The Imagination of Someone With Anxiety


I imagine it.

I’m standing over a porcelain toilet bowl, the contents of my stomach spilling out before my eyes. Vomit hits the water. The taste of bile fills my mouth. I feel a deep emptiness.

This is my fault. I am disgusting. I am a burden. I am ashamed. I am out of control.

Would I choke? Would my son Elliot be scared?

I imagine it.

I suddenly fall to the floor, parts of my body taking turns shooting straight up into the air as other parts are forcefully slammed downward. A seizure. My eyes are closed, rolling backward.

This is my fault. I am embarrassed. I am a burden. I am out of control.

Would I black out? What would happen to Elliot?

I imagine it.

I wake up soaked in my own blood. I am warm. I look around and see white sheets now stained a deep red. I am trying to scream, but the sound will not exit my lips. I am trying to wake my husband Andrew up to tell him what I already know: we lost the baby. Miscarriage. I am trying to wake Andrew up, but I don’t want to. I don’t want him to see. I don’t want to watch the pain fill his eyes.

This is my fault. I made some kind of mistake. I am incapable. My body is out of control.

Would we survive this? Would we tell Elliot some day?

I imagine it.

I am driving. I feel the car moving faster. My foot fumbles around for the brake. I cannot find it. I am accelerating faster, faster, faster. I am spinning out of control. I am Out. Of. Control.

This is my fault. I am careless. I am stupid. I am out of control.

Who would tell Andrew? Would Elliot remember me when I’m gone?

I imagine it.

We are standing on top of the play structure, and Elliot steps too far too fast. He falls hard and does not cry. I am waiting to hear his cry. I run to him fast and pick him up into my arms. I am covered in his blood. I have tears streaming down my face. I am screaming help me, help me, help me.

This is my fault. I am stupid. I should’ve been more careful. Going outside wasn’t worth the risk.

How could I be so careless? Would he live?

I imagine it.

I round the corner and see Andrew’s feet hanging off the edge of the bed. He doesn’t respond to my question. He is quiet. I go to him and see he’s no longer breathing, his skin is blue, he’s gone. I am screaming, but no sound is coming out. I am screaming help me, help me, help me.

***

My favorite professor in college said something that has not stopped rattling around in my head: Your weaknesses are your strengths out of control.

Creativity is my strength. I dream up ideas and realities. I think of endless possibilities.

My creativity out of control has manifested itself in anxiety.

I take refuge in little blue pills and pints of chocolate ice cream.

How could I ever tell someone? How could I even describe it? I am often lost in my own world of imagination – worst-case- scenarios and what-ifs. My thoughts run faster than I could ever express them. I am distracted from real life because I’m lost somewhere in my mind, lost somewhere in the possibility of trauma.

I know why.

Most of my imaginations have one thing in common: a sheer lack of control. Control is my desire, my pursuit, my idol. I will wash my hands and take showers and Clorox wipe every surface to feel like I am in control. I will run the numbers and obsessively Google and stay at home most of the time to feel like I am in control.

I know why.

In my undergrad psychology class, I learned that when a young mind experiences trauma, they are trained to believe it will happen again.

I know I’m just waiting. I’m in survival mode – waiting for the next attack, trying to anticipate it, trying to protect myself, trying to prepare. I know I am trying to control.

But still, I imagine it.

Several times each day, I imagine puking and seizures and miscarriages and death.

But somehow still, amidst all this, I can imagine something different.

I can imagine a world without my little blue pills. I can imagine a world where I have peace, where I am content. I can imagine a world without all my little obsessions, a world where my mind is free to think and believe the best things are yet to come. I can imagine a world where I can live in confidence, knowing control is not my ultimate need, that tragedies are inevitable but that it is not my job to anticipate them, that it is not my fault they occur, that I am free, free, free.

It seems impossible and far off.

But still, I can imagine it.

Still, I will imagine it.

Image via Thinkstock.

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