Anxiety and I, we go way back.
Back to the time when I first experienced the rotation of the earth,
10 times faster.
You could call it love at first breakdown.
We’ve been in a live-in relationship since then,
Only I don’t want to be in it.
We’re not by ourselves, either.
For he goes hand-in-hand with his cousin OCD.
Together they have made a circus of acrobatic fear and panic,
And I am the circus.
I like a clingy lover,
But not one that follows me to the bathroom!
That’s how he is, my Anxiety.
If I could try and sum up our romance,
It would be wobbly knees and shaky hands and asthmatic fits,
Because butterflies in the stomach are too mainstream.
In college, he was the voice that only I could hear.
The voice that kept rehearsing “yes ma’am”
Over and over at roll call while the other girls sat chattering
about everything from aloo paratha to hot guys.
The voice that asked, “What if it’s wrong?”
To all the answers I had memorized a hundred times.
While they learned about Shakespeare and Chaucer,
I learned the ways of avoiding eye contact
from every possible angle,
And how to keep my hands locked between my thighs,
And my head lower than the others.
He was the lump in my stomach that jumped to my throat
At the mere mention of the term “presentation.”
He was the flight that I always chose over fight.
Now every day he wraps me up in his safe cocoon of Insecurity,
Constantly reminding me of the world of danger
waiting outside my door.
Like the sky could collapse or I’d get hit by a pigeon and die.
Or even worse, I could meet someone I know!
I’d have to say hello.
So I stay home for weeks.
Because when I try to blend in with the crowd,
He grabs me by my nerves and threatens to throw a tantrum.
I’m terrified of his tantrums.
So I turn lonely into busy, busy into exhausted, exhausted into sleeping.
He tells me the ceiling is a good friend but really it’s not.
But he can be romantic, too.
Most nights we’re all about cuddles and giggles
under a warm blanket of insomnia,
Talking about my dreams and how I can’t achieve them,
Then jumping out to lock the door
That has been locked seven times and counting,
And asking myself—
Did I turn off the gas?
Did I wash my feet?
Did I turn off the gas?
Some nights he makes the walls seem like an interesting horror movie,
Only the movie is based on my life.
And some nights we spend rummaging through my pile of past events,
The whys and what-ifs and should-haves,
Only to fold them back in my drawers, in order of color and date.
And I call these the good days.
On bad days he tries to kill me.
But fights are inevitable in every relationship.
It’s not so bad…I just play dead sometimes.
On such days, it feels like a million cells somersaulting inside my body
Dying to burst out of my skin.
On such days, it feels like a nuclear explosion in my head
That leaves me bleeding through my ears.
On such days, 30 seconds feel like an eternity underwater
Where my lungs close up and the air in it feels like sulfur.
On such days, he drags me to the feet of my meanest nightmares.
On such days, he makes me see everyone I love in open caskets.
On such days, he makes me relive the goodbye
Said 6 years and 9 months and 5 days ago at 13:15.
On such days, he does not listen to anyone or anything
So DON’T tell me to keep calm.
Don’t tell me to “just breathe”!
With Anxiety, it is not living.
It’s just waiting.
Waiting for the moment to pass,
Hoping the next would be a better one.
With him, it is not living.
It’s just surviving.
Surviving every second suspended in time,
While the whole world passes me by.