if i could paint anxiety

november 24, 2017


if i could paint my anxiety i’d build huge canvases splashed with dark, swirling colours that overwhelm, like violent, stormy waves, they crash over me, mocking my struggles as i fight for air, as i try to stay afloat. unrelenting, unceasing, pitiless, full of confusion and violence, they bury me alive and steal away light and life.

it’s loud and oppressive and heavy.  pressure builds in my chest and my body feels as though i’m under attack. it scrambles my thoughts and make even the smallest decisions impossibly challenging. it feels like forever.

there’s no hope on that canvas, no light. it’s noise and chaos and confusion; it’s a hard and ugly darkness.

i can’t seem to paint my anxiety. all i have are my words and they feel clumsy and insufficient. i stumble and fumble when i try to explain what it’s like to live in my head. my words seem too small to describe what it’s like in my heart and soul.

the inside of my head feels full and tight, like the emotions are pushing their way out through my skull. my mind is full of thoughts that i don’t understand but am sure i need evade. it builds and builds until i’m sure i’ll be consumed. eaten up from the inside out. i want to race out into the street and run hard and fast until i leave myself behind. i want to collapse in a heap on the floor and scream, so that everyone around me knows that’ i’m in agony.

i don’t do any of that. overt displays of uncomfortable emotions are frowned upon by my neuroses. be a good girl, be quiet, be perfect, be nice, don’t make waves, don’t make a fuss. my subconsciousness’s mantra, burned into my bones.

it’s hard for me to remember the ‘supposed to’ when my brain turns on me. it’s too new to be routine. i get trapped by the why me-ness of the whole thing. once i’m in, i can’t remember how to get out.

i’m trying to let go of my historical methods of mitigation, but when i’m sinking, i rage against the restriction on using them i’ve imposed.  the coping skills i used to use – my eating disorder and other, equally maladaptive tools – are ones i’m trying to abandon. those solutions were deadly, it’s true, but their absence leaves me feeling vulnerable and at a loss. when i’m panicking, i wonder if giving up throwing up has been worth it

anything and everything that might be used to escape from myself is considered. as the anxiety builds, i become increasingly frantic. the world seems too loud and bright and dangerous; it feels like i’ll be buried alive under the emotions and sensations. i struggle to attach myself to new solutions. most of the options my brain suggests are rejected out of hand. i don’t really want to start drinking with breakfast. adding over-consumption of alcohol to the problem at hand seems counter-productive.

fortunately, my anxiety varies in severity. i’m not always drowning; sometimes the water, though deep, is manageable. it isn’t over my head. i’m not close to tears all the time. it’s bad often enough often enough, however, that life is a challenge. my conviction that this condition makes me a failure is a hard one to shake. i’m not in the habit of cutting myself slack. reminding myself that i, too, deserve compassion is a frequent occurrence. on the really bad days, i give up. i head back to bed and hope that sleep will reset my brain into a more functional pattern. sometimes it even works.

By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things start to make sense. I suppose that once I figure out life, the universe, and everything (my thanks to Douglas Adams), I'll have nothing left to say. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow

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