When I was little it would come to me like a mysterious invisible monster. Usually when I was dozing off to sleep, alone with my thoughts in quiet, the thumping got louder and louder. The monster drew closer. It was closing in on me, and when I felt that it would in fact become lifelike – that I could reach out and touch it, or worse yet, it could touch me – there were only two things that helped: screaming or telling someone.
Screaming was easy, but telling was the hard part. How do you put into words something that you don’t have a word for? It is this thing. Well…it is more of a feeling. It is big. It gets louder and louder and stronger and stronger. I can’t get away from it. What I didn’t tell anyone was: When it comes, I feel extremely lonely, scared, and worried. Actually, when I feel lonely, scared, and worried it comes. I’m afraid I will never be able to make it go away. I am afraid it will eat me up. The monster in that form eventually retreated, but over the years, it would morph itself into many different shapes. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that the thumping was my heart, and the monster had a name: Anxiety. How could this be? I could have sworn it was a monster. It felt so real.
Knowing it had a name was reassuring (no one is actually going to eat me up; other people have invisible monsters as well) yet frightening (the mind is a powerful force that can play tricks on me). More than anything, I wondered: Will I always feel this way? The answer was both yes and no. Yes, there would always be a tendency for my mind to wander, to feel the pangs of panic that are the precursor to the thumping, but no, I wouldn’t have to go to that place if I chose not to. I could, the challenge became, recognize what was happening and shut the door, at least partially, on the monster. Over time, I have learned many different techniques to manage my anxiety, and I have grown in the knowledge and confidence that just because anxiety slips in every now and then doesn’t mean that it has to be the captain of my ship. When it comes to anxiety, I remind myself that:
It can be there, but it doesn’t have to be the center of attention.
It doesn’t have to steal the show.
It can’t tell me what I can do or what I can’t do.
It can’t hold me back.
It can’t stop me from going places.
It can’t keep me from breathing.
It can’t stop me from dreaming.
It can’t consume me.
My invisible monster, it turned out, could be tamed. Actually, it longed to be tamed. It was waiting for so many years for me to tell it what to do.
You can do this.
You are brave.
You aren’t alone.
You are normal.
You deserve to be here.
You will figure it out.
You will be okay.
You ARE okay.
I look at things differently now. I’m not slaying a beast, but rather educating a strong-willed invisible monster of sorts. I should correct myself… it doesn’t like being called a monster because it isn’t trying to be scary. That’s just how I used to see it, but we’ve been together for a long time now. Hey, Anxiety, now that I know you by name, now that you respect my space and give me the freedom to be who I am and make my own choices, what do you say we call it a day and be friends?
Actually, on second thought, that’s not a question. That’s me telling you. That’s me telling you.
By: Erin Frankel, AiT Contributor