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*Warning: f-bombs dropped below!
Dear Anxiety: Fuck you. I’m over your shit.
This isn’t fair. I need a goddamn break.
And then I broke.
Tears of frustration poured out of me, my belly tender, and the world around me too damn vivid.
Just earlier today, I sat in my silver Subaru still clad in my bright, bohemian-patterned bikini top, having just fled one of my ultimate safe havens. I’d found no respite from the overwhelming sensations that overtake my body when I am in the middle of an anxiety attack.
The feelings that engulf me can range anywhere from grief to anger, and the pressure and sometimes terrifying sense of dissociation will not let up until I have a good cry—sometimes not even then.
I want to scream at anxiety as if it is an invader.
I want to take my mind-body connection back from its grips:
Listen up, Anxiety—this is bullshit.
How dare you make me feel that the walls are closing in—that my nervous system exists outside my body, and that there is a gaping black hole where my diaphragm is supposed to be?
Maybe more accurately, my diaphragm feels like raw meat, freshly gnawed by a sabertooth tiger. That’s what I feel like when I am in your grips: half chewed-through and exposed to the bone.
I try so hard to become friends with you. I’m doing my damn best to love those frightened, insecure, needy parts of myself. Sometimes it feels like I am winning; sometimes I feel like an utter failure.
I’ve become better at not letting shame overtake me. I know there is nothing wrong with me. I know that if I haven’t heard from my lover, it is because he is busy—not because he is suddenly done with me because I went and said too much, or was too intense for him to handle.
Too intense to handle accurately describes you, Anxiety. My adult mind knows that some young, insecure part of me is shrieking for my own love and protection. I can hear her; my whole body reverberates with her pleas.
I know that is what you really are. And like a frustrated parent, sometimes I lose my patience with you. But I promise I am trying.
I am trying to be better, kinder, more stable for you, for me—for us. Usually, you feel better, I feel better, we feel better at the hot springs. We walk through the doors and this body relaxes. We chat with people in the locker room and strip quickly, getting into our bikini, then head straight for the sauna, unless we need water. Then we fill up, and head in, and stretch like an opium-addicted cat until our bones nearly fall out of our joints.
Not today. Today, you betrayed me. As soon as I got into the sauna, our safe space, you acted like we were going to suffocate. So into the pool, we slipped, and that too felt like death inevitably waited in the lukewarm waters.
A few laps to try to unravel your hold on me, but no—you were not having it. I started to feel angry. This is supposed to work. This is supposed to soothe us. Why the fuck is this not working?
The walls closed in as I headed back toward the changing room. I stripped off my bright orange, ruffled bottoms, and stuffed my still-wet legs back into my black yoga pants. I left the wet top on because it was still hot as balls outside and as the ceiling threatened to cave in on my head, I dashed for the parking lot.
I was already composing this letter in my head as I moved across the pavement. I got into the car and thought about typing it up on my phone as I do sometimes, but this feeling was so strong I knew I wouldn’t forget it.
The “fuck you!” reverberated through my soul, only it was not meant for my sweet, tender, aching parts or heart; it was meant for the people who have hurt, dropped, gaslit, and betrayed me since I was a little child.
Yeah, fuck them—not you.
I see you then, small and uncertain, your blond curls bobbing as you peek around the corner, your blue eyes—my blue eyes—dazzling.
You’re afraid. I’m afraid. This feeling leaves no guessing room around that.
“What are you afraid of, Sweet One?” I ask gently now, genuinely curious, no longer frustrated.
“I’m all alone!” You wail.
Ah, dear. Here it is: my biggest fear—abandonment.
It will do no good to try to convince you that I like living alone. You are tiny and would never survive that.
It would do no good to convince you that the people in my life—your life—are trustworthy and present and that I have been kicking ass at laying down boundaries for the last couple of years.
I can’t explain to you that I have removed or seriously contained every toxic relationship that once poisoned my life.
It will do no good to try to convince you that the man I like is kind and empathetic—a good-hearted, busy man, who lights up every cell in my body.
It would do no good to convince you that unlike that first offender and so many subsequent partners, he does not suffer from narcissistic dysfunction. He is who he appears to be.
I cannot convince you of any of that; all I can do is hold you. So hold you I will, and listen deeply.
“What do you need, Sweet One? You have my attention.”
A shiver passes through my body, despite the late August heat. A whimper trembles on my full lips, as my tongue runs over the smooth surface of my teeth and my body once again shudders.
“This I don’t want to do but I will do it for you, Sweet One.”
I have remembered the inappropriate sexual contact between me and an adult I trusted.
I have remembered the hands around my neck trying to control me.
I have remembered waking up naked in a strange bed, in a strange room, with no memory of what happened the night before.
I have remembered so many things that I had to forget to survive, to keep going, and not lose my mind.
“What do you need me to remember now, Sweet One?”
Remember how to care, please.
Remember how natural it is for you.
Remember that sense of trust you had with life before anything touched you.
Remember you are good, and that your innocence is inviolable no matter what has happened.
Remember what it feels like to be held.
I remember. It’s so fucking vivid and I feel so tender.