I am standing on a train track.
There are no ropes or chains around my body but I cannot move. I feel the train coming. The tracks are shaking and vibrating.
I hear the train coming and its horn is coming louder and louder as the train comes closer and closer. I scream for help and try to move but I can’t escape it.
Everyone around me tells me that all I have to do is move off the track but no one believes me when I tell them that I can’t move.
“Just jump out of the way. Why aren’t you moving? It’s like you WANT to be hit by the train.”
“There is no train.” They whisper throughout the crowd. “She is just making it up for the attention.”
“Help me please! Something is coming and I am in danger!” I scream out, as the tracks rumble and the train blows its horn closer and closer… and then… It was here.
And everyone stands around and watches as I get hit by a train that only I can feel and only I can see. Before long it’s gone but I am still standing on those tracks. With scars and wounds that no doctor can heal with a bandage. Trauma that only I have experienced.
That’s what anxiety feels like. Anxiety tells you that danger is coming, you are in its way and you are powerless to stop it.
It used to hold me back.
Wait, no that’s not right.
I used to LET anxiety hold me back.
When my first son was 2 years old, we didn’t leave the apartment for months because I allowed my anxiety to change how I saw the world. Every time, I stepped outside the door I would have a panic attack and freeze up. I believed that the outside world was dangerous and if my son would get hurt it would be my fault.
Then one day, I said ENOUGH OF THIS, and stepped outside.
My chest tightened up, my heart started raising and anxiety was shouting DANGER DANGER DANGER. But I said no, there is no danger outside my door way. And looked around and realized there was no danger. I then took a step forward and peered down the hallway. Nope. No danger there either. Chest tight. Heart loud in my ears.
I stepped towards the stairs and peered down the descending steps. Nope, no danger there. My fearless 2-year-old already bounding down like a fearless gazelle.
Dam, that courageous kid and his freaking… courage.
I followed him down, step by step, slowly, testing my limits.
Step. Deep breathe.
Step. Deep breathe.
Soon, we were on the first floor looking at the door to the outside.
My son was already pulling at the door handle with all his might. Grunting with the effort, he looked back at me, pleading for help with his eyes. Those damn beautiful blue eyes of his.
I could do this. For him.
My chest was still a little tight but I wasn’t sure if it was the anxiety or all that dam breathing I did earlier. I took one last deep breath… grabbed hold of the handle… and pulled…
The air hit me first.
It was a cool autumn afternoon on the plains of North Dakota. The prairie was flat surrounding our little town and the wind carried for miles. In one breath you could experience the savory smells coming from the restaurants downtown, the cool crisp air that followed the creek, and the warm earthy tones that blew through the wheat fields. The setting sun was inviting and warm on my face. I took another deep breath in, closing my eyes, savoring the moment… before realizing my son found a pie of dog poop was playing with it
“Gregory, No! That is not food!”
I wish I could say that that was the last day that I had anxiety but it wasn’t.
I wish I could tell you that I no longer feared going outside after that day but some days were good and I got outside. Others, I never even peeked out the blinds.
Even as I sit here four years later, typing away, I hear that train coming. That train is telling me, “What are you doing? You are just a stay at home mom! No one cares what you have to say. Everyone sees you for the fraud that you are. I mean, look at all those gramatical errors.”
My heart is pounding. My chest is tightening and my fingers are shaking but guess what, I am still typing. The train is coming, folks. I know it is because I feel it. I always will.
But instead of allowing anxiety to dictate how I react to my life, I dictate how I react to my anxiety.
“Oh no! There’s a party I have to go to! Everyone is going to laugh at me!”
“Yeah?” Well, I better make a lot of jokes and act like a fool then. That way they have something to laugh at.”
Note: Since I started doing this, people that I have known for years have come to me and said they have never seen this side of me but they LOVE IT. I HAVE FRIENDS NOW, GUYS! FRIENDS!!
“Oh no! Your turn at the cash register is coming up. You are going to have to make awkward chit chat with a complete and total stranger!”
“Great! I can compliment him on his hair. It is a glorious shade of aquamarine.”
Since I changed how I interact with my anxiety, my life has changed and only for the better. I am now following my dreams of becoming a published author, my relationship with myself has never been better and I can now go outside… whenever my kids let me.
So, let me ask you; How do you talk to your anxiety?