Anxiety Is A Beast I Cannot Escape
Seriously. She is the monster that never truly leaves my closet. She is the root of so many of my vices. She haunts me.
Do you have an emotion that has the capacity to crack you wide open? A feeling that can devour you whole? An emotion that catalyzes the absolute worst in you?
Cause, yeah, that’s anxiety for me. She’s a bitch. A completely unapologetic bitch who amplifies my fears, exacerbates my depression and bulldozes my emotional well-being.
Anxiety taps into deep, like we’re talking primal, fears. Usually she tries to convince me that I will never have my essential needs met. And, she’s very persuasive.
It’s terrifying that I believed Anxiety for most of my life.
BACK IN THE DAY, ANXIETY WAS THE PUPPETEER & I WAS THE MARIONETTE.
Anxiety mastered me.
I experience anxiety physically. Anxiety equals adrenaline. It feels like too much caffeine coursing through my veins, but amplified.
It is kinetic energy that wants to escape my body, but can’t. It is a ball trapped inside of me, bouncing back and forth and back and forth, with no exit.
It is deeply unsettling. Overwhelmingly uncomfortable. For most of my life, I sought to silence anxiety through food.
Compulsive eating is methodical. The pattern bred familiarity. The rhythm numbed my frayed nerves. The motion provided mental escape.
Standing in front of an open refrigerator, I would eat my way through it. Start with the second shelf and work left to right, like reading.
I’d pop open a container, consume the contents, throw the emptied vessel onto the floor and move onto the next Tupperware. I’d eat leftovers, pickles, olives, salsa, whatever was available.
The motions were calming. They gave me a false sense of being in control. I’d keep eating until I felt right. “Right” was elusive and subjective.
Right was beyond stuffed. If fear creates a vacuum, then I crammed each of those crevices full of food. I ate more than was necessary as insurance. I needed to be absolutely certain I had filled every crack.
Compulsive eating brought immediate release. But, it was also incredibly destructive. Not surprising, but true.
Compulsive eating reinforced my beliefs that I would never escape obesity or ugliness. In fact, it became a reason why such things were inevitable. This is a time when I was convinced I would never be beautiful.
Compulsive eating freed me from anxiety, but it locked me in a torturous cycle of believing the worst about myself.
For a time I traded compulsive shopping for eating. It took time and therapy to show me that I could deal with anxiety without resorting to damaging compulsive behaviors.
SO, HOW DO I COPE WITH ANXIETY NOW?
I am convinced there are only two responses to anxiety. Either you bottle it up or you push it out. Every anxiety coping mechanism boils down to whether you aim to contain or expunge.
Compulsive eating was a containment strategy. It was a method of pushing anxiety deeper inside of myself and covering it (with layers of food).
The other, dare I say better, habit is to expel anxiety. Often, it takes the form of physical activity. Exercise releases the trapped kinetic energy of anxiety.
I, however, do not like sweating. Or struggling to breathe. Or exercise generally. So, instead I write.
Writing is my act of abandon. It’s a way to focus errant energy and pour it outside of myself. It is much more than a coping mechanism.
It is an incantation. A prayer. An offering. An act of clarifying.
Writing is my life-blood. It sustains me. Nourishes, soothes, and calms. It is a spiritual devotion, a divine undertaking and a practical solution.
It is my way through anxiety. The one true thing I know will help.
ANXIETY MIGHT NOT REDUCE ME TO TEARS, BUT SHE’S STILL AN ENEMY.
I know that unchecked, anxiety reduces me to a depressed insomniac mess. I know that avoiding her or trying to suppress her only reinforces her. Then, she has the ability to strip me of my faith.
I know the only way forward is to admit that for a very long time, anxiety rendered me powerless.
In the future, I would like to embrace anxiety. I want to lean into her but I am still far too scarred for that.
I am beginning to trust that anxiety, like fear or feelings of stuck, is a tool. A natural part of life, business and creativity.
I look forward to the day when her presence doesn’t completely disarm me.