Dear Generalised Anxiety Disorder

I’m on the autistic spectrum, so you’ve always been hiding in the background. I used to think I was born harbouring you, like a demonic twin. I’ll never forget the two occasions on which you came closest to finishing me - once when I was seventeen, and once again last summer. I’m still recovering from the blows you dealt me.

I was so full of life, and it felt like you were stealing my life force away, turning me into a vessel to contain you, plugging me into some ancient current of terror which was short-circuiting me. You made everything that happened to me frightening. You made waking up in the morning frightening. You made going to bed at night a terror beyond words. You made the muscles around my ribs feel like a corset being drawn tighter and tighter. I was convinced my own body was slowly strangling me to death.

You made me feel my mortality like a cold dark weight at my centre. You made me feel so physically unwell I was sure I had some horrific disease that my doctor had missed. I didn’t believe her when she told me the vomiting, numbness, dizziness, palpitations and pains were all down to you. You made me listen to my pulse like a ticking bomb. You made me curl up and shut my eyes so many times, afraid to laugh or love, knowing that the only certainty in my life was that everything beautiful would die, and I would die with it. I thought I was saving myself from disappointment by letting you consume me.

I thought I was afraid to die, but you were making me afraid to live. It was quite a clever trick, but I’m cleverer than you. I will never let you fool me like that again.

I am not weak. I shouldn’t have listened to you when you told me I was. I have psychotherapy every Monday, a paper bag in my satchel at all times in case I hyperventilate, a pack of sedatives in my desk drawer which I’ve never touched, but which I daren’t throw away just yet.

I’m learning to trust myself again. I feel like I’m stretching myself out after being kept in a cage. I’m learning to listen to my heartbeat and feel safe, knowing it’s keeping me alive. I’m learning not to indulge you with the attention you demand of me. If I feel you snapping at my ankles, I’m learning to ignore you, to read, to listen to music, to go for a walk. I’m learning to appreciate how a light breeze feels on my face again. I’m learning to laugh until it hurts again. I’m learning how much power I have to make myself and others happy. I’m learning not to second-guess myself if I realise that I haven’t thought about you all day - that’s the way it should be. In my best moments, I feel fearless. I want to feel like I can take on anything.

I know you won’t die instantly. There will be no grand final battle. I know this will take a long time. I still feel apprehensive, cautious, afraid to take on more than I can manage. The last few days have been a little tough, and writing this has been a lot more draining than I thought it was going to be. But each week I feel myself becoming stronger and bolder. I think you’ll fade away gradually, getting fainter and fainter until one day I’ll realise that I haven’t thought about you for months. You will get no elaborate funeral. You’ve already taken far more of my time and attention than you deserve.

When my heart beat too fast, I used to imagine I was holding a little injured hummingbird, driven frantic by pain, too fragile and weak to sustain its frenzy for much longer. I’m learning to look after the hummingbird in me and I feel like I’m nursing it back to health and teaching it how to fly.

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  1. themustachemademedoit reblogged this from dearmentalillness
  2. queerrose reblogged this from dearmentalillness and added:
    I want to grow up like this person.
  3. dearmentalillness posted this