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When Anxiety Tries to Cancel My Plans

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I’m standing in front of the bathroom mirror. I lean close to put on a final coat of mascara. Soon, I’ll be pulling out of the driveway to meet a friend for frozen yogurt. Soon, I’ll be filling up a cup with swirling flavors and sprinkling on toppings. Soon, I’ll be sitting at a table — talking and laughing and smiling.

But at this moment, I’m looking at the reflection of my brown eyes in the bathroom mirror. And at this moment, with no warning, Anxiety bursts in. He crashes into my brain and turns my amiable image of the outing into a picture of disaster. Anxiety hides in the trenches and shoots machine guns of worries into all corners of my mind.

I pick up my brush. What if I show up and she isn’t there? I pull the bristles through my tangled hair. What if I got the time wrong? I put down the brush. What if she only agreed to hang out because she felt bad saying no? I turn on the sink. What if I say something silly? I run my hands under the cold water. What if she thinks I’m boring? I turn off the sink. What if.

I stare into the mirror once again. Oh yes, Anxiety is the king of what ifs. And he chose this day to knock down my defenses with a grand battalion. I wish I could plug my ears to block out his endless stream of worst-case scenarios, but Anxiety lives in my head — there’s no way to silence his voice. I am overpowered by his demanding presence, his machine gun of worries. Part of me knows his words are irrational, but Reason has been pushed out of my mind. Because when Anxiety visits, there’s no room for anyone else.

As I stand frozen in front of the bathroom mirror, I fall prey to Anxiety’s cunning ways. I listen to his list of worst-case scenarios and I cave in to his demands. He tells me to cancel my plans, so I do. Lucky for me, over the years, Anxiety has accumulated a long list of excuses: car troubles, migraines, family emergencies, injured pets, last-minute appointments. I take my pick and text my friend, “So sorry, I think I’m getting sick — rain check?”

I look back into the bathroom mirror. Anxiety seems to have won again. I add “frozen yogurt” to the rain check list of things I’ve had to miss due to my familiar visitor: birthday parties, lunch dates, shopping trips, field trips, sleepovers — it seems to go on forever. I wish that I could have told my friend the truth, but Anxiety makes that impossible. So, once again, I have allowed Anxiety to cancel my plans.

My hands clutch the sink with white knuckles as I glare at my reflection in the mirror. I feel the hot swords of Anger enter my mind — anger at Anxiety for always ruining everything, and anger at myself for always letting him. Time after time I tell myself: next time I’ll fight harder, next time I’ll push him away for good, next time I’ll show Anxiety who is boss. But next time comes and goes and comes again and I never seem to win.

As I glare into the mirror, I hate myself for letting Anxiety beat me every time. I hate myself for being so weak. But then, I step away from the mirror. I look around my room — at my calendar with dates scribbled in, my bookshelf with photo albums of memories, my list of rain checks to follow up on. Maybe Anxiety wasn’t winning. Because every time he showed up, I was eventually able to push him out — he never lasted forever. Anxiety may cancel my plans sometimes, but I keep making new ones.

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Thinkstock photo via Olela

Originally published: June 29, 2017
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