At first you aren’t sure it’s there. Blink and you’ll miss it. You might unconsciously stroke your chest, an idle itch. A nagging feeling, a lingering wonder. You carry on with your work day, trying to soldier pass the worry. Your clothes don’t feel comfortable any more. Your breath hitches and catches slightly. Is your heart skipping beats? The long fingers of anxiety wrap themselves around your chest, clawing at your insides. The Anxiety Weight has fully settled on you, and you feel powerless. Your head is foggy and movements feel exaggerated. Your reactions are dulled by a few seconds and your train of thought – whatever it was – has been lost.
But this isn’t the first time you’ve been through this. Oh no. You’ve been having these types of feelings almost your entire life, as long as you can remember. As hard as it is to breathe there is a certain comfort in knowing this is “only anxiety”. This can be explained. This can be fixed. This can be conquered. To keep the monster at bay you search for a trigger – an errant thought, a disturbing message, a work frustration – something that you can point to as the reason it all started. Through this thought process you keep calm. You’re holding up the Anxiety Weight and though your arms feel shaky with the effort you keep the worst of the crushing feeling away. You hold on to some measure of control.
You’ve managed through a combination of mindful self-thought (from years of practice), mindless internet browsing, and actual distracting work to keep the weight off of you. The day is over and now you just need to get home, to comfort and warmth and safety. All that’s left is travel home. And maybe it’s the traffic. Maybe it’s the music in your ears. Maybe it’s the crowded feeling of the bus. Maybe it’s just the fact that while you didn’t notice the Anxiety Weight settled deep in your chest. Being around other people is soul-crushing. Another person touching you sends tremors through your body. Panic. The kind that kicks in your flight or fight response. Your need to be home has increased ten-fold, but to abandon your mode of transportation now means it will take twice as long to get there. You choose fight. The music in your ears gets louder to drown the roar of anxiety that threatens your very existence. Everything is screaming “run” and you take every ounce of everything you’ve got to stay put.
You’ve made it. You’re walking to your front door, though your entire body is shaking from the effort. Just a few more steps and you’ve done it. You’re allowed to completely fall apart now. But are you? A new set of anxieties settle in as you realize you still have responsibilities, obligations. Yes, this home is your safe space … but you still have things to do. Things to take care. Maybe people or pets to worry about. Chores. Food prep. Self-care. Adulting. It’s rarely as simple as coming home and falling to pieces. Every once in awhile that Anxiety Weight is so heavy that falling apart is all you’re capable of. But not today. Today, despite everything, you managed. And years of practice means you can manage a little longer.
A wise person recently reminded me that tomorrow is a new day. It’s new memories and new opportunities. It’s only burdened with yesterday’s choices if you choose to let it. Which means I know I’ll wake up with today’s anxiety tomorrow if I choose to bring it forward. And I know that the Anxiety Weight has been hanging around me for a while, testing it’s pressure and how much I can take. So far my breakdowns have been few, minimal, short. I’ve pushed on because I’ve had to, and I have no regrets about that. I keep standing up, however long it takes me to get back on my feet. Today’s anxiety was not unique, not an outlier. But it was a chance to notice. To understand sensations. To turn panic into prose. To write, to process, to protest.
To lift the weight up.