A Message for My Anxiety: You Haven't Beaten Me
You haven’t beaten me. You beat me up, again and again and again. You kick me when I am down, and you tell me terrible lies. You warn me I will never win. I can’t. I should just stay down. You scream at me and make me feel small and helpless. You are a textbook bully.
But you haven’t beaten me.
I am learning to recognize your lies. Remember when you told me I would never be better? I am better. Remember when you told me you weren’t real? You are.
When you first showed up and told me I was dying, I believed you. You didn’t even need a cause of death. You just showed up and announced that it was all over. You were taunting me in front of my kids. I put on a face for them, but I was cowering.
We’re old acquaintances, but still when you came charging in and running things, I did not recognize you. The old anxiety was small and subservient. The old anxiety was timid. The old anxiety would sometimes spark and fan fear into flames, which leapt about painfully but with minimal destruction. When you charged in like you owned the place, I did not recognize you, and even now I wonder if you aren’t a different player who shares a name.
You screamed at me. “Be afraid. Be afraid of death. Be afraid of pain. Be afraid for your kids. Be afraid for you husband. Be afraid for you parents and your siblings and everyone you have ever loved.” When I confronted each individual fear, you simply invented more and screamed louder.
Until I didn’t know how to argue. Until you were the only voice I could hear. Until your unhinged taunts outgrew my mind. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t get out of bed. I tried to cover you with mind-numbing TV, but you just laughed. I was shaking and vomiting. Remember that?
You’re a mean SOB. But you didn’t beat me.
You shamed me. You told me I was weak if I needed help. Surely I was strong enough to send you away on my own.
But it isn’t weakness to ask for help. Asking for help isn’t admitting defeat. I needed help. I needed control of my mind. With my doctor, I stood up to you. We didn’t chase you off the playground; that’s is your bully tactic. We just cornered you. We took your power away.
You can stay, but you are not in charge anymore. You can even have a job. Your job is to help me find problems so I can address them before they grow. But I don’t trust you anymore, and so for now we are keeping you under lock and key. Two tiny pills every night before bed.
Anxiety, I am winning. You don’t own me. And I am not ashamed of the help I needed and continue to need. I am only ashamed I ever believed your lies and that I ever allowed you to boss me around.