There was a time before I knew
And everything was temporary
And no matter how many temporaries there were
I kept thinking, \”this is not me.\”
How many times have I not been myself?
I remember being in the shower
A stranger in a strange land
4,000 miles away from anyone
Anyone who knew, \”this is not me.\”
As the water streamed over me
I felt raw
Like someone had peeled me open
And something that should not be exposed
Water pelting it
Like laser beams shooting
And I could feel which ones were lava
And which ones were freezing
And all I wanted
Was to feel covered again
But the water would not blend
And I was not myself
Recently, when I left therapy, I was trying desperately to be reflective. You see, my anxiety doesn’t happen to take the form of active worrying. My life was my life, and things had to be dealt with. It didn’t matter how I felt about them. I had no agency. I had no power to change anything. So I pushed everything away. I ignored anything that did not help me get through my day. My body was in survival mode and I was incapable of acknowledging that anything was wrong.
Until I had a camera shoved up my colon.
Actually, that’s an exaggeration. I am prone to exaggeration. I don’t know if it was shoved, or gingerly placed- I was unconscious. I was getting a colonoscopy because I was sure I was sick. Physically sick. The constant cramps and upset stomach, my hair falling out, the inability to sleep or eat, the dizzy spells…I wanted to know where they were coming from. Blood work had already ruled out thyroid problems, so this was the next step. A week later, and my results came back…there was absolutely nothing wrong. My insides were in perfect health.
I felt like I had swallowed a brick. I had been thinking about the results, wondering what it would mean if everything came back normal. I had a sneaking suspicion everything would come out normal, but I was clinging to the hope that there was something tangible I could fight against. And now here it was. I had exhausted all my options. No foreign objects or growths or whatnot were making me sick.
My life was making me sick. I had ignored how I felt for so long that my body was literally screaming at me, “HEY LISTEN, LADY. THIS IS NOT COOL. SO DO SOMETHING BOUT IT, MKAY?”
Fast forward to me trying desperately to be reflective after therapy. I had been wondering, “Is this all situational? Why do I keep ending up in shitty situations?” And I realized- I have always been an anxious person. I remembered little league softball, absolutely frozen over home plate every single time I was up to bat. I played softball for four summers. I remembered diving into the neighbor’s pool after watching a movie about a man-eating octopus, and as soon as my body hit the water I began swimming as fast as my little limbs could carry me. I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that the pool had a finite amount of space and the only monster in the water took the form of an older brother. But I could not shake the feeling that my life was in danger, and it would be in danger until my feet could touch down at the shallow end. Which makes absolutely no damn sense, because I loved swimming in lakes and rivers. I like fish. You know, the actual creatures that live in the water. Hated snakes, but a fear of poisonous snakes seemed perfectly rational. A fear of a man-eating octopus in my neighbor’s pool, though? That was something else.
I spent my whole life externalizing how I felt. “Oh, it’s only because of this…as soon as this is over, you’ll be fine.” There were some things that were legitimately terrifying and stressful. But refusing to recognize anxiety as a part of my life left me in shatters when it flared. I felt broken. Ashamed. Weak.
Ignoring or downplaying anxiety got me nowhere. I know that if I do what I’ve always done, then I’ll get what I’ve always got. And what I’ve gotten was pretty shitty, so no thanks. I’d like something different now, please. I’m trying to embrace this as a part of me. It’s a process. I’m not that great at it yet, but we all start somewhere, right?
TL/DR: I am not broken, and neither are you.