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When You Live With an ‘Anxious Shadow’ Following You

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It all starts when I wake up. I look to my right and there it is — my anxiety looking straight at my face, just waiting for me to get up. It starts by reminding me of everything I did wrong the day before, and when I finally manage to sit on my bed and get up, it sits beside me. It whispers every little detail of what could go wrong today. I try to shrug it off and send it back to sleep. I slip into my bathroom and try to wake up and avoid the uninvited guest in my room.

I manage to get out of the bathroom with the little energy the day has provided me — and there it is, laying down with its arms crossed behind its head, moving its feet and staring at me. It looks me straight in the eye and says, “You took long, but I’ve been waiting.” I sigh and pretend to ignore it’s there. I get dressed, and instead of seeing myself in the mirror, I see a shadow that follows me around all day and makes me second guess whether I am wearing the right thing, if I did my makeup OK, if my hair looks fine or if I should be standing there. I wonder if it ever gets tired, because I know I do.

I trick myself into thinking that I’ve left it at home and I’ll be “good to go” for the rest of the day. Suddenly, I get in the car, and there it is again, with its seatbelt on, waiting for me to start the car and get going. I sigh and realize it is going to be another day with the shadow by my side. I start the car, roll down my window and light a cigarette. I look to my side and see the shadow smiling, realizing that lighting that cigarette and the feeling of easiness it causes in my body brings the shadow satisfaction. Coming to this realization makes me sick to my stomach, and I throw out the cigarette, not wanting to give the shadow the satisfaction it is looking for. Unable to breathe, I turn the bad mainstream music on the radio and try to sing to it to avoid the fact that I am on autopilot to work.

I get out of my car and the shadow is gone. I feel this weird sense of relief, like I can take a deep breath and live out the day. I take the elevator up to the office, turn on the lights, turn on my computer, and there it is, sitting in the chair beside me. It just whispers, “Get ready, here we go.” I sigh with a sense of defeat and realize it will be another day with my anxious shadow beside me. I am now shaking and can barely breathe. I open up my pill box and take my medication, hoping that will shut it up. Luckily it does, and my daily routine starts. I have taken the easiest way out and have sent the shadow back home; knowing it will be watching every move I make; knowing it will take advantage of the smallest mistake I make so it can steal my breath away, make me itchy, make me irritable and take me into its arms and never let me go.

Finally, my work day is over. But that’s the thing, the day is not over, because I know the shadow is waiting for me at home to take every breath from me.

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Thinkstock photo via Victor_Tongdee

Originally published: September 5, 2017
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