Dear Anxiety


Dear Anxiety,

It’s tricky to write to you. To be fair you tend to make it tricky to do a lot of things.
I’ve only recently discovered you, or more accurately - learned about you and then started putting a name to you.
Turns out you may have been with me on this life journey for as long as I can remember.
You might explain some of the fear, the overthinking and the overwhelm induced procrastination.

You catch me out when I least expect it.  You creep in when I think I’m feeling my best and you unravel my mind and then the day in the most unreasonable fashion.
And my-oh-my are you a hypocrite.
When I first resonated with someone else talking about you and then named you for myself, I was a little bit relieved.
Naming you made me feel less ‘crazy’.  In a way, less out of control.  Less like it was solely my fault.
Because you are a reason. You explain some stuff.
The annual existential crisis.
The crippling inability to make a decision when presented with more than two options.
The life on hold behaviour of a fear of commitment - to people, places, purposes.

You might be the reason I don’t like silence. Why I feel the need for podcasts, audiobooks and music to fill the air.
To move time forward without getting stuck in unhelpful thoughts.
You might be the reason falling asleep sometimes feels utterly impossible with the whirring of thoughts, about everything from ‘did i lock the front door?’ to ‘will I ever be financially stable?’ or ‘is my headache actually a fatal illness of some kind?’.
Charming stuff.
Insert more comedy podcasts here...

You might be the reason that believing in myself and my art and my words is sometimes really really hard.
You might explain the overwhelm and the frantic-ness.
But I’m learning how to live beside you. Not without you, not in spite of you. But with you, beside you, ahead of you.

You got ahead of me once. Well many times but this time, particularly harshly.
And an irony appeared.
I have always been such a strong believer in mental health awareness and an advocate for mental illness support.
I believe mental illness is like any other. Like diabetes or a broken arm. Except it is physically invisible. Its on the inside. Its in the chemicals.
It’s some tricky acrobatics occurring in the brain.
I have supported friends, lovers, parents, siblings.
And then you happened to me.

You came on strong. You made me physically ill.
I had taken on a lot of responsibility, personally and professionally, and I had created unrealistic levels of performance for myself.
My anxiety brain, tricked my rational brain into believing everything needed to be perfect even though A) that doesn’t exist and B) the circumstances dictated otherwise.
And so my body got on board.
The headache came and didn’t leave.
The dull yet harsh pang in my stomach came in waves.
The tightness and sharp breathlessness took residence in my chest.
And I didn’t know what it was.
But it hurt. And it stopped everything.
I couldn’t make a client call without crying before or after.
I couldn’t talk to my mum or my girlfriend without getting upset.
Or texting a very good friend without falling apart.
But that was the only way the chest ache went away. Momentarily.
There wasn’t enough ibuprofen in the world to make the headache stay away.
Too much coffee made my hands shake.
Double strength pain killers was the only way to lull my body into sleep.

And I could’t do my job. The one thing I was trying harder than anything to just get through, was feeling impossible.
And I couldn’t ‘snap out of it’ and I couldn’t just ‘get on with it’.
And I was so mad.
I felt so betrayed.
So let down by my body and my brain. By you.
I just wanted to be perfect.
To impress everyone.
To be validated by everyone.
To keep all the balls in the air.
Even the ones I hadn’t been asked to keep.
And I was so mad.
Infuriatingly frustrated with myself. With you.
And unsurprisingly, that did not help.
That made you worse.

And I had to succumb to the reality of the situation.
That I was sick in a new way.
A way I did not recognise.
And it was not my fault.
And I could not ‘control’ it.
And it was not my fault.
And it was not a negative reflection on my capabilities.

So I went to the doctor.
I had sessions with my counsellor.
I kept being honest with my girlfriend, my mum, my best friend.
I told the truth to my thoughtful and supportive bosses.

And I came out the other side.
Talk therapy.
Medical professionals naming and validating my experience.
I was unwell.
You were ahead of me.
And that was ok.

Thank goodness for my people, my support systems and their encouragement to be honest, to go the doctor, to book appointments, to go to be early.
Because i did not want to.
Or more accurately, you, my anxiety, did not want me to.
Thats how it works right.
I need to intervene but you tell me not to, because you're winning.
We’re not side by side, you were getting ahead of me.
And you hurt me.

And I’m still a little bit mad about it.

But you showed me the start of what bad looks like.
And now I’m learning how to try and catch you before you run off without me.
We’re working together.

Im naming you.
I am not ashamed of you.
I know you’re not my fault.
And I am learning about you.
About you and me.
And how our future together can work.

I know you have the capacity to bring out good things in me.
My empathy, my kindness, my emotional awareness.
You bring out a passion for good work and an attention to detail.
And as long as were on the same page we’re ok.

As long as I’m writing you out on the page.
Putting in the self care efforts.
And telling the truth about your sneaky habits.
Around people who love and respect me when you get the better of me.
And sometimes going to bed early to just start again tomorrow.
Then I’m ok.
We’re ok.

Thank you for challenging me to take good care of myself, anxiety, I love you xx

Sarah x


Image by Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash