An Open Letter to Anxiety

Dear Anxiety, 

You have been a part of me for as long as I remember. I don’t remember a time where I didn’t feel anxious, or constantly worried about what was going on around me. You have had me worried about things that haven’t even happened yet, and replaying things that have happened for way longer than necessary. You have had me SO anxious, I pushed away people because you convinced me they didn’t actually like me, but that’s just me protecting myself, isn’t it? You’ve also made it super hard to let people go. You show yourself in many forms; fidgeting, isolating, anger, full-on meltdowns, or flat out avoiding situations. You make me feel trapped in my own mind. 

To be nervous before an exam is normal. To be nervous to go on a date or to go to a doctor’s appointment is normal. To be nervous before a presentation is normal. What isn’t considered okay is canceling dates, plans, going out with my friends, or skipping meetings because “you’re not feeling well” or having me use any excuse in the book to avoid plans. What isn’t okay is having me so worked up over reading a poem I wrote for an English assignment when I was 15, that I begged the student-teacher in English to read it for me. I was ready to cry and so humiliated thinking about having to stand in front of the whole class. But that was when you ruled my life. 

You have made me a people pleaser, and not in a healthy way. You have made it hard for me to say no because I don’t want people to get mad at me for not helping them. You have made me feel terrible for not picking up extra hours at work because I had an assignment due or because I needed time for myself. You’ve made me change my outfit 3 times before leaving because “what if this doesn't look right” or “what if my makeup looks bad.” I second guess, then I do it about five more times before I can feel at ease. It’s a never-ending fight with you.

You used to make me care so much what people thought of me. Hell, I STILL care what people think. You’ve had me wonder what people think of me as I’m shopping at Walmart or walking across campus. When I dated my high school sweetheart, the boy I wanted to marry, I cared so much how his family saw me I lost sight of myself. I was so anxious if I wasn’t as Catholic or involved in church as I was when I was with him, they wouldn’t like me. It caused a lot of fights between my ex and me. You have made me pretend to be someone I’m not to the point that for a while, I didn’t know who I was. My ex always referred to you as my “demons,” and he was exactly right about it. You are my demons, but he also told me to never let you win.

I don’t like you. Not in the slightest. I would be happy if I woke up and you were gone. However, you’re here and here to stay. I’ve learned to control you to an extent, and how to deal with you when you start to get to be too much. I know now that you only have as much strength and power over me as I let you. When I started talking about my thoughts in therapy, I started to learn that while you make me feel weak, I am so much stronger than you. I’ve learned how to calm myself down when you try and cause panic attacks. The same ones that landed me in the back of an ambulance because I couldn't breathe and went numb.

When I began to talk about you in therapy, you started to have less of a grip on me. Others suffer and feel the ways I do at times. I know how to stand up to you now and I can tell when I feel like you’re taking over. Now I know how to put you in your place. I can prevent panic attacks before they come on, and I can talk myself through it. I know to focus my breaths and distract myself. But you never wanted me to learn that. I learned how to go to Walmart alone and feel fine. I began to learn how to love myself and I became my own friend, so you didn’t have to stay mine anymore.

I’m invincible, remember?