She’s the one curled up in the corner, hyperventilating and overthinking scenarios and trying to vanish into thin air.
I know, she’s a little odd. That’s why I don’t introduce her that often. She’s not exactly the life of the party.
My Uninvited Roommate
I don’t often talk about Anxiety. After all, she doesn’t really do well with people talking about her. She’s been my roommate for decades. I can’t remember when she first moved in. I was very young when I realised I had a roommate.
I noticed her clearly when I was about 7 years old. There was an incident at school that I still remember vividly. It was a simple thing, but she was around for it.
We had an awkward relationship. I think she’s been around longer, but she made her presence clearly known at that time and has continued to hog her fair share of the communal rooms since.
When I was growing up, Anxiety wasn’t really understood well. She became quite the outcast in the family. After all, if you don’t really know Anxiety, she can seem a little bit of a drama queen. She frets constantly, it’s like a painful hum in your limbs and chest.
She also shuns activities and situations that normal children embrace. You know, like birthday parties and sleepovers. Anxiety didn’t like that. But the family unit saw such behaviour negatively. After all, Anxiety was ruining the “fun”.
Actually, she didn’t ruin my fun. I liked reading and writing my stories, playing with plastic animals and rescuing insects. During those times, Anxiety just accompanied me as a quiet companion. I knew she was there, but she didn’t make a fuss.
There may have been the odd whisper of panic from her if I climbed a tree or went snooping in the old ruins that were hidden in scrubland at the bottom of the street. But that was okay.
As we grew up together, Anxiety started getting more of her own way. It was easy to listen to her when I had everyone from family and friends to teachers and neighbours giving me their opinions on what was “wrong” with me.
Anxiety understood. She knew I liked different things than what others did. That to stay calm meant a different fun activity.
Anxiety rebelled quite a lot when the family pushed us into activities and situations that were overwhelming. She had meltdowns that left me gasping for breath, convinced I was dying.
Unfortunately, I found a destructive way to deal with Anxiety. Pain became a soothing balm that released her pressure and calmed her down. So I caused myself pain. Physical pain to gain control, to feel something other than Anxiety’s crushing weight.
It was during some rough times in my teens and twenties when Anxiety really settled in. I started to notice more of her things around the apartment. Wherever she walked, there was a crackling sensation that filled the space.
I started to retreat into my own room and let her take over the communal areas. It was easier to surrender space than to deal with that crackling pressure that squeezed my lungs and left a crushing sensation in my chest.
Pain was still used to placate her but it was needed more and more. After fighting with Anxiety, I was left feeling hollowed out.
An Uneasy Truce
Anxiety and I came to an agreement in my late twenties, early thirties. It took some time but I had started to be more open with both myself and my partner about Anxiety.
He had met Anxiety a number of times, and through our relationship, he had a pretty good handle of her mood swings and attitude.
It was he who made it possible for me to be more open about Anxiety. He made me realise that I needed to accept Anxiety but not let her take over. After all, this was my apartment. Anxiety didn’t pay rent, she was definitely more of a taker.
Strangely, I started talking about Anxiety more. Following an announcement at work, where we were told there was a mandatory trip to London (for fun…because it’s not fun if it’s not mandatory) with a stayover, I managed to open up about Anxiety.
My manager was surprisingly understanding. It was confirmed that I did not have to participate in this “forced” level of fun that involved travel and a huge crowd of people.
Anxiety became a little friendlier after that. She gave me a shy smile and moved some of her things back to her own room.
My friend, Anxiety
It’s been several years since I spoke out about Anxiety and at a workplace no less. I was lucky that where I worked understood about mental illness and worked with me and Anxiety.
We became friends after that. Unlikely friends and our friendship can sometimes get a little turbulent, but we’re working it out.
Anxiety is still pretty overbearing at times, but I’ve learnt to push back. She was with me when we decided to move countries and man was she a pain. But we did it. She was there when I did my first audio interview (believe me, that was a big deal). But I did it.
I no longer see Anxiety as some oppressive force. She is part of me and that’s okay. She has her place in my life but she’s not allowed to squeeze as tight as she once used to.
Anxiety is still severe. It’s just the way she is. But I work with her every day.
So, have you met my friend, Anxiety?
She’s the one curled up in the corner, hyperventilating and overthinking scenarios and trying to vanish into thin air. I know, she’s a little odd. That’s why I don’t introduce her that often. She’s not exactly the life of the party but she’s not so bad either. This was just a bad day for her. She’ll be okay.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this, and in doing so, understanding me a little bit more.