Good morning. Good night. Whatever you choose to say at 2:45 AM to the only other poor sap still awake waiting for the sky to fall.
I should have been asleep an hour ago. Unsurprisingly, I am very much awake. Everyone, I’d like you to say hello to our very special guest, “Anxiety”.
I have a great life. I have an abundance of love in my life, and people who make me feel like I’m special and wanted and needed. I have all my basic necessities and enough left over to have a little fun now and then. I have great dogs, warm blankets for winter, and an air conditioner for summer. I’ve got luxury livin’.
I’ve also got this guy: Anxiety.
For reasons unbeknownst to mere mortals, my brain, in all its infinite wisdom, invites this bastard over to play at the most inconvenient times, with no provocation whatsoever. Heavens forbid I attempt to just enjoy going out on a date or spend a while basking in the carefree company of loved ones. No, that’s when this guy shows up with a case of cut rate beer and a megaphone and starts drunkenly shouting lies from the roof and pissing in my begonias. It happens every time. This jackass is the kind of ‘friend’ that makes you want to call a better friend to help you bury the body when you’re done ‘expressing your opinion’ all over his hateful face. Unfortunately, he’s a pretty convincing liar and I am weak in the wee hours of the morning.
He tells lies like these:
“They don’t really love you.”
“You’re just convenient until someone better comes along.”
“You screwed up and they just haven’t noticed yet.”
“You’re a failure. Why do you bother?”
“Something big is about to blow up in your face.”
“Something is horribly wrong and the fallout is going to ruin your life.”
“They’re all going to leave you.”
Tonight’s special flavor is “You’ve done or said something horribly wrong and they’re just trying to figure out how to tell you to fuck off” and “you don’t deserve all this, it’s going to fall apart”. Well you know what? I’m done with this asshole. Logic and evidence, motherfucker! It’s time to get angry enough to kick this unwanted guest out of my head.
“You’ve done or said something horribly wrong and they’re just trying to figure out how to tell you to fuck off.”
Yeah, no. If that were true, why would they have kept saying such sweet things all day? Why would they keep reaching out to me and encouraging conversation if they were mad at me? More than either of these, they have a proven track record of just being honest about their feelings with me. No, it just doesn’t add up. I’ve not upset anyone in this way tonight. Anxiety: 0 Me: 1
“You don’t deserve all this and it’s going to fall apart.”
This one is trickier. My self-esteem supports this by frequently telling me I don’t deserve the love I receive. Well you know what, asshole? Read my last blog post!!! This is The Year of Infinite Love! Instead of listening to your ill-informed tirade on my unworthiness, I choose instead to love myself and to love the ones you try to convince me I don’t deserve. I do deserve love, just like everyone else. Anxiety: 0 Me: 2
The universe agrees, too! “Ever mind the rule of three, what you send out comes back to thee” ring any bells? How about simple Karma? I wear my heart on my sleeve and give out kindness wherever I can. I express my love at every opportunity. I send out love in many ways, so why the hell wouldn’t I deserve some reciprocation? Anxiety: 0 Me: 3
This is usually where I stop myself and say something along the along the lines of “damn, you sound self-absorbed and prideful.” Not this time. I’m not trying to say I’m perfect. I’m just saying that maybe the good things about me that people have been pointing out to me my whole life are true. Maybe I am too nice for my own good. Maybe I am a lover, not a fighter. Maybe I am kind, and gentle, and sweet. Refusing to accept these things and let myself receive love with gratitude suggests that some part of my brain believes the voices of these compliments to be liars. How unfair is that? No, I choose to respect the people in my world who say I’m worth loving. Anxiety: 0 Me: 4
Game. Set. Match.
This is life with clinically diagnosed General Anxiety Disorder. Small things look huge, nearly invisible flaws seem glaringly obvious, and small challenges look like insurmountable walls. The glance from the cashier checking your groceries is actually a glare of bitter judgement because you’re fat and bought ice cream. The silence from your friends or lovers isn’t because they’re busy or don’t have anything to say right now, but because they’re angry or upset with you. The dogs aren’t asking for attention because they secretly hate you. Your boss is just waiting for an excuse to fire you; don’t trust that welcoming smile. Worst of all, the moment things get too good for you, bad things will happen to ruin that high.
Sometimes using a coping mechanism like making lists of why the thoughts are wrong or writing in a journal or on a blog can help. Sometimes, Anxiety brings the professional grade super-powered megaphone and becomes too loud for a little sound reasoning to drown out. Occasionally, it’s so loud the brain just short circuits… that’s when the panic attacks happen.
Today, I think I’m winning with a bit of writing and reasoning. Tomorrow, I could find myself curled up in a dark corner desperately clutching my teddy bear as I bawl my eyes out, struggle to breathe, and beg for death. There’s always a chance, though, that tomorrow could find Anxiety so hungover that he sleeps for a week and I get to spend a little time freely enjoying life and trusting in the goodness of the world around me. This is the crap shoot of my life. I can never know when Anxiety is going to throw a Molotov cocktail into my glittering mood. A beautiful day full of words of comfort, love, and affection can go suddenly sideways with just a little nudge from Anxiety. It’s just something I get to live with.
What makes it better is that I am surrounded by supportive, patient, loving people who don’t hold my anxieties against me. People who will hold my hand and tell me the same things a million times if it will help me to believe that they love me. People who understand that sometimes the best doctor is Chester the Teddy Bear and the best medicine is silent snuggles; a cup of cocoa and a long talk about feelings; or a distracting movie or show. People who love me regardless of what Anxiety has to say about them or their motivations. You know who you are.
If you have someone with severe anxiety in your life, try and remember that sometimes even the most Vulcan logic cannot silence the ravings of this unwelcome guest in our heads. We know it’s not easy for you to see us like this, or to understand how we can get so worked up over imagined scenarios or vague feelings of dread. We know it’s hard on you when we have panic attacks or when we ask for reassurance so often it’s annoying. We are grateful for all that you do to support us.
To my own support network, I want to say “Thank you.” Thank you for being so patient with me and for showing me that I am loved even when I feel like so many pounds of recycled rhinoceros dung. Thank you for loving me through the darkness and the fear and the uncertainty. Thank you for plugging in the night light and warming the cocoa and warding off the monsters in the closet. Thank you for holding me when I feel like I’m falling and letting me go when I feel like I’m suffocating. Thank you for the teddy bears and the warm blankets and the distracting movies and the gentle words.
Without you, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.
To all of you, I say goodnight. The voice of Anxiety is silenced for now. I’ve stolen the batteries for his megaphone and hidden them in the fish tank. Perhaps he will stay away for a little while this time. Perhaps now, I can sleep.