Growing with Anxiety – A Process of Introspection

Trigger Warning: This article deals with intense feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide.

I was twelve and it was the last day of summer vacation. I was lying in my daybed looking across the hallway at my mom – she was peacefully lying in her bed, sleeping, as I should be.

I felt my skin crawl – tiny little tormenting bugs were scurrying under my skin, sending chills up my spine, venturing into the depths of my wellness and content. Nothing was the same after that night. I woke up with uncontrollable thoughts that teased me and told me to do things I could not even fathom. This voice told me that killing myself would be the only thing that could save me from myself – this self that seemed so external but was somehow intertwined and tangled into who I had thought I was… who I knew I was. I lived with this inside of me for what felt like a lifetime. I spent my days engrossed with this demon – fighting what it was telling me to do, asking it to please leave me alone while I shaved my legs. No… it wouldn’t. I would beg my mother to sit with me in the bathroom when there was a razor in my hand because I had the urge to cut myself in the midst of shaving my armpits.

I hated what this thing was doing this to me, I wanted privacy, I wanted to be a teenage girl dancing in her room, shaving her legs, watching The OC and other hilarious early 2000’s teen drama. Instead I was a frantic girl who was tucking all cords into invisible places so that I wouldn’t get caught in a cycle of fighting this urge to strangle myself or someone in my house. Instead of staying up late on the phone or sneaking in TV time with Sue Johansson, I spent hours shimmying my way across the hallway floor into my mom’s room because I couldn’t fall asleep by myself.

poem self harm

I began creating little coping mechanisms – if I had a “bad thought” I would do the sign of the cross (I grew up mildly religious). Consequently, I found myself standing alone doing the sign of the cross on the playground for the entire duration of my recess. But, it silenced the voices temporarily.
I began seeing a psychologist who tried to delve into this black hole of a space where this part of me lived – he fought to understand why I would spend hours at school staring at my veins, waiting for them to explode. He couldn’t understand. He told my parents not to give into my behaviour and to make me sleep alone. It was pure pain – the little girl inside of me began to suffocate… I fought against myself, trying to understand and make sense of why I was trying so hard to destroy my own mental health. He ended up diagnosing me with Separation Anxiety and sent me on my way – there was no effort to support me in surviving the downward spiral of my mind – just a diagnosis and the presumption that it was something I would grow out of.

With time it began to dissipate and I coped in relatively positive ways. I tried to move forward and regain some sense of control. It was a time period that my parents light-heartedly referred to as “when I went crazy.” It was something we chuckled about as though it had happened in another lifetime.

As I grew older, I began my process of introspection. I began to really pay attention to my character and development as a young woman.

depressionPhoto: David Pacey

I guess that brings me to where I am now. I haven’t sat down and written since I cathartically divulged my cockroach-hell-housing crisis – I wrote about that experience during my first period of serious anxiety since when I was 12. I did not know how to cope, but writing everything out was so healing for me. So here I am again, with the residual bullshit that my brain and body is left fighting. It wasn’t until one of my close friends told me to take deep breaths and acknowledge that heavy times will trigger this anxiety baby that lives inside of me that I realized – it will awake and it will fight to burst through the seams and rebirth. I have the power to silence it, but sometimes it feels like she is so alive and raging inside of me and I cannot do anything but cry. It’s taken so much out of me to wonder and question why these feelings are coming back and why they scare me so much. I have come to realize and accept that I never unpacked this dissonance between mind and body, between me and myself, to find out why it happened.

I dislike that I ever used “crazy” to describe any of my behaviour, thoughts, feelings, actions, reactions. I was not crazy. What is crazy? I struggle with this word. I was struggling. I still do struggle. I fear accepting this as a struggle because it makes it real. If it’s real, what does my future look like? Will my partner still love me through those days when I wake up physically in pain, crying as I drag my ass out of bed? Will my friends still answer my texts when they’re irrational and distraught? Will I always be able to look outside of my window and think that the sun and the clouds and love are enough motivation to go to work?

Feelings come in waves – they crash down and I revel in them. I feel them to the nth degree. I feel happiness in the most blissful of ways, and I feel sadness in some of the lowest. I once had a conversation with a beautiful soul. She told me that amidst all the stars and planets and galaxies and trees and mountains and oceans, I have the capacity to feel this insurmountable depth of emotion. And that is just the most beautiful fucking thing. My existence is but a spec in this brilliant universe, and I am privileged enough to feel the most inexplicable of feelings. How lucky am I? Scared – but lucky.


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