I can’t speak. I can’t write. All I can do is cower in the corner of a cafe in a mild state of silent misery.
My heart beats to a manic rhythm. My body shakes and quivers as my skin grows prickly and pale. Dammit, I feel panicked again—I feel wave after wave of worry rising throughout my body like a treacherous sea of electricity.
Is today the day this feeling will kill me? Will fear finally drown me?
Oh f*ck no.
This is the day I become more alive. This is the day I learn how to swim in these seemingly treacherous seas like the gentle mermaid I really am.
Let’s swim, together.
Because our anxiety and discomfort is no tragedy. It’s actually a great opportunity. It’s a golden chance to become present, breathe, stay, and see what’s really going on here.
Claim the opportunity.
When we get anxious, when we panic—it’s not a failure, it’s not a mistake, it’s not further evidence that the world is out to get us—although it’s all-too easy to view it as such. It doesn’t need to be an “oh sh*t” moment of helpless victimization, wondering “oh god, no—why is this happening again!?” And it doesn’t mean our life is falling apart. Anxious moments can be a golden chance to heal. To empower ourselves. To stay. To gain wisdom. To integrate.
So I say—bring it on, baby. Bring on the anxiety. Bring on the panic. Bring on the discomfort, shakiness, and fear.
Let’s make our lives laboratories and use moments of fear and suffering as portals to observe ourselves more truthfully.
What information could our anxiety give us? What juicy truths could our fear reveal?
Let’s find out.
Join me. I’m writing this brutally honest letter to anxiety because I’m tired of just saying I get “anxious” and then brooding for days on end about it and beating myself up real good. That’s too easy. Too vague. Too much of just another way to feel sorry for myself and play the role of the poor victim. I am ready to face it directly. I know there’s more to the story than just needless, empty suffering, and I’m ready to read it all, every last letter—from start to finish.
Let’s empower ourselves in a new way. Let’s go deliciously deeper than we’ve ever gone before. Let’s give a voice to our anxiety. Our jealousy. Our sneaky thoughts of subtle unworthiness. Our flat-out, downright self-hatred. Let’s express it all—whatever the thing is we don’t want to look at—because that’s the exact direction we need to go. That’s the direction to explore. Explore it boldly. Be the courageous soul you are.
Because only by truly tasting our anxiety, suffering, pain and fear—by being patient and achingly present—can we gain insight as to why it exists. Then, only then—can we form a new relationship to it—and ultimately—a new relationship to ourselves.
Who knows, we might even find our lips curled upward, laughing a little bit in the process. Because a hearty, healing laugh is always there, underneath even the most painful things.
Dear anxiety, you stubborn motherf*cker—
I hate you like I’ve never hated anything.
You are poison. You are a severed limb. You are a grotesque pile of roadkill rotting in the sun.
You are shame piled atop humiliation, sprinkled with the bitter taste of regret and the sour stains of all the mistakes I haven’t made yet.
You are a stealer of joy and a kleptomaniac of calm. You’re a dangerous, wanted criminal that lives rent-free in the drainpipes of my racing mind.
Whenever life seems like it will be okay, whenever I’m having a lovely day and the sky is clear, instead of stagnant and hopeless and grey—you bust in like a wicked tornado and slam the door to freedom and beauty, just as I’m starting to pry it open and let in the tiniest sliver of warm, golden sunlight.
What is your problem? Do you exist for the sole purpose of ruining me? Do you get off on snatching my joy and swiping my smiles like the twisted thief you really are?
I’ve spent years fighting you.
I’ve fought you like it was my job, donning Catwoman capes and whips, practicing my evil laugh, waiting to ensnare you when you least expect.
I have tried to kill you. I have fantasized graphically about many overly-detailed vengeful ways to evict you forcibly from my mind and cut you off like a cancerous limb. I have sat up late at night, envisioning what my life would be like to be one hundred percent free of you.
I have been driven by the single-minded belief that if you would just go away, then—I could finally live. Then, everything would be perfect. Then, maybe I could finally like myself.
Right now, I see something new emerging. A fresh truth is emerging from all this blatant, wildfire honesty, like a flower blooming suddenly from a crack in the sidewalk. Oh sh*t, this is unexpected. Should I be embarrassed?
And as I breathe in right now, I realize, anxiety, that maybe all along—you’ve been trying to tell me something.
Oh, lord—are you maybe not the evil monster I had concocted in my head with four faces and slimy skin and claws that go on for days and a body like an anaconda?
I sit now.
I breathe now.
And I see the truth.
I taste it.
It shocks me the f*ck awake.
Oh, anxiety—I was mistaken. I was confused and disoriented and dizzy.
You aren’t bad, wrong or evil.
You don’t need to be eviscerated.
You don’t need to be blown up with an atom bomb or run over by my car a thousand times.
I reacted to you all wrong.
So for the first time, I’m listening—ears perked, a bit hesitantly, but perked nonetheless.
Anxiety, for the first time ever—I’m listening.
You are trying to tell me something. You are an electric messenger of truth.
When you grace me with your presence, you are actually providing me with a chance to stop, breathe, and see how I’m being unkind and rough to myself. You are a golden chance to check in with my body and see what the hell is goin’ on.
You are the physiological response to all the ways I cut into myself with the sharp knives of my often less-than-kind thoughts. You are the result of years of self-abuse, self-criticism, and the most toxic inner relationship.
I have compassion for this, for myself—because society teaches us beautifully how to hate ourselves. We master it young and early, we’re experts at it by age 12. But we can unlearn that sh*tty teaching anytime. Like maybe, right now.
Oh, sweet anxiety—I don’t need to hate you anymore. I don’t need to kill you.
By declaring you an enemy—I was declaring myself an enemy. I was fighting with myself. I didn’t know it. I sure as hell didn’t expect it. I’m ready, now, to leave that old, crusty pattern behind.
This is your most unexpected love letter. A shockwave-surprise ode to you. A bowing down at the feet of your glorious being.
Anxiety, you are a golden reminder to love myself.
You always were.
You are a beautiful chance to stop, breathe, and soften my at-times clawing, reckless grip on my own heart.
You are succulent honey to drizzle on my most tender, aching parts.
I don’t need to react so violently to you.
Because you can be a reminder not to be violent with myself. A reminder to soothe and support myself. A reminder to be soft toward my own heart. A reminder to check in with my needs.
Anxiety, I had no clue. This is a twisty, topsy-turvy surprise ending, that’s for sure.
Anxiety, you are but an ample reminder to love myself.
You always were.
I’m ready, now.
I’m brave enough to stop fighting.
I’m soft enough to listen to you.
You are not my enemy,
But a most unexpected ally.
I genuinely thank you for looking out for me.
Author: Sarah Harvey
Editors: Emily Bartran; Catherine Monkman