Mental Health #4: Hi, Anxiety

Mental Health #4: Hi, Anxiety

Hi, it’s been a while since we last spoke.

There’s so much to say but I don’t even know where to begin. The medication has helped, so I think about you less and find it easier to distract myself from you. But it’s about time I confronted you and spoke honestly about how you make me feel. I think that you’ve always been there. The more I learn about our relationship, the more I realise how long you’ve been with me. Even as a child, you were there, intensifying my thoughts and programming me to overthink every single scenario to the point of panic and hyperventilation.

I know now that you were there when I couldn’t face going to school in the mornings, when I panicked that my loved ones would leave, and when I feared something bad happening every day of my life. You were what made me on edge, scared of everything. Once I left school, you only grew stronger. You ruined relationships, friendships, and any self-belief I had left. I doubted my talents, there was always someone who could do it better. You told me that. You stayed with me through exams and performances, making them so much harder than they already were. You made me doubt myself and what I could achieve, even through university, where you took over my life the most.

You made me scared to walk alone, incase something bad happened to me. You made me scared to sit near the front of my lecture hall, incase I was picked to speak out loud. You made me stay up late going over assignments, telling me that I could do better, try harder, achieve more. You made me doubt who my friends were, distancing me from anyone who came close. You made me question who I was and who I could be. You made me doubt my decision to study my degree because you always said I’ll never be good enough to write, that no one would want to read what I have to say. And I believed you, every single time.

Sometimes you’re there for no reason, when everything in my life seems to be ticking over okay. You show up, uninvited, making it hard for me to breathe, telling me that everyone’s staring at me or I’m making a fool of myself. You judge everything I do.

“Why are you wearing that? You’re too dressed up.”

“You have too much makeup on, people will stare.”

“Don’t look up or you’ll fall over and everyone will laugh.”

“Why did you say that? That was so embarrasing.”

“Drive faster, people behind are getting impatient with you.”

The whole time, pushing down on my chest and making it difficult to take a full breath. Why don’t you ever believe in me? Why do you always have to think the worst will happen? You have me worrying about the future before I can even process the present. You leave me disconnected from my body and obsessing over what I can’t control. You’re the reason I can’t sit still, the reason I bite my nails, the skin on my lips and abandon any form of self-care. You’re the reason the depression gets so much worse. You go hand in hand together, encouraging the other to get louder and louder, until I can no longer hear anything else.

There’s two sides: me and you. On my side, it’s quiet and logical. I know how to stay calm and what the reality of a situation is. I’m aware that my thoughts are sometimes irrational, but I’m okay and I’m safe. On your side, it’s frantic. It’s so overwhelming and loud that I can’t hear what my side is trying to tell me. It’s an absolute mess and so hard to control – out of my control. I can’t think straight, I believe the illogicality you feed me, and panic.

And now here we are, in the midst of a pandemic. You can be really loud because of this, worrying about the virus, my health, my family and loved one’s health, people dying, being out of a job, not being able to do all the things that keep you quiet. You worry me about touching things in public, so much that I’ll dry my hands out with far too much hand sanitiser (which I’m extremely allergic to, by the way). But sometimes, it’s not as serious as that. You make me worry about things that just shouldn’t matter, things that are so irrational.

Here’s an example: I need to go food shopping. But, I need to drive there which means I could potentially crash my car or annoy other drivers on the road. What if someone crashes into me, what if I lose control of the car? What if when I get there it’s really busy and everyone’s looking at me? What if people laugh at me for what I’m wearing or because I haven’t got any makeup on and my skin’s really bad? What if the aisles are really busy and I can’t walk past at a distance? What if someone comes close to me and I can’t move because there are trollies everywhere? How long will I have to wait to pick up what I need, without being too close to other people? What if I cough and people think I have coronavirus? What if I forget my card and I can’t pay for my shopping, everyone will see how stupid I am.

The word ‘if‘ is so significant. It’s hypothetical. And the possibilities are endless. So why do you use it so often? Why do you not let things pan out and just own the moment we’re in? What does ‘if’ even mean? Maybe it’s not significant, maybe the word ‘if’ is actually so insignificant and pointless, and just leaves us questioning things that are out of our control.

These are just some of the thoughts that spiral through my mind in order to do the simplest of tasks. This is how much you impact my everyday life. Sometimes I can’t hear you, and these tasks are easy enough to complete. But when your voice intensifies, it’s exhausting to keep up with you. You make me stressed, ill and tired. There’s some days when you make me want to scream and pull my hair out.

But you are part of me. And I’m beginning to accept you. That’s the only way this relationship will work. I’m not going anywhere and neither are you, so it’s up to me to learn how this dynamic works and find strategies to keep you at bay. You make me, me. And for that I am grateful. You force me to learn more about myself, and look after myself too. And I really need that right now.

So fuck you. But thank you, too.

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I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was four and I started reading Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Now here I am, a freelance journalist writing about everything that is important to me. Although I’ve not yet written a book, I love sharing my thoughts about important social issues and being a voice for those who need it most.

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