Anxiety makes me feel like I’m breaking.
It feels like there is a gaping hole under my ribs, and I am frantically looking for a needle and thread to stitch myself back together again.
Anxiety makes me feel like my skin is being turned inside out.
Usually I’m fine. Usually I’m my funny, strange, generous, even-tempered self. Usually I’m the mother I want to be.
I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I often have weeks of relative peace before anxiety rears its ugly head again.
But then it comes creeping in. It infests me. It crawls through my hair, around my neck, down my throat.
Anxiety is a thing. It’s physical. Anxiety makes my heart race and my bowels churn.
I don’t ask for it to come. It sweeps through me at the most inopportune times. My kid’s first day of preschool. The weekend my husband is away, and it’s just me and the kids for 48 hours. The middle of the night, my mind obsessing about how we’ll pay the credit card bill. At the park, worrying about the anxiety itself – the way it zaps through my bones like an electric current while I push my son on the swing.
I ask it politely to leave. Maybe it slips away for a bit, bums a cigarette on the back porch, but then it comes storming back in, reeking of smoke, filling my lungs with the stuff.
Anxiety tightens my breath. It locks my jaw.
It makes me believe there is nothing but it—that I have never felt calm before and I never will again.
Anxiety makes it so goddamn hard for me to be a mom.
Lately, my son won’t let me put on his T-shirt. He’s 2 years old, so this is par for the course. But when anxiety is here, his cries of protest dig a trench in my chest, like his little hand is right in there, scooping out my heart.
Anxiety makes me want to cry when I can’t find Rice Krispies at the grocery store. But I can’t cry because anxiety doesn’t want me to cry. It wants all my feelings to stay bottled up. It wants me to feel only terror—horrid thoughts racing inside my head.
Anxiety makes me unable to hear my older son’s elaborate explanations of Minecraft, or his thoughtful descriptions of the book he just read. All I hear is the squeaky voice, each word quickening my heart, making me sweat, making me wish myself out of my life.
Anxiety makes me want to rage at the kids when they ask for another bowl of cereal two minutes after I’ve poured them the first – but instead of rage, I feel the existential panic of failing them with my inability to function under anxiety’s spell.
So this time I’m not going to be polite. I’m not going to wait in the wings for anxiety to make its dramatic exit.
Fuck you, anxiety. You are not me. I am not you. I want you out of my life, out of my body, out of my thoughts.
I’m looking at you. I’m giving you the evil eye. I’m letting myself cry if I need to. I’m letting myself rage at you.
I’m holding you in the palm of my hand, and I’m blowing you the fuck away. I’m punching you in the face.
I have two beautiful children, a good husband, enough food, enough money—really, everything I need.
There is no danger, nothing to run away from. If there were, I’d do it. But you make me think the world is always about to crumble to the ground, and you’re wrong.
I don’t have time for that bullshit. You can go worry about someone else’s future. You can go dwell on someone else’s past. You can go strangle someone else’s confidence for absolutely no reason.
I’m done with you. Fuck off. Goodbye.