The feeling of my chest folding in on itself is familiar in a haunting way. It clenches the way that muscles flinch when something comes to close to your face—except it stays that way. There’s no immediate relief after you don’t get hit. There’s no sigh to release the tension.
The creature sneaks its way down the center of my body, spreading through my stomach. The roots seem to grab hold of whatever organ they can, squeezing as if I’m trying to rip it from my body. But the only violent one here is it. If you tug, it clings harder. Like Devil’s Snare, the more you fight, the worse it gets.
For me, anxiety is the overwhelming feeling of existential dread, washing over my insides for seemingly no reason. It’s like laying on a sunny beach and suddenly finding yourself in the shadow of a tsunami and in quick sand simultaneously.
Nearly 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety, but only about 36.9 percent of those people receive any sort of treatment. What’s more, people who suffer from anxiety are much more likely to also suffer from depression (and vice versa). So what happens when the things that are meant to bring solace and quiet to our minds and bodies become sources of that dread?
For me, writing alleviated it for as long as I can remember. But lately, it seems like the thought of a blank document and clean keyboard makes me shudder. What is a writer who doesn’t write? Anxiety’s answer: useless; a failure; a waste of talent and mind. My mind thinks “Well, just write. Then you’ll be writing, and you won’t feel that way.” But as I write, every word I type seems wrong. Every key I strike deserves to be deleted, never to cross the eyes of a reader. Persisting through the self-imposed insults and baggage seems fruitless because who will read it anyway?
So how can I convince myself to write longer pieces when a simple blog post seems like an insurmountable challenge? Opening a Word document is a good start. (Closing it and reopening it multiple times then staring at the page may be optional for some.) Quiet unfamiliar music and deep breathing required for me. Sometimes, all you get is a few paragraphs—and that is okay.
Breathe deep. Exhale. Repeat. Write.