Why I Painted My Walls Yellow to Hide My Anxiety Disorder, and Why They Need to Go
I painted the walls of my room yellow when I was 14 years old. My sister told me the shade was too vibrant and I should choose a more neutral color, but I persisted. I’m 22 with yellow walls and I would make the same decision again. They look juvenile and allow for much more sunlight than is needed at 6 a.m. However, the reason for the color remains strong and lasting, just as the obnoxious color. I couldn’t paint neutral, I couldn’t paint dull and I couldn’t sway from yellow. Bright and vibrant inspires positivity and happiness, or so it did to my naïve 14-year-old mind. I thought if I could surround myself with colors of happiness and joy, that I could forget the thoughts that come at night. I thought if I could trick myself into a sunny disposition, then I would be able to forget the self-loathing, the insecurity and the guilt that plagues me at night. See, the yellow walls weren’t a décor choice in the slightest — they were a grasping of straws for something, anything that could offer me some relief.
Let’s talk about relief. It is not the absence of thoughts, it is not the absence of hate — it is simply the absence of fear. Relief allows me to grow numb and to develop what feels like an immunity to the slow deprecation of my idea of self — a self that was never strong but grew weary with each passing day. I used to think I was nothing. I still do. My life was a constant flutter or worry of annoying those closest to me with my problems. Simple requests like watching a movie, going out for lunch, or just sitting at each other’s house began to feel like a burden. Not just for me, but of me. How could I ask my friends to spend time with me when I had nothing to offer them? I would constantly tear myself down into thinking that, if someone spent time with me, it was because they had no better offers. I put myself as a perpetual back-up plan. I believed my own company was burdensome and something no one would willingly seek. This deprecation was faceted from my own thoughts of self. I was never someone I wanted to spend time with. I was never someone who I found worthy, interesting or deserving of love.
I was 14 and I did not know the power of these thoughts. I did not understand what they meant, or what I was doing. So instead, I painted my walls yellow and tried to hide the thoughts. I tried to pretend to love myself. I hid my insecurity in a flurry of parties, extracurriculars and hangouts. Anywhere I was around a lot of people but not in an intimate setting. Here I could spur off story after story of fantastic possibility, embarrassing endeavors and wild happenings — stories which painted me as someone who was an open book when all I was doing was setting up walls to hide the inner-workings of myself. If no one thought I was hiding anything, then they would not look into it. I was surrounded by friends but no one I could talk to. I misconstrued this as happiness. I thought, if I ventured out every day and could talk to people without reservation then I was happy, I was adjusted and I was not in need of the yellow walls in my room.
I’m 22 and have continued patterns of isolation. I found a way to slowly chip away at my defense, so all that is left is me and these yellow walls. As I got older the parties stopped, the extracurriculars were left abandoned and I no longer had an array of friends to make small talk with. I was left alone in a room with my own thoughts, only now I could not pretend they were not there. The magic of the yellow walls started to fade and what was supposed to encourage a happy disposition only serves as a memory of what I cannot achieve. Holding onto friends became something of an impossibility. Suddenly large groups and parties fell out of style for intimate hangouts and talks. I had no stories to hide behind because they had heard them all and I suddenly the relief vanished. I felt the sickening feeling of fear creep its way back to my mind.
My breath got shorter, my nights got longer and I stopped going out. I didn’t understand the guilt that came from being unable to talk. I did not understand the worry that came from not being to stay in touch. All I knew was, if I couldn’t open up, I might lose the only people who were still in my life. However, at the same time, opening up was a foreign concept — one which plagued me with fear of abandonment. Just because the façade wouldn’t work anymore did not mean I was ready to give it up. I needed to believe I was fine because to admit otherwise was to remember all my thoughts of inadequacy. It meant I would have to understand I did not like my company and no one else could possibly feel otherwise. So I stayed silent and looked at my yellow walls for something to change, something to wake up inside me, but it never happened. I started having one to two panic attacks a week, I let go of a lot of people and I made my life nothing but school and the four yellow walls of my room.
No one tells you how to identify when something is not right. You are not informed when worry turns into something unmanageable. There are no guidelines for someone who is not looking to realize that maybe the thoughts which come at night and spill into your days are not OK, that these thoughts are not a part of yourself but something you can fight. So when someone finally did tell me, I was not ready. I was not ready to chip away at the yellow paint to the neutral dull paint beneath. Yet, I know the only way to fight this is to take down these yellow walls and explore what I have neglected.
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Thinkstock photo via zingraphic