I remember in high school I would read the definitions of mental illness conditions and I would be unable to confirm or deny whether I had any of it. There is something that is lost in reflection—when you reflect upon yourself and if any of those definitions for depression, paranoia, anxiety, manic behavior actually defines you.
I sometimes wondered if there was no “click” because the human experience of the mind is so intensely varied. Or if I was so ingrained in the culture that exasperations with one’s own mind was a result of personal weakness. Sometimes I wondered if the desire to not have any problems was so strong that it blinded me to being able to understand definitions. When you read a word and it just floats in front of you as some sort of alien entity you can’t connect to your experience, the uncertainty is frightening.
It’s taken me so many long years to articulate to myself “Yes, my brain right now is in anxiety mode. It isn’t right, it isn’t right. It’s not as it should be.” These days, I’ve slowly been turning my head to meet anxiety in the eye. To recognize it for what it is.
If I were to define anxiety—it would be a tightening. A tightening of the brain that pulses into every muscle below it. To be so full of negative energy you can barely move. To almost work manically, first on one thing and then to think of the next, so the next, only to remember something else that needs to be done. It’s an unending chain and it’s exhausting. And if I sit down and try to relax, I can only hear my head blaring images of everything that isn’t done. Everything that isn’t right. The piece of paper that hasn’t been picked up. The fruit that hasn’t been bought. The lack of accomplishment becomes so heavy in itself that I can barely breathe under the weight of it. Completing one task becomes purely a prologue to the next task. It’s never over. It doesn’t leave. It’s obsessive.
That is anxiety for me. I wonder if anyone can click with that definition?
I haven’t written very much lately because sometimes writing can become a source of anxiety. It’s that thing I feel like I should do but have not done. It brings anxiety if it isn’t part of a habit—if it’s not something I do with regularity. I’ve never done it regularly so I want to stop expecting myself to do it unless I can slowly develop it into a habit.
Writing has saved me, but it has also torn me down. Thinking back to the years since high school I think I’m just too tired to continue dealing with anxiety as it is—now that I’ve finally recognized it for what it is. So I’ve made it my number one priority, beyond standards of success and creativity and cultivating discipline, I just want to be less anxious. Because really, anxiety distorts everything else. There is never success in teaching, only nervousness, there is never preparedness, only unpreparedness. There is never ‘enough’ or ‘satisfaction’ because anxiety is preoccupied with all that wasn’t. There is never rest because anxiety sees it as time wasted.
But it isn’t, and I know that—I just can’t feel it all the time. I want to be able to live in the present.
On my wall, I have the words:
It is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head. —David Foster Wallace
It isn’t so much inspiring as it is a definition that I found one day that clicked. The “constant monologue” explains the detachment I often feel from reality. The preoccupation with everything on the inside.
This creature inside me, it is my partner and my companion and a part of me, but it doesn’t deserve the amount of space it demands.