Anxiety feels like acid in your stomach, the kind that doesn’t belong there, the kind of acid you imagine lurks in batteries and eats away at everything. It’s the feeling of constant distraction, of restlessness that demands rest, the feeling that tells you to stay still but makes your thoughts move, running into each other, constantly apologizing for the trouble.
Sorry. My fault.
Anxiety feels like apologizing weeks after the fact. It feels like looking at something someone else tells you is sad and thinking nothing because you feel like you had the thought hours ago: “not good.” Anxiety is hearing “not good” in your head until nothing seems good, not even the stuff you know feels good, the stuff you want all the time, the stuff that the other stuff is keeping you from.
Anxiety feels like not being able to separate stuff.
Anxiety feels like pausing to separate stuff, it feels like giving up to put it all in a bag when it’s too much, to carry it all to the next place for the fear of forgetting one thing.
Anxiety feels like having it all on your mind always, it feels like always remembering and perpetually forgetting.
Anxiety feels like parataxis. It’s endless enjambment, it’s thinking in terms that don’t apply. It’s spitting out everything you know and hoping it’s all gone afterwards, it’s giving it all away for nothing just to feel the relief of blank space, of something clean, for once.
Anxiety is random word association at all times, it’s hearing “car” and thinking “accident,” it’s holding your breath under bridges. It’s pushing rows of teeth together at night, it’s hearing logical prescriptions “you should exercise, Vitamin D” and thinking about time.
Anxiety feels like time doesn’t exist but everything depends on it, like a house of cards built on nothing, like a wooden bridge rotting over a sharp-rocked, toothy creek with a busy playground next to it.
It feels like being your own absentee parent, it feels like constant neglect and attention, it feels like you’re ten and waiting for your mom to pick you up after practice with the sun setting and no cell phone and one street lamp in the distance next to the hole in the chain link fence that the older kids use to go to the river.
Anxiety feels like knowing the unknown but not knowing you don’t really know it at all.
It feels like paralysis, wanting to move, wanting to breathe, wanting to think things through, to choose, to get up, to make cautious, decisive movements, the kind adults make when they’re leaving the office, turning off the light as the last step to peace, a cool darkness that means ‘work’ is over and the glow that means ‘home, relief’ burning in the distance.
The kind of movements people make when they’re sure, those movements don’t feel like anxiety.