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How I Picture My Anxiety


Yesterday felt like fall.

It is the end of August, but when I woke up yesterday morning and opened my door, autumn winds greeted me. My fingers tap tap tapped on my phone and I read multiple posts on multiple feeds celebrating the change in weather.

Celebrate. This is good.

Summer is hot and sticky and thick and bugs swarm in every corner of everywhere.

This is good. Celebrate, I tell myself.

I want to be happy. I swear I do.

But with the wake of fall winds comes the wake of my “Time Butterfly” — anxiety.

I have anxiety. I have it. It is mine and it’s the most inconsistent consistency in my life.

I am organized. I crave lists, categories and perfect piles.

When I realized and accepted I am someone who lives and struggles with anxiety, I tried to get ahold of it in the best way I could. It took time for me to realize I couldn’t will it away so I tried to categorize it. But “It” wasn’t enough for me. If this anxiety was going to be a steady friend, I needed an image.

Is it a monster? A ghost? A ghoul? A dark and shapeless form that lurks between my bones? No. A butterfly. A multitude of butterflies.

My anxiety isn’t pretty or majestic or graceful, but to constantly refer to and picture it as ugly and scary did me no good. If I am going to own this, I am going to make it what I want. And so I have my different butterflies. They are all the same creature, all under the same name. But some sleep in my soul while others fly freely in my heart and mind. Sleeping or active, they are always there. And certain words, scents, feelings and noises wake specific ones from their slumber.

When I felt that fall air and I realized another season was coming and going, my Time Butterfly woke up and rattled my core.

Summer is ending.

What have I done?

Did I read enough?

Did I go to the beach enough? (The answer is no).

Did I work too much? Yes.

Did I work too little? Yes.

Where is my tan?

Was I even in the sun?

Time is passing quietly and quickly and I have as much power to stop it as I have to stop this butterfly from flapping all over my clouded mind.

But here’s the thing about anxiety, it never stops at one. It can never be one thought, one fear, one question, one butterfly.

Time is passing and I am not enough. Time is passing and I have failed to accomplish. Time is passing and I am getting older. I am getting older and still not where I want to be and maybe not even who I want to be, and soon this time that is passing will stop.

And I will stop.

Maybe then the butterflies will fly away. Or maybe they will stop with me.

I think of that future. No butterflies. No worries. No swirls of doubt and misery and I try to find peace but I don’t find peace, I find chaos.

Because I don’t want it to stop but one day it will. And then I’m back at the beginning and my body is a garden of butterflies. Or maybe a graveyard. Or maybe both.

It depends on the day.

All I know is that they’re there, these anxiety butterflies that are both ugly and beautiful. I didn’t pick them but seem to have picked me. Some days, I fight hard to forget. Other days, I let them roam without restraint. Most days, they weigh me down. But in moments of rarity, they all fall asleep and I feel a little lighter.

Maybe even light enough to fly.

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Thinkstock photo via cienpies.