I think almost all writers and other creative types suffer from some form of insecurity about their work. But I also believe that many of us who fight the good fight to get our stuff out of our heads and into the world, whether in words or the physical arts, struggle with some degree or another of mental illness. For me, the demon is chronic anxiety. Today I shall combine the two and write about my fear to show you how anxiety affects me.
Anxiety can freeze me to the spot. Anxiety can grip me by its ruthless talons and strangle the life out of me, and all I can do is sit there, frozen in place, helpless and unable to cry out. It fucking owns me, this anxiety. It has a hold on my soul that is relentless, and I am powerless against it.
I’ve lived with anxiety all my life but didn’t know that was what was wrong with me until I was in my 50s. I had seen therapist after therapist, and they were definitely helpful but offered no diagnosis, allowing my assumption I was depressed to prevail. I’d seen a couple of psychiatrists along the way as well who’d gone along with the clinical depression diagnosis. And then I saw this one guy who, after asking several questions, told me I had chronic anxiety. I walked away from that appointment nodding my head. Finally it all made sense.
Since then, I’ve watched myself cycle back and forth between barely anxious and anxious as shit. Often my anxiety has a reason I can pinpoint—electrical problem in the house, car making a strange noise even if only once, a physical ailment refractory to treatment. For these specific sources, I seek out solutions to ease those feelings I wish I could crawl out of my skin and out of my life to escape. And once the solution is achieved, I can relax. Mostly.
But then there are the I’m-anxious-and-I-don’t-know-why moments. It just hits me like an anvil over my head and I’m there and I can’t resolve it. I can’t logic-it-out. (Well, the truth is anxiety can’t be “logicked out” regardless, but understanding the source carries with it some comfort.) It simply is. It’s like the sky is falling, and I can’t stop it. There’s no reason for me to believe the sky is falling, but trust me when I say it is.
I have learned how to box anxiety up and set it to the side. I can tell myself what’s bothering me isn’t as real or as heavy or as frightening as it seems, that it’s feelings without substance and I don’t have to give it my attention. Sometimes that works, and rather well, actually. Other times, not so much.
What I’m trying to say is anxiety is real, and it can be debilitating, destructive. It hurts and it shuts me down to the point where all I can do is sit in one spot never moving. It’s not a life I’d wish on anyone, but there it is—my life, as it is.