When Words Failed to Describe My Anxiety


Some of the most painful moments of struggle are the ones where nothing makes sense… ugh, wait. That sounded yucky. Phrasing it that way sounds painfully dull, the words are just too overused. So much so, that for me, it’s diluted the truth of them. But even the phrase itself addresses that very fact. When nothing makes sense, the most frustrating barrier can be a loss of words.

Anxiety and I are well acquainted. When I first attempted to translate its inside presence into outside understanding, I realized just how much stock I’m used to putting into each word. Living with constant fear of judgment has made any communication a true battle. I realized I was thinking every word mattered to such extreme extents, that I wasn’t able get any out. I forgot there was no limit. No limit on the numbers of words I used, topics I tried or times forgiveness was received. Even though people wanted to hear, I didn’t know how to reach them. I realized I couldn’t be anything if I didn’t let myself be anything to anyone.

Learning to free my words was a difficult process. For me, I think I had felt words weren’t enough. Simply saying “sad,”  “lonely” or “scared” — that didn’t seem to mean anything anymore. We use those words so much that I felt that we couldn’t possibly use them to describe the physical desolation they were meant to indicate. Come on words, you had one job! Please, just explain, just denote some reason, just sort out this tangled chaos, please. But words are so stubborn, and so subjective from person to person, it takes so much tweaking to externalize what is so solidly internal.

After some practice, what I’ve found helps, is reconnecting the origin of feeling back into words, into any and all words! Let “happy” truly indicate that fluttering carefree frolicking feeling. Emotions are such a crucial part of how we gauge worth. When they become glossed over as “normal,” they lose all meaning. When someone tells you something was “hard,” they probably experienced many more layers than we might commonly understand through just one word.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, even though it can take paragraphs of intricate prose to whittle out what it is to feel, it only takes one sudden, densely packed moment to experience what every one of those words tries to convey. No wonder it hurts. Ow.

I believe everyone feels those same surprising extremes, but not everyone is lucky enough to have the words (and people) required to transform the inside, out. So I guess it’s a reminder to well, just be nice. It matters. It’s hard to be a human. And you’d better believe when I say “hard,” I’m indicating the kind of hard with all the unspeakable emotions that shadow it. There are so many layers behind one word. It takes listening through the layers to see that often, we’re a lot more similar than it sometimes seems.

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Thinkstock photo via Transfuchsian.


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