To my Anxious Self—
I know how you’re feeling. A bajillion thoughts are bouncing around your head like a tin can rolling down a hill. It’s overwhelming, and it’s lonely. And that scares you. Your heart is thumping against your stomach, and your ribs rattle against each other. Your skin is crawling with heat and needles, and you can’t tell if it’s really just your broken finger nails clawing at your arms. Your tongue needs biting and hair needs pulling. Your toes won’t unclench themselves, but you’re pacing incessantly anyway. Anxiety sucks at your lungs. Fear vibrates in your ears. Sadness pulls down your elbows. Loneliness leaves you in the corner, but panic tells you to run. Confusion just laughs.
It isn’t easy to be you. I get that. You don’t need to downplay your emotions in the face of everyone else’s struggles. Comparing their journey to yours won’t silence the voices or lift you out of lukewarm stagnancy. It isn’t easy to be you, but that’s okay.
You will feel this way again. You will try to fight it, and not always win. Some days there won’t be enough energy to swing your legs off the bed and dip your toes onto the carpet. Other days you will run and bound but still be bound, your shadow never giving you space. There will be days when you need people—to watch and to laugh with and to exist along together, to feel surrounded and excited and in community with chatting souls. But you will also want to be alone, so desperately it makes your cheeks tighten and your knuckles hurt. Your ears will crave the comforting quietness of your loud and busy head, and your eyes will beg to stare at the cobwebs in the corner of your room.
You need to know that you are one person — whole, complete, cherished and valued — but you need to understand that there is a bustling carousel, a great stage production, and a chorus of amateur singers all packed into that one head of yours. Yes, you are you. But “you” can’t be defined as one character. “You” are not so simple. Please don’t let that frighten you. You’re not going through an identity crisis. It is possible to be many different, contradictory, beautifully-clashing things, but to also be firm in WHO you are, and more importantly — WHOSE.
A loving father dipped his hands in the sands and formed you intricately, bit by bit. You are the sum of his creativity and lavish love, of hopes written on leaves and dreams spun on thread. In you is a reflection of your heavenly Daddy, and in his eyes you are so precious, so clever, so warm and exquisite and so, so worth saving.
I know that there are things you question in yourself. You wonder if there was some terrible mistake, some flaw in your making that has set your mind awry. But oh, Anxious Self; your mind is not a mistake. It is different from others’, yes — and sometimes functions so unexpectedly — but your creator understands every glitch and blemish in a way you never will.
I don’t want to glorify mental health issues. You know better than anyone that yours is not an easy head to dwell in. But I do want to challenge how you see your struggles. You are not someone to be pitied, Anxious Self. You are not defeated, and you will not live in wilful resignation in the acceptance of a category or label. Only you can decide how to live, and how to overcome the thoughts in your own head.
It isn’t always about controlling your thoughts, though, because sometimes they just can’t be banished. I know that you feel powerless and vulnerable when the corners of your mind cave in and the war drums echo, but take heart. Have courage. You will not be overcome when you are resting in the One who calls you His. He will fight your battles when you cry out. He knows your struggle. But you must ask him.
It can be tempting to live with your left eye in the rearview mirror, and your right eye glued to a telescope. You feel that it keeps you safe. You’re so determined not to repeat your past mistakes that you live in fear and end up forging new messes for yourself anyway. The future is a planet I caution you from focusing on. It hangs above you, out of reach, illusively mocking a girl who dreams through childish binoculars. Do not let its mirage trick you, Anxious Self. The craters of future turmoil you spot from down here do not always cry out to you in truth. Please, enjoy planning and goal-setting, but never waste today in preparation for the great unknown. You were designed with a brilliant imagination, Anxious Self — but do not let your own concoctions and twists of reality keep you from being effective in the present.
Questions about how you should be living and what you should be doing tremble like live-wire through your veins. I know that you so desperately want to do what is right — but wrapping yourself in tightening chords of confusion and indecision only grow in you the consuming fear of disappointing your heavenly Daddy. You won’t get anywhere by focusing on taking perfect steps; instead, take the steps and trust that the part of your God that lives in you will be realigning and redirecting your path as you walk in faith.
Please, Anxious Self, don’t compare yourself to the people you see around you. You know better than anyone that it’s not so hard to charm on the outside while you’re rotting within. Comparison is second nature, probably even first—but don’t let the ease at which it comes trick you in a delusion of harmlessness. Comparing others’ lives to yours is the crux of much of your anxiety — of your fear and worry and doubt and discontentment. Judging yourself and others will only have you drowning in a pool of chlorinated lies. Instead, paint yourself a life of gratefulness. You'll be so busy spinning through your own vibrant adventure that it won't matter what the world is doing.
I know that emotions are a never-ending onslaught for you; an artillery of shells that rain down and batter your soul. You stretch and pull and sweat under the heavy weight of feelings that churn with every gasp of oxygen. Are you joyful, or excited? Sorrowful, or disappointed? Stirred up, or hopeless? Sometimes you can’t quite tell. You’re growing up in an age where feelings are to be listened to, and emotions are to be worshipped. You’re told to be in-tune with your inner self, and to let that guide your decisions. But what do you do when there are more emotions under your throbbing scalp than any human can possibly interpret?
Your psychologist tells you to take each feeling and examine it from outside of yourself. Once you find context, you can then understand the emotion, and consciously decide whether to let it dictate your thoughts. It sounds simple, but it rarely is. And why should it be? There is nothing easy or plain about understanding how you feel. Especially you. How then, do you cope, when the sirens flail but the bomb shelter has barred you from entering? Are you strong enough to be out there in the open, bare and exposed, as a torrent of contradictory feelings leak into every pore of your skin?
You might not control the thoughts that come to you in the stillness, or the ones that slip in when you’re too busy to notice. But when they make their presence known, as you know they will — you DO have control over how you decide to act. It’s a choice to move on from the crippling thoughts. And so I encourage you, Anxious Self, don't press on BECAUSE of your feelings, keep going IN SPITE of them. Let joy be your shield, and laughter your song. And on the days when it's all just a bit too much, remember that you don't need to be in control.
That was never your burden to bear.
Until you come again,