Dear Anxious Me,
I don’t remember the first day that I saw you.
But I remember that period in life and how you made me feel.
You stole so many moments of happiness in my junior high years. Yes, those years that are already incredibly awkward and hard on any kid.
You are kind of a jerk like that.
You came out of nowhere, I didn’t grow up timid. But one day I realized I was self-conscious that my stomach was hurting, and it might result in some embarrassing moment at school. In an effort of self-preservation, I stayed home that day. Truth be told I probably did have a little bug, but the comfort of staying home in my own bed, in my own room and my own house without an audience, where I felt safe became my oasis. I think I missed a solid week of school with this “sickness.”
It really did manifest itself as stomach symptoms.
You made me nauseous and caused frequent trips to the restroom.
But was it a bug or anxiety? Back then I didn’t know.
I didn’t know you back then like I do now.
But I hated you then, even though you didn’t have a name.
I know your name today and I hate you even more. I know, I know, we aren’t supposed to hate. But I do hate you. I hate the feelings you bring, the fear you induce, the moments you rob me of and the burden you are.
Honestly, I hate everything about you.
I hated junior high basketball because of you. Jumping rope. That’s the disguise you put on. I constantly felt anxious about jumping rope. I wasn’t good at it. It made me have to pee and consumed me with worry that I wouldn’t be able to control my bladder.
I smile at the thought now, post baby, at the idea that I ever once could control my bladder.
You stole my high school graduation from me as well.
Sure, on paper it looked impressive that I graduated high school a year early.
Truth be told, at a prep school, having enough credits to graduate early is normal. But it’s not normal to be fearful of having to wear uniforms that don’t fit right.
Sure, you might laugh.
But when you have always been the biggest of your friends and your school introduces new guidelines and specific places you have to shop to get your uniforms, anxiety sets in. It looks like the fear of not being able to shop where your friends shop. Or having clothing that although they were even more expensive than theirs, it didn’t match theirs.
You stole my senior trip to the dude ranch in Colorado from me because I graduated early. You stole my senior prom from me because I was too scared to face the uniform debacle and opted to start college early. Not sure that one was a big loss, I hated dress shopping because of you. You always made me feel worse about myself than anyone should. Let’s be honest, prom dresses in the 90s were horrible even for the thinnest of girls.
I somehow floated through a lot of college without much concern for you.
I don’t really know how, or why. But I loved those years.
Until one day I didn’t.
I had signed up to go to D.C. for an immersion program at the end of Christmas break. I was super excited. I loved D.C. The night before my flight was to leave, you came back around. Not sure why, or how, or what. I loved flying.
But you won. And I hated you for it.
It’s fine because I came back stronger. I went on the trip the next year with some of my best friends and it was amazing.
I won, for once. But you weren’t done.
I moved off to D.C. after college, told you I loved that place. I flew home one weekend to see some friends who were still back in Arkansas. We had a blast. It was as if nothing had changed, no distance between us. And then it was time to fly back to D.C.
And there you were again.
I was sitting in the boarding area. And there you were. Same feelings from junior high. Gastrointestinal disturbances. Feeling like I couldn’t breathe. Clammy. Damn you.
Because of you though, I got a road trip with my Dad back to D.C. including him getting us lost while I napped and ended up in West Virginia. I hate you and that you came back that day. But that road trip was our last, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Speaking of losing him, you came back with a vengeance when that happened.
How dare you!
How dare you take advantage of me in the worst time of my life.
Talk about kicking someone when they are down. He died of a sudden heart attack. You knew that. And you took advantage of that. You played my weight against me again, just like high school. You convinced me that every little pain was a heart attack brewing. You convinced me that every shortness of breath was the end. You validated every arm muscle pain as my death sentence.
You really are a jerk.
And then you removed my sense of sanity.
When a famous actress died a few days after a ski accident from a brain aneurysm, you convinced me that a sinus headache was my death sentence this time.
You are stupid. I don’t love that word, but it fits you well.
You had me marching around the house as walking laps seemed to calm me down. You stole my joy in taking a long drive in the car and reared your ugly head as fear of traffic and not being able to escape my car in a line at a light.
You ruined dating for me to.
I guess I should be grateful because it kept me single long enough to meet my sweet husband.
But dang you made those years hard. You made me feel less than and like I needed to settle because I’d never find “him.” You showed up at my wedding uninvited, but who’s surprised? We did a quick service inside with just the wedding party because you wouldn’t let me go outside in front of all our friends and family to do it.
But I married that man that day, regardless.
Because you know what?
God is so much bigger than you.
He brought me Arron even in the midst of the terror you were raining down on me.
And he gets it.
He’s had it before. He understands it. He’s my calming force.
He hates you too.
We all do.
In the words of Justin Bieber, “my momma don’t like you, and she likes everyone.”
She’s spent a lifetime helping those with mental health issues, she’s knows everything the books say about you. But she can’t fix it for me. And she hates you for it. And I hate you for what you force her to do. She has to send me text messages regularly that say, “no, you aren’t having a heart attack.” She shouldn’t have to do that. She lost her husband to a heart attack. How dare you force her to think in those terms of her only child.
You’ve affected my career in more ways than I can count. Dream jobs I’ve turned down because I can’t fly anymore thanks to you. Meetings that were like literal hell for me because you popped up out of nowhere, making me shift and wiggle like a toddler in church. Speaking of church, church services I’ve had to walk out of because you made the lights and sounda seem suffocating. Every back row I sit on is thanks to you because I’ve convinced myself I can sneak away from you unnoticed if I’m in the back.
I’ve hated you for as long as I can remember, and now, as a momma, I hate you even more.
I hate when I see my son fearful because I worry he is seeing you because he sees you in me.
I hate that there are things I’ve not done with him yet because of you.
I hate that he loved airplanes at one point and doesn’t now. Is that because I hate them? Is it because I hate you for that?
I hate that you steal moments from my marriage when my sweet husband has to talk me off the ledge you’ve pushed me out on. I hate that you take away our private moments because you interfere. I hate that you are the third wheel to all our dates because public places are your favorite places to hide. I hate that my best friends know that you are just part of being friends with me, that sometimes I’ll have to jump out of the car and walk the 2 miles back to the cabin because you attacked me in the vehicle. I hate that they know I’ll always want to drive because being a passenger is one of your favorite things you’ve stolen from me.
I just hate you.
I don’t want to hate you.
Not because that’s wrong, but because I hate that you even exist.
I wish I had never met you.
I wish you’d leave.
Oh, how I wish you’d leave.
I take the medicine.
Every. Single. Day.
I never miss it.
It’s like flea medicine for a dog, the second you stop giving it to them, they’ll be covered in fleas.
Unfortunately, the medicine doesn’t rid me of the “flea” that you are. But it eases the “itch” of you. I’ve tried alcohol and though it might taste good or be fun to indulge, it doesn’t wash you away forever. I want the full flea bath though. I want to dip into the water and come up without ever seeing you again. I want to unplug the drain and let that water you are in drain away from me forever.
But here you are.
My constant companion.
If anything, you are consistent.
So, I’ll keep going.
Just like I won back in 2005 when I went to DC with my friends on that plane, I’ll win again.
I’ll fly again one day.
I’ll sit in restaurants with my friends without fear.
I’ll ride in the passenger seat of the car unphased.
I’ll make it through an entire meeting without recognizing you.
I’ll have a pain in my arm, or my chest, or my head and not even think of you, or my demise.
You won’t win.
God has already won.
And I know where I’m going when my time finally comes, a place where you are not welcome and beyond gates you’ll never enter.
For now, I’m here, hating you, but still putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how shaky it may be.