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Dear Anxiety: I'm in Recovery and I Forgive You


Dear Anxiety,

How quickly you’ve grown.

I remember your birth. I was confused by your arrival yet my mind accepted you – with no input from me. You were an extrovert in the early stages of life: not present during the day but made sure you were home at night.

My pillow became your pillow. I began sharing the sheets with you, less because I wanted to and more because you’d refuse to sleep without me next to you. You were becoming too comfortable and I couldn’t figure out how to ask you to leave — an unwelcome stay which turned my home into a prison and my body into its amusement park.

As you matured your interests broadened — it made things difficult for me, to say the least. I would try to sit down for a minute and relax, but you’d become hyperactive in times of silence. You’d cry for attention if I ever tried to ignore you. In an unlikely moment of clarity, where the fog of your presence lifted, I felt whole again. I felt as if I could remember the importance of caring for myself without also worrying about your needs.

Your need for me became an unhealthy obsession.

Despite you being ever-present in my mind, I never noticed your insatiable appetite for destruction. I always blamed myself for canceling dinners, rearranging plans or for not picking up the phone; I was too frightened of what my friends would think of you. I never stopped to realize you deceived me. Your viscous lies were the catalyst to my downfall but I couldn’t let you go. You were so deep-rooted in my flesh, my veins and my thoughts that you and I were no longer two separate entities.

I always put you first. Why didn’t you ever take me into consideration?

By this point, nothing else had a purpose in my life. You were always around: at work, in the car, in the park and in my bed. It took away all of my energy coping with you, day in and day out; you were draining me of all that was good. I accepted my life would never be “normal” without you in it. I think you knew that too.

I remember the day when I considered talking to somebody about you. Despite your attempts to dissuade me from ever opening my mouth about our time together, I had to take a chance. I wasn’t afraid of your temper anymore — I could deal with the repercussions, whatever they may have been.

I let the phrase, “I need help, please, can you help me understand…” leave my lips. It felt like barbed wire was being pulled from the pit of my stomach, up through my throat, out through my mouth, cutting everything on its way out.

You, my dear friend, displayed your anger in full force that day. You made sure my heart raced so that my words stumbled in the hopes I would lose my breath and succumb to your rage.

I finally knew who my unwanted guest was. It turned out you have many forms and frequently visit other people to make them feel like me.

All this time, you made me feel alone.

You made me feel isolated and like I wasn’t “normal.” And just like a rebellious teenager, I began ignoring your instructions, I started fighting back — I believed in myself.

The more I fought back, the more I started enjoying “normality,” the less power you had over me. I would put myself through excruciating pain by doing all of the things you prevented me from doing: you made everything difficult for me, but that didn’t matter. Your stay was coming to an end and you knew it.

Over an 18-month period, we wrestled nearly every day but I grew stronger after every throwdown. Confidence began to replace the fear in my stomach, my smile began to replace the tears and the separation between us was becoming a reality. I knew I was worth more and knew you were not forever. I determine when you’re welcome: not you. Not anymore.

It’s funny — as you packed your bags and left, I felt thankful for you. You taught me so much about strength, about appreciating life for what it is and for showing me the courage I never thought I had.

I have no regrets about letting you in; I am not ashamed I looked for help and I’m proud of the experiences we shared together. Without you, my old friend, I wouldn’t be the determined, compassionate and understanding man I am today.

You visit me far less frequently these days and you often only stay the night. The next time you decide to stay, you’ll find this note. A note commending you for your efforts and thanking you for your tremendous ability to bring the best out of me.

I will always speak about you now. I’ll make sure more people know about our time together — the good and the bad.

For now, I’ll end this note with a thank you. You will be remembered.

Yours sincerely,

Ryan

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