Every day when I wake up, I begin a new battle with a demon that plagues me and taunts me into submission. It cannot be seen or heard, but lives inside of me, struggling to gain control. The clinical term is ‘anxiety,’ but inside my head, it takes on a more mystical, sinister facet, and plays the Moriarty to my Sherlock Holmes. My nemesis is a part of me, and thus preys upon me with the calculated knowledge of a psychopathic genius. The circular logic of self-doubt spirals around my head until I feel drunk and dizzy with the disorienting weight of uncertainty, and this is almost too much to bear.

For most people, anxiety is an obstacle to overcome when faced with a large presentation to make or an event to plan. But for the many who struggle silently with anxiety disorders, it simply becomes a way of life. I can barely remember a day when I woke up without that familiar welling of panic inside my chest. Adapting my way of living to my anxiety disorder has dictated my life, and threatens to similarly control my future.

For me, it is this promise of a better future that fuels my fight to survive. The insidious thing about anxiety is that the more that you seek to evade it, the stronger its hold becomes. Thus, we become warriors, and mundane tasks become a battling ground for a fight between will and emotion. A war waged on mind over matter, if you will.

My mind is in a state of constant warfare and turmoil. On a good day, I celebrate life and anticipate an eventual victory. On a bad day, I sit shackled to the ground and unable to fly. My anxiety manifests itself in a torrent of frantic obsessions, without rhyme or reason, and relentless in their pursuit. I will fixate upon an issue, and analyze and doubt and beat myself senseless with it for hundreds of hours. I will watch movies and carry on conversations, and attend class on autopilot. Entire days will go by where I barely remember what happened in the outside world, because my entire being was focused on the obsession at hand, calculating and determining and puzzling over something that cannot be resolved. I tell myself that I will just think about it for another five minutes, and if I haven’t come up with a solution, then I will give myself a rest. But that rest never comes. I never find a solution that calms me, and I gradually work myself into a frenzy, plagued with self-doubt and perceived signs that the universe is against me.

Sometimes this anxiety seems mystical, and I feel as if I am cursed. Other times I resign myself to the notion that this is my cross to bear, and that I must learn to adapt my life to it. The times when I am strongest and happiest, I am defiant and aggressive. I scream in the face of my oppressor and rage against my prison: My life belongs to me, fuck off! Yes, anger has a place, and when channeled correctly, even a dignified strength that shouts out for justice. Indeed, it is on those days when I cannot be silenced that I feel the most free. But, unfortunately, these days are too few, and are overshadowed by the senseless, cold and aching nights.

Sometimes I will stare into the mirror for hours, picking at my eyes. Oddly enough, this is often the one thing that will calm me. My eyes are often red and irritated: Infected from being touched too much. They itch and they burn, but still I can not stop. Another desperate attempt to find peace of mind. I will also ask for reassurance, over and over, until nobody will listen to me anymore. But the answer is never enough. Are they lying? Are they just being kind? The doubt creeps back in, and I swallow the urge to ask again. Sometimes I feel better for a few precious moments, but then the obsessing starts again. No response is enough to calm my doubts. I am needy, and I know it. I worry about my desperate need for affection, but my attempts to smother it only result in an empty aching. I seek comfort from outside sources, because I can not give it to myself. I reach out desperately, but no amount of hugs and kind words can reach me in the prison of my mind. I am alone, and it is dark.

I sit in the darkness of my room at night, overcome with fears and doubts. I try to stop the constant repeating of my mind. I try breathing exercises, but they make me feel dizzy. Maybe they help a bit. I hum to myself, lullabies and hymns, and try to calm myself. It’s okay baby, I will keep you safe. I think of a therapist I once saw who told me I was addicted to the romance of madness. I think she must have been crazy. In reality, there is nothing poetic about mental illness: It is weight gain and unwashed hair and maggots in the sink. I desperately cling to my old friend Bear: His calm, kindly eyes always listening. My faithful companion, always unassuming and quietly listening. We have grown up together. I rest my head on the yellowed fur of his matted head, and try to slow my breathing. In a few hours the sun will come up. It will be better then.


4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    orangecrushed said,

    I had a creative writing teacher who tried to tell the class that madness is a great, driving force of creativity and that it was a shame that so many people tried to medicate their way out of it. Obviously, she had never experienced daily panic attacks… I definitely agree that there is nothing poetic about mental illness.

  2. 2

    Stephanie said,

    Wow!!! Just Wow!!! Excellent writing! I could feel every emotion! I do wish I could take away all that anxiety and pain you feel everyday. You deserve to be free! You are to wonderful and extraordinary of a person to have these plagues!

  3. 3

    Karla said,

    You write amazingly well. You pull me along with each word. I really enjoy reading your blogs. I’m sorry you struggle with fear. Fear is something I experience as well–but differently than you so eloquently articulate, but have found that Jesus provides the only freedom for perfect love cast out fear. While I still deal with fear, I think that the more I rest in Him and Him in me the more freedom I gain over that nagging stronghold of fear.

  4. 4

    That was an awesome post. I’m going to come back to that one.
    Thanks for the idea too – I might try to blog about it myself. But I bet I won’t do it as well as you have.

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