Stories for Lent: #26 Anxiety

There’s a distinct time I remember. I’m not sure of my age, but it was after my brother was born. I’m not sure what I was doing that day, either, but for whatever reason, I started pondering the topic of mortality. And I burst into tears, unexpectedly, because I thought “time goes by so fast, and soon I’m going to die.”

“Don’t be silly,” came the response from the adult who had asked me why I was crying. To be fair, it seems like a silly thing; it’s also pretty serious for a child that recently got a baby brother, a.k.a. an indicator that You Are Getting Old before big birthday parties and cards with double-digit numbers on them.

I wasn’t an anxious child. I was prone to fancies and had a ton of weird rituals (at one point, I kept shrugging my shoulders because I kept thinking Bloody Mary and I thought that this way I could ward off the vengeful ghost from murdering me and my family in our sleep) but outright anxiety? It was a rare thing.

Perhaps it’s the rituals that kept it at bay. Nowadays, when I’m supposed to know better and act like a grown-up, there are no touchstones I can apply to, no things I can do to convince myself that I’ll be alright in the end. Small wonder I went off the rails with dieting and exercise – they are both the perfect way to fool yourself you’re in control.

*

The last six years have been full of uncertainty. The constant studying and exams, yes, but also the moving, from flat to flat and town to town. Major purchases were out of the question – and even the minor ones were constantly examined and re-examined. A ton of stuff got tossed with every move, and more stuff accumulated. Sometimes I felt like there was too much weighing me down. Other times, I felt like I might get blown away by the wind.

So now, buying a car, seems huge. It is huge – a commitment, for several years, to pay off and maintain and drive safely. I don’t want to make the wrong choice, but more than that, I am terrified of going into debt. Despite having something to do for the next two and a half years, I’m afraid that if I don’t pay off everything by the time I graduate, I will be stuck and have my things repossessed and be a failure who got what she deserved for living above her means. Old fears and doubts resurface – who am I to think I have a contribution to make beyond the drudgery of the office? Shouldn’t I have gone into a graduate degree like the rest of the people from uni? Why do I insist on making life so difficult?

I’m sad and I’m scared. Small miracle, I haven’t imploded yet.

I’m less terrified of being in charge of two tons of metal on the road, than signing the paper that would make it legally mine.

*

I wish I could make this into a listicle – you know, 21 things that my anxiety taught me, or 3 ways to deal with your anxiety, or even 10 things I hate about my anxiety. At least then, I’d have a structure and I’d have a path. Unfortunately, the only thing that I’ve learned, ever since those days where I’d convince myself a bloodthirsty ghost is lurking in the mirrors, is that there is no schedule, no pattern, and no cure. Anything can trigger you, and you can’t stop yourself from being triggered.

The only thing you can do is keep moving. Jump straight in. Get on a plane, do the degree, take a chance, take a shot, keep going, keep going, keep going, and don’t stand still long enough to think about what you’re doing.

Not while the ground is still hot under you. I would keep moving, keep running, keep fighting, and then, once the danger is well past, I would get my feet underneath me, breathe a sigh of relief… and then worry about something else.

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