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Why My Anxiety Made Me Hide in My Closet

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, suicidal thoughts or have experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

It’s 1:43 a.m. and I’m sobbing on the floor of my shoebox of a closet, covered in a weighted blanket and clutching a stuffed animal.

I couldn’t even tell you how I got here, really. Anxiety of all sorts has been eating away at my brain lately — a grating, droning anxiety that rises up and up until it’s all I can hear. It’s both rational (family members have been sick, money problems) and completely irrational (that joke I told two days ago while out with friends? They weren’t laughing at it, they were laughing at me, and they hate me now). There’s also the completely terrifying memories and flashbacks of the sexual abuse I endured as a teenager, the sight of my abuser’s laughing face, the feeling of his breath on my neck. And when that anxiety reaches a fever pitch, two things happen: everything becomes too loud, too bright, too much and then I go blank.

What I do know is that the closet is cool, dark, quiet, confined. It’s safe and, by extension, I’m safe in here.

There’s just enough room in here for me to sit cross-legged on the ground, wrapped in my 23-pound blanket that feels like a hug. When the worst of the panic attack passes, I’m able to take stock of my surroundings. It’s pitch dark, and the only sound is the occasional hum of the central air. There’s no room for even the memory of another person, let alone the urges to harm myself or the near-constant suicidal thoughts. In here, it’s just me. I marvel at how calm it is.

It’s a completely new feeling. I’m almost suspicious of it. Usually, my thoughts come in a never-ending rush, a tsunami of things I try and fail not to let myself think. Sometimes I’m able to ignore them. Other times, they consume me until I act on the things they tell me to do in an attempt to get them to stop. But the quiet of the closet permeates me until my mind is just as quiet. I start to question why I haven’t thought of hiding in a closet sooner.

It’s 45 minutes before I even think to wonder whether my closet door opens from the inside. We’re good – it does.

To others, I know, this is a strange thing to do. Locking yourself in a closet is what an 8-year-old would do after a temper tantrum, not something a 28-year-old adult does in the middle of the night. But when I emerge, I realize – this is a victory. Because in the end, what have I done? I didn’t act on any destructive urges, didn’t do anything to harm myself or make the situation worse. I simply sat for the better part of an hour, albeit in an unconventional location, and breathed.

Take your comfort where you can get it. Don’t be ashamed of what you have to do – as long as it’s healthy – to soften the sharp edges of the world. People might not understand it, but sometimes to take care of yourself you just need a little time-out in a closet.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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Thinkstock photo via 120b_rock

Originally published: November 4, 2017
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