Once, when I was younger, I sang the same song for twenty minutes. I was so proud, lost in the music- childlike. My babysitter laughed at me. I shut up. I didn’t sing again in public for twenty years.
Anxiety kills dreams.
People tell me I’m talented. I don’t believe them. I only see how talented other people are. I know I can work harder. How come I never do?
People tell me I’m a skilled conversationalist. I think it’s bullshit. I spend countless nights with friends frozen with the terror that they’re going to see through to the fraud gaping behind the smile plastered on my face. As a consequence, I miss everything they’re saying, constantly trying to maintain my act. Do I enjoy myself? Another round of sangria, please!
Anxiety kills connections.
I apologize too much. I aim too much to please. I’m the one up and into the kitchen before dinner is even over, already washing dishes, or making coffee just because I overheard someone mention it in passing. “Oh, you’re so helpful,” they say. “You’re so considerate.”
No, dear ones—I am desperate.
I know, deep inside their praise is really judgments. Their affection is always affectation.
I am the girl who compulsively checks everything to see if people have responded. I don’t know when I became this person. My worth is measured in minutes. I spend hours trolling Google Streak (what sadist came up with that, anyway?) while my work goes undone as I madly toggle between screens, checking for views.
Anxiety kills productivity.
It is crippling. The worst is because I am never living NOW. I am always living for the future— dreading some future exposure, some future satisfaction, some future validation that I know will never come.
Why would it come? I’m a fraud. The worst is that I know their compliments mean nothing. When they compliment me, they’re just trying to find a way to use me. That’s what liars do— and since I’m a liar, I know everyone else is, too.
Anxiety kills trust.
In relationships I worry that my thighs are too big, my hair too long, my kisses too amateur (too much feeling? Not enough?) They’re with me because they feel they owe me something, or worse, because they’re bored and I’m the best they can do. It’s taken for granted that they want something from me. Sex, free rent, breakfast— they all want something.
Like an idiot, I give them my desperate self, but keep the vulnerable parts locked inside because I want so badly to be loved.
Anxiety kills intimacy.
The tragedy is that somewhere deep in there is that same little girl who burst forth in song, but fear of rejection and fear of failure squash any chances of risk or growth. Anxiety is not a social disorder.
It is an addiction. It starts out as nerves, and if you don’t find the courage to overcome, it takes over your life until you serve it. Until you’re a hollow home for it to hide in, grinning like a toad.
Anxiety kills agency.
There’s an antidote to it all, though- and it is action. It is looking yourself in the mirror and repeating: “I am not a coward.” Sometimes, peering into the eyes of that woman who looks so much like me (but please, make me prettier than the woman I see) I catch a glimpse- sometimes- that the woman behind those words is not a liar.