We’ve been together for a while now and we’ve come to know each other well. At first I was grateful for you, holding me back from stupid decisions, holding me back from embarrassing myself, holding me back from danger.
But now you’re just holding me back.
Too often now you’re first at the scene before I’ve even realised that you need to be. And you never try to hide that you’ve arrived.
You make my heart pound against my chest, like it’s looking for a way out.
You rush the blood to my brain, to my muscles, to my limbs.
You tense my muscles and quicken my breath.
You flood me with oxygen and ready me to move, even when there’s no move for me to make.
I feel dizzy.
A sweaty, waxy film sits upon on me and dampens my skin.
My limbs shake. Adrenalin surges through me.
I feel sick.
I want to vomit.
The physical feelings engulf me.
They make me sick. Literally sick.
I can’t focus on anything else.
You are so compelling, so I search for the danger – something that fits what I’m feeling and explains the craziness inside me. Whether or not the danger is real doesn’t matter, because I can’t help but act as though it is.
Now I’m anxious about getting anxious. I anticipate you before you’re there – that sick, clammy racing feeling.
Do you ever think of what you do to me? That’s a stupid question. I know you don’t. You don’t think of anything at all.
You’re primal. I get it. All action and no thought. You’re the siren that screams at shadows to warn me they’ll pounce. But they never do. The only thing pouncing is you.
I hate the way I feel when you’re around. You stand around me like those unsmiling, unwavering security guards, ready to stand between me and trouble. But now you stand too close.
I can feel your hot moist breath on the back of my neck and when that happens, I can’t breathe. I would do anything to avoid you and sometimes that’s exactly what I do – I avoid you, or the places I know you will be.
At first I didn’t understand you but there was something about you that was strangely comforting. I’ve been terrified, actually terrified to let you go. I don’t know what letting you go will look like, but what I do know is that having you around feels bad.
You would say you protect me – from danger, from standing out, from failing, from embarrassing myself. I know you believe this. You’ve believed it enough for both of us. It’s never occurred to me until now that you might be wrong.
I’m looking too hard for the reasons to explain you. I hear you. I feel you. But I don’t know why you’re there. So I’m starting to think that you need me, more than I need you – and because of this I would be much better off without you.
You’re an alarmist. I’ve been paying too much attention to the drama you create inside me. Now I’m going to focus on the truth and it’s this: I don’t need you. I know you think you’re looking after me – I know that – and I’m grateful for you being there when I’ve needed you. But now you’re there whether I need you or not, and that’s not good for me.
You’re too quick to jump. Too quick to see things that aren’t there. Too quick to see trouble. Too quick think I can’t deal with it.
When I close my eyes I see you and I feel you, but when I slow my breaths you fade.
I know you hate when I do that. All the fight or flight, all the readying, all the work you do – it slowly falls away, one breath at a time.
So that’s how I’ll start. It won’t be easy. We’ve become a partnership you and I. Predictable. Safe. Needed.
I know you don’t mean to hurt me but the truth is that you do.
Thank you for trying to take care of me. I know you want to stay, and part of me wants you to stay – just in case. But I’m better off without you. So slowly, one breath at a time, I’m letting you go.
Anxiety can be debilitating, I know, but it doesn’t have to be. For more ways to deal with anxiety that work, see here.
[…] I just read the most awesome letter addressed to anxiety. It was a Dear John sort of letter but it broke anxiety down in it simplest form. I would recommend that everyone read it and see the lie behind this fear that we feel on a daily basis. We have to acknowledge the fact that it is only a feeling and there is a way out if we just turn towards the door and take one step at a time. https://www.heysigmund.com/dear-anxiety/ […]
All I can do is cry. This is so touching and I thank you so much for putting this into beautiful words. I have been dealing with anxiety for 8 years now and just decided that I needed a change and that there is no real danger that I am hiding from. You put into words, so elegantly, what I am feeling and doing now. I started a blog doingitafraid.org to communicate these same feelings. Thank you so much for your lovely words! 🙂
You’re very welcome. You’re blog is wonderful – so articulate. It’s that sort of honesty that makes a difference.