themighty logo

5 Things I Would Take Back From My Anxiety If 'She' and I Could Meet


I picture the personification of my anxiety being a young, seemingly harmless girl with a hidden agenda. She’s plain-looking, but powerful and lives a life made up of things that don’t belong to her.

If I could sit down with my anxiety and tell her that before I abandon her and our unhealthy, one-sided relationship, there are five things I’m not leaving without:

1. My childhood.

I would give anything to have memories of being an innocent, carefree little girl — pigtails, sundresses, happiness. Instead, my stomach knots when I look back toward a timid little version of myself who grew up too fast and too afraid. I lived fearfully on the outskirts of social situations, watching and wishing I could be invisible, but also desperately hoping someone would notice how alone I was. I had a phobia of “duck duck goose” and anything else which required me stepping even slightly out of the comfort zone only big enough to fit my mother and the anxious little girl adhered to her side. My anxiety owes me many younger years full of bliss and innocence.

2. My worth.

What would it have been like all of these years if I had ever been brave enough to believe in myself? What would it have been like to feel worthy? Worthy of friends, worthy of love, without the fear anything good that came was destined to fall apart because that is what my anxiety said was inevitable. Without anxiety, I could have stood up to bullies with the knowledge I deserved better. More importantly, I could have stood up for the teenage girl in the mirror and stopped her from believing she had no place in her school, in her town or on this planet. I could have picked her up from the shower floor and relieved her debilitating self-doubt. If anxiety didn’t make me feel worthless, I could have thought life was more worthwhile.

3. My dreams.

I spend a lot of time wondering who and where I’d be if I didn’t have a severe anxiety disorder. Maybe I wouldn’t have been too afraid to become a singer, an actress, a model or a writer. Maybe I would have gone to college somewhere warm and far from home. Maybe I would have taken the road less traveled and reached for the dreams that have merely remained unlikely fairytales. Without my anxiety, I may have given myself credit for talents that could have taken me somewhere different, somewhere better. Maybe I would have taken it to heart when people told me, “You can be anything you want to be.” But, anxiety always spoke louder, saying, “You will be what I allow you to be.”

4. My spontaneity.

I have always lived with an aching envy for adventurers. How I wish I could dive into anything without debilitating fear of what might lurk beneath the surface of unfamiliar waters. I want to be able to pack my bags and travel without looking back. Instead, I pack a lunch each day with a lump in my throat, composed of worry over what may go wrong at any given moment. I want to make plans, but not be afraid to diverge from them. I want to break my routine without breaking a nervous sweat. But, my anxiety runs a tight ship that doesn’t often sail away.

5. My voice.

This is the one for which the fight between me and my anxiety is ongoing. Every day, she tries to tell me I have been, I am, I should be and I will always be unheard. Years of opportunities for me to speak up in hundreds of circumstances have come and gone. My illness has muffled the sound of my thoughts, my opinions, my passions, my desires and my ambitions for my whole life because anxiety says no one wants to hear about it. However, this is the part of me I will never stop fighting for. My voice is sometimes unfairly held captive by my illness, but I always fight to get it back. It is the greatest weapon I have in this battle against anxiety. She is constantly trying her best to take everything away from me, but I’m simply not willing to give up.

Photo by João Silas on Unsplash