Today I feel numb. Or perhaps I feel so much that my capacity to feel is overridden and subsumed under a more urgent instinct—the instinct to hide. To curl into a ball tight enough to feel myself, to wrap my arms around my legs and feel that my body is solid, not flying apart in every direction, that it’s real, not an extension of my overactive mind. To pull in close until I think, maybe, I have some control.
A few years ago, on a day like today, I would have said, “I’m ill.” But over time I’ve learned to recognise this feeling and the seed of panic that comes with it, blooming somewhere at the base of my skull, spreading until it pounds through my mind. Today, I know to say, “I’m anxious.”
A year ago if I were writing a blog post on a Thursday morning, I would have apologised for posting two days late. I would have said, “I was busy.” Today, I know the truth is not that I was busy but that I was anxious—so anxious that I opened my laptop to write, but instead found myself curled in a safe nest of blankets watching Emma for the hundredth time.
A month ago, I would have felt guilty for this—for letting my dysfunctional mind take over, for succumbing to the undercurrent of fear running through my life. But today, I recognise that anxiety is a spectrum, and living with anxiety is a journey.
Sharing my body with anxiety means some days I’m in complete control, and some days I fight for every step. And some days, the anxiety wins, and I watch from inside my head. And whereas a year ago or a month ago I might have seen a day like that as a failure, today I can see that day as a single step in a much longer walk—one moment that does not define me.
Whereas a year ago or a month ago I might have denied my own experience in light of the worse experiences around me, today I acknowledge that my experience is valid—that someone else’s greater pain does not lessen my own. And today I can focus on taking care of myself, whether that means staying in bed an extra hour or simply remembering to breathe as I walk through the snow to class.