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A Conversation With My Anxiety

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Emily: Hey, how are you? You’ve been kind of M.I.A lately.

Anxiety: I don’t want to talk about me. I want to talk about you. I heard you got a D in one of your classes and barely scraped C’s for the rest. Not doing so hot in the scholarly world, are we? What a huge disappointment. That’s not even average, and mediocrity doesn’t cut it. I also heard you have no idea where you’re headed in your career, or life in general.

Emily: Look, I’m… I’m taking care of it! I have an internship this summer, and everything is going to be fine. I might be stuck in a rut, but figuring things out isn’t that easy, you know.

Anxiety: But you’re trembling, dreading the future’s arrival because you don’t know what it holds for you (that is, if it’s holding anything for you at all). The lack of control and perfection is paralyzing you. Your internship isn’t exactly industrial, and while your friends are gallivanting abroad or building relationships in the corporate world, you’ve failed to do either. You suck at school and in the work force. Can you even say you’re a part of the work force? After all, that internship is unpaid and you don’t do much.

Emily: What the heck man! I do a lot and I love my job! My coworkers are nice and treat me like an intelligent individual. I…I don’t suck! You’re a jerk.

Anxiety: They’re faking it, all of it. So are your friends and classmates. Trust me, I’m usually right about these kinds of things. You’re a useless peer and that uselessness poisons your family life, too.

Emily: Stop! Leave me alone! Leave my world alone!

Anxiety: You need me to keep it all in perspective, Emily. What good would it be for your character if I left you with this false impression that you don’t have to stress about your relationships or feel like you’re going to lose the people you trust the most? I can’t let you get too comfortable. It would only blow up your ego and damage your sense of humility.

You’re too privileged for me to let that happen. You really think when your family looks at you, they’re proud? They’re not proud. They’re aghast. They’re ashamed. Your dad held multiple jobs that took him away from home. Your mom left work to run a smoother household with more attention, more love. Do you think failing to keep calm throughout your youth is rewarding to them? You screwed up, Emily. You are the screw up.

Let me break it down for you: Your parents? They’re disappointed in you. Your sister? She thinks you’re a loser. Your auntie? She wonders how a girl can be so god**mn lazy.

The only reason why your friends keep you around is because your self-deprecating humor is mildly entertaining. They fell in love with the light-hearted Emily, but if they were ever introduced to sad, desperate Emily, they would leave as quickly as they came. I haven’t even mentioned your love life yet. I mean, if you had one.

Emily: Please, don’t go there. I’m choking on my own tears. My head is pounding from the pain. My chest is sinking. I can’t feel my face, and my hands are cold and sweaty. I’m tired.

Anxiety: You’re nobody’s first choice. You’re a back up plan, at best. You may have thought he was cute and kind, but you were a fool to catch feelings for someone you’ve just met. You want attention from someone who won’t give it to you. Pathetic.

Emily: Are you done yet?

Anxiety: You don’t ask the questions. I do. Are you done with this suffering yet? Because I know what I do to you. First, I pay you a visit while you’re working toward a goal, like a project or something. Then, I sit at your side, gazing at your silhouette, wondering what gives you this illogical idea you can accomplish the task at hand.

So then I stand up and peer over your shoulder. I watch you for a while, and then leave. I continue this for several moments, several days because I have a plan. At the end of a busy period, I pay you another visit, but this time, I don’t want to sit at your side and gaze upon your form. I engulf you.

I hold you and shake you back and forth so that your pen falls from your hand and your glasses drop to the ground. Your heartbeats are erratic. Your breaths are more shallow. Your face is prickly. Your hands are numb. It’s enough to make you done, isn’t it Emily? Are you done with me, with reality?

Emily: No, I’m not. I’m not done with you because you’re not a reality to begin with.

Anxiety: Excuse me? I don’t think you understa—

Emily: Oh, but I do. Anxiety, you feel real. All the things you said you do to me, yes, it does happen. When I was kid, you didn’t have this much strength. I remember you trying to peer over my shoulder all the time, but when we locked eyes you would cower behind the shadows and run away from me as fast as you could.

Anxiety: But, but this isn’t about me, this is about—

Emily: Me, I know. And I’m telling you there was a time when I could make you get lost with just one powerful, intimidating glare. Unfortunately, that glare has dimmed over the years. I want it back, and I can get it back. You scare me and hurt me, but you don’t own me. You’re a part of my life, but I still posses the power to vanquish you.

Anxiety: But—

Emily: My family loves me. My friends think I’m pretty cool. My classmates have generally enjoyed my participation in class, and my co-workers think I’m rather helpful. It is you, not me, that must face the truth, to understand you need me more than I need you. The only way you can be my reality, Anxiety, is if I let you.

Originally published: July 25, 2016
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