Anxiety is strange, mostly because when you finally realize you have it you realize it is like a piece of furniture you have always been around, something you have gotten used to, but something you have always wanted to move to the other side of the room. You don’t know when it got there, or even how sometimes, but it is the ugliest chair you’ve ever seen, and you’re sure even if you put a “FREE” sign on it at the end of your driveway, it would sit there for years, haunting you from its new spot beside the mailbox too.
Looking back, I guess I was always a little anxious. I was always looking over my shoulder for the nameless and the faceless. I had unshakable fears and worried about things that would never happen for as long as I can remember which is as early as three.
I began fighting the battle nobody knows about before I even knew about it. It sounds like the plot for some empowering dramedy starring Zooey Kazan, but in fact all it has done is left me weak and beaten.
I remember when I was young I wondered why I felt so sad and scared most of the time. I wondered why I feared things that hadn’t happened and why I took precautions for things that would never happen. As I gathered a flashlight, batteries, a water bottle, and a can of chicken noodle soup to hide under my bed, I knew I was insane.
I was only seven, living in the Rocky Mountains. Tornadoes could not touch down there, but I knew I would be the one to get sucked up into one never to be heard from again. Crazy or not, I stashed my survival kit under my bed until my mother found it and gingerly placed these things back where I had found them without saying anything. Later I learned she had been anxious for a long time too.
As I grew, the ugly chair that was my anxiety faded in and out of my life. I white-knuckled adolescence like an ice road trucker praying for a warming beam of sun. All the while I still wondered where is this feeling coming from? What am I bracing for?
I didn’t have cancer or MS. Nobody in my immediately family was dead. We had experienced hardships, but nothing my friends had not experienced.
Why was I like this?
And I supposed that was the thing that made me most anxious, and still makes me most anxious. I don’t even know why I feel anxious. Nothing will happen. There will be no reason for anything to happen. I, however, will find some reason to believe the worst.
There are some days when I see the chair clearly, it is in the middle of the room, and I am too exhausted to ignore it. With its offensive upholstery and third-rate stitching, I collapse into it. I don’t want to and I hate myself for it, but who can fight all the time I think as I attempt to console myself and try desperately not to become anxious over allowing myself to feel anxious.
I am ashamed to admit that sometimes just giving in feels good.
Fighting is so hard. It takes all of your energy to keep out the dark that there is no energy to enjoy the light. What other choice do some of us have but to light a candle in our darkness? To revel in it a little in order to have at least a few moments of peace in the day before we are a crying mess on the bathroom floor just like the next person?
I do not enjoy my anxiety. It is a piece of furniture that was gifted to me. Sometimes I feel guilty for thinking about getting rid of it, but it is likely that is the anxiety talking to. One day I will look up and I will know I have beaten it. It will be gone. Until then, some days I sit, igniting a candle in my own darkness just to have some light.