Anxiety has been my sidekick since I was very young. Before I even knew it had a name. I thought it was just me being me. Big emotions. Big humor. Big happiness. Big fear. Big love. Big tears. Everything about how I feel is big. And while I am usually really happy and upbeat and fun, I’ve been told more than once that my glass isn’t half full or half empty – it’s actually half empty and leaking. Soooo…I’m pretty sure my people all see my struggle.
Despite what some may think, anxiety is not weakness. It’s not insecurity. It’s not depression. It’s not self-induced or attention seeking or some new trend. It doesn’t keep a person from achieving success or finding love or living a full and happy life. But it certainly is not easy. And it cuddles up to a whole damn lot of people – even the happy and loved ones.
Yesterday was a day I probably would have felt alone even in a room full of people. A day that tears would weave their way effortlessly into every conversation, every thought, every everything. Otherwise known as a regular old Tuesday. These are my favorite days (said no one ever). Where you may as well just watch a sad movie and eat chocolate and stay in your mismatched pajamas all day. But believe it or not, I am not unhappy with my life nor was I particularly sad about anything. In fact, my life is very full right now! It was just a day where anxiety wins.
Anxiety is a constant wave of emotion, that ebbs and flows like the tides, and can sometimes pull you into a current so strong that for a moment you think you may drown. Maybe this is why I love the water. Or maybe this is why I love wine.
Anxiety is having a beautiful, intimate moment with your spouse and feeling so full of love – but then suddenly you’re choking back tears because you’re now convinced something bad is going to happen and this is God’s parting gift to you. It’s totally fine though. All the cool kids do this. Carry on.
Anxiety is being so excited to take your family on their first cruise but spending weeks and weeks suppressing panic and images of your kids falling overboard. And of course your brain understands this won’t actually happen. They won’t actually just Mary Poppins themselves into the air and fall into the water, but the fear of it has set up camp and it’s no quitter. Unlike you on a health kick.
Anxiety is watching your baby walk into school and then purposely listening to sad songs on your way to work because in your mind, your time with her is already winding down and even though it’s literally years away, you are suffocated by the thought of this. She will leave home and you’ll only see her maybe twice a year at best. And your life will forever be sad songs and loneliness and probably peanut m&m’s.
Anxiety is constantly feeling out of place – convinced others will think you’re broken or too much or too little or just not enough. You may overshare or undershare, but either way you’re sure you’ve done it wrong and it’s isolating. Actually scratch this. You overshare. Always. So you can put it out there as fast as possible before anyone else has the chance to see it first and hold it against you. Your mama didn’t raise no fool – you can outwit them and be totally fine.
Anxiety is replaying events or conversations or texts or whatever – over and over and over and over in your mind like a record, wondering how they could have gone or should have gone or why they happened in the first place. Probably whatever you did or said is the end of a friendship or relationship or job. You’re going to be a lonely, middle-aged woman who lives alone with her pets. It’s totally fine though because they never mind what you say to them (or don’t). And they love snacks.
Anxiety is constant what-ifs and second guessing every big decision in your life thinking that maybe just maybe it will go horribly wrong and will be the thing that finally breaks the camel’s back, causing things to tumble down around you. Whatever the decision is, your kids are going to be traumatized and ruined and their therapists will have to teach them many many coping skills. And everything, all the days, will be your fault.
Anxiety is taking your first camping trip at almost 40 and staying awake most of the first night because you’re genuinely convinced you’re probably going to die. You hold your pee until you’re sure you may spontaneously combust and then you quickly sneak out to pee so close to your tent you may as well be a dog on a shrub. You don’t even care that you peed on your expensive flip-flops at this point because you’re just lucky you escaped the murderer or animal watching you. Chances are good. You watch Dateline – this shit happens.
Anxiety is having to take deep slow breaths just to let your babies leave the house some days because you’re always worried someone or something will hurt them while you weren’t there to save them or love them or hold their hand. It’s bartering with God that you’ll give absolutely anything as long as they come home happy and whole. It’s buying them bullet proof backpacks because the world is crazy. And it’s packing their suitcase with a thousand snacks because they might actually starve while away. It could happen.
Anxiety can be tears without cause or purpose – that happen on days you aren’t even feeling particularly sad or expecting them. But the tears come when they want to, and your vote doesn’t always count. Like the presidential election or what is on the tv at your house. It just is what it is so you may as well accept it.
Anxiety is feeling panic when your husband hasn’t had a day off for weeks and is hardly sleeping and you’re convinced he will have a heart attack any moment – because your dad did. If one dad dies, watch them all. All. Of. Them. Make sure they’re breathing and resting and when you scratch their back, check for moles without announcing this. No need to cause alarm to anyone, but you can never be too careful.
Anxiety is sometimes extra sleep when thoughts and fears and feelings are so unrelenting that you have no choice but to shut down and reset – and it’s sometimes not sleeping at all because your brain or your heart won’t stop talking to you about all the things. All of them. Hence, my many many many many naps.
Today I remind myself that having anxiety is actually the very definition of strength – because it means waking up every morning and having the courage to put my best foot forward – even when the chances I will get lost are pretty freaking high and the emotion of the day is always a big fat TBD.