before. For a long time, I vilified it. I made it into this monster, a demon that haunted my every step. But this time I took a different approach. I made it into a person, gave it some humanity. And it helped.
I realized that my anxiety didn’t have to be this terrible thing that held me back. It could be something I use to propel myself forward. But only if I gave it a chance to redeem itself. Or herself, if I’m keeping up with the idea of the story.
I think I have a better understanding of Anxiety, who she is to me and how I can learn from her. And a lot of that is due to Thomas and my willingness to take the time I need for myself.
If you haven’t seen any of Thomas’ videos, I highly recommend them. They’re equal parts informative, educational, and entertaining. He and his many amazing friends combine their skills to create a unique voice that sheds light on different topics that might shift your perspective. Here are some links if you’re interested:
Thomas, if by some chance you’re reading this, thank you so much for helping see things in new and different ways. You’ve helped more than you or Roman could ever imagine.
But that’s all for now.
Until next time x