I’ve had anxiety since I was a little girl, but never really knew that’s what I was up against until recently, when I started reading more books and blogs on the topic, listening to podcasts, practicing yoga and talking to other like-minded humans.
“Anxiety feels like fear. Fear that my family is going to be hurt, fear that I’ve pissed someone off, fear that I did something wrong at work, fear of not making a good impression, fear that I didn’t make the right decision or fear that my ideas are stupid.”
From ages nine through eleven I couldn’t fall asleep at night because I was so worried that something bad was going to happen to my family. I would sheepishly walk into my parents room every night after suffering through about two hours of horrible thoughts. Each time, my dad would patiently bring me back to bed, tell me nothing bad was going to happen, say some prayers and I would finally drift off to sleep.
“Anxiety feels like there are bubbles all over my heart that I can’t pop. Like the liquid around my heart is carbonated. Sometimes it feels like I can’t fully exhale and in turn, I can’t relax and be present.”
There are other stories too, like getting hives before track meets, running away from potential accidental boyfriends, and nearly seeing God during “normal” turbulence as a frequent (fearful) flyer.
“Anxiety feels like a pinball lodged in my throat, ceasing airflow in and out. That feeling ricochets into my head, cutting off oxygen, like a balloon tied tremendously tight. As the pinball pushes through and I can feel my body again, I realize my limbs have never been more stiff.”
Now as a mother, I have greeted a new type of anxiety; one that involves tiny humans falling off tables and the constant questions: Am I doing enough? Am I enough?
“Anxiety feels like my brain is on fire, stuck in the groove of one train of thought. I find myself painfully removed from the present moment, obsessed instead with things I know (rationally) will be just fine or are out of my control.”
Some days I don’t even notice my anxiety, other times it’s situational; presentations, speeches or social gatherings, and yet in some seasons, I wake up every day to anxiety sitting on my chest like a 10 pound weight for no good reason. It takes me out of the game and makes me fear things that I deeply enjoy.
Something that has helped me understand that I have anxiety is talking about what it feels like. What it actually feels like to be in a body that gets taken over by the multi-sensory manifestations of this beast. I asked a few people that I admire – former athletes, surfers, a teacher, mothers, YoPros – who also cohabitate with anxiety, what it feels like to them (see above quotes).
I ended up writing a poem, a collaboration of thoughts, from our anxious hearts to yours.
Anxiety: The Unwelcome Guest
The room gets quiet as she walks in the door.
I lost my train of thought.
I’ll greet her by name,
acknowledge she’s here.
But I’m suddenly no longer there.
My brain lights up like a wildfire,
stuck in the groove
of one thought.
Like bubbles over my carbonated heart.
Why can’t I get it to stop?
Full head like a balloon,
but with no oxygen,
ready to pop.
On a rollercoaster,
it feels endless,
A cloud of fear rolls in
like a fog machine.
Fear that my family will be hurt,
my ideas are stupid,
that I’ve pissed someone off.
The list goes on.
What she looks like to me,
may be different to you.
so close she’s almost a friend?
I pull out my tactics,
I’m ready to fight.
Armed with mantras,
and my rational mind.
Sometimes its minutes
or hours or days.
she’s always overstayed
her already unwelcome.
Finally she starts to slip away,
leaving the faint scent of
in her wake.