Monday, June 20, 2016
Anxiety: Hey what’s up?
Emily: Nothing much, how about you? You doing alright? You’ve been kind of M.I.A lately.
Anxiety: I don’t want to talk about me, I want to talk about you. So you say not much has been going on? That’s a lie. I heard that you got a D in one of your classes and barely scraped C’s for the rest. Not doing so hot in the scholarly world, are we?
Emily: Yeah, I panicked when I saw my grades online, but I emailed my advisor and it’s considered passing, so I guess it’s fine now. But anyways, why won’t you tell me how you’ve been doing? Did something happen, something I need to know about?
Anxiety: Didn’t you listen to me the first time, or is your stupidity blocking you from realizing my purpose in this conversation? I don’t want to talk about me, I want to focus on you. Are you sure it’s actually fine now? Because a D is a huge disappointment, that’s not even average, and you and I both know that mediocrity doesn’t cut it. Plus, I’m well aware that you have no idea where you’re headed for the future in your career, or life in general.
Emily: Look, I’m… I’m taking care of it! I have an internship this summer and applied to different places for a second job, so everything is going to be fine. I…I can do this. I might be stuck in a rut, but I like my work and it’s not like I’m in a race with everyone to see who achieves the most…different people have different goals. And by the way, lots of folks get frustrated and feel trapped when they’re trying to figure things out for the future. It’s not that easy, you know.
Anxiety: Frustrated? You’re not just frustrated. You’re scared. You’re trembling, dreading the future’s arrival because you don’t know what it holds for you (that is, if it’s holding anything for you at all). You can’t control what’s going to happen and it’s paralyzing you. Your internship isn’t exactly industrial, and none of the places you’ve applied to called back. While your friends are gallivanting abroad or building relationships in the corporate world, you’ve failed to do either. You suck at school and you suck in the work force. Can you even say that you’re a part of the work force? After all, that internship is unpaid, and you don’t do much.
Emily: What the heck man, I do a lot and I love my job! I have the funniest and nicest co-workers anyone could imagine, and they treat me like an intelligent individual.
I…I don’t suck! You’re a jerk.
Anxiety: They’re faking it, all of it, and it’s not just them. Your friends and classmates think you’re a joke.
Emily: You’re…you’re wrong!
Anxiety: Nah, I’m usually right about these kinds of things. I mean, c’mon, YOU GOT A D IN ONE OF YOUR CLASSES and a C in most of them. Not to mention you have a bad habit of expressing your academic insecurities to the students sitting next to you in lecture—poor souls, they’ve been burdened with your self-doubts and were forced to tolerate you. You don’t contribute useful knowledge nor do you provide critical problem-solving skills. You’re a useless peer and it permeates your relationships outside of the classroom, too.
Emily: Stop! Leave my friends and family out of this!
Leave me alone,
Leave my world alone!
Anxiety: Oh but I can’t do that Emily, you need me, you need me to keep it all in perspective, because what good would it be for your character if I left you with this false impression that you don’t have to stress about your relationships, that you don’t have to feel like you’re going to lose the people you trust the most? Oh no, I can’t let you get too comfortable Emily, that would blow up your ego and damage your sense of humility and humbleness. You’re too privileged for me to let that happen, you and your well-to-do economic status pleasantly anchored in one of the safest cities in America—you and the carefree lifestyle you’ve done nothing to deserve. You really think that when your parents look at you, they’re…dare I say it…PROUD? Nah dude, they’re not proud, they’re aghast. They’re ashamed. Your dad held multiple jobs that took him away from home, your mom left work to run a smoother household with more attention, more love, and you think failing to keep calm throughout your youth is rewarding for them? You screwed up, Emily. You are the screw up.
Emily: I told you to stop!
Why won’t you stop?
Why won’t you listen to me?
Anxiety: I already told you Stupid Girl, what I have to say is good for you; it’s reality, so listen.
Your parents? They’re disappointed in you.
Your sister? She thinks you’re a loser.
Your auntie? She wonders how a girl can be so goddamn lazy.
Emily: GET OUT OF HERE. LEAVE!
Anxiety: Your classmates and co-workers don’t take you seriously because you’re dumb and incapable, and the only reason they keep you around is because your attempt to compensate for those shortcomings with self-deprecating humor is mildly entertaining. Your friends fell in love with the light-hearted Emily—you know, the one with a grin on her face and a hardy laugh. But if light-hearted Emily were to ever introduce them to sad, confused, and desperate Emily, they would leave as quickly as they came.
Emily: No, I can’t let you be right, you’re not right! They…they don’t think that way! They wouldn’t lie about this…no one would care enough to lie about how they feel about me!
Anxiety: Did I mention your love life? I mean, if you even had one.
Emily: Don’t go there. Please don’t go there.
I’m choking on my own tears.
My head is pounding from the pain.
My chest is sinking and I can’t feel my face.
My hands are cold and sweaty.
I can’t stand up.
Anxiety: Fine, seeing that you clearly lack the strength to handle upsets of any kind, I’ll do you this one favor by summarizing this tragic novel into a few pitiful sentences.
You’re nobody’s first choice. You’re a back-up plan, at best. You may have thought he was cute, kind, funny, smart, and beautifully disastrous, but you were a fool to catch feelings for someone you’ve just met. You didn’t think. You didn’t know. Foolish girl. You want attention from someone that won’t give it to you, and yet you’re frightened by the attention received from people that do want you.
Foolish, stupid little girl.
Emily: Are you done yet?
Anxiety: You don’t ask the questions, I do. Are you done yet? Done with the suffering and the constant analysis of relationships and circumstances that hinders your daily routines?
Because I know what I do to you.
First, I pay you a visit while you’re working towards a goal, like a project or something, and then I sit at your side, gazing at your silhouette, wondering what gives you this illogical idea that you can accomplish the task at hand.
So then I stand up and peer over your shoulder. I watch you for a while, and then leave, and I continue this for several moments, several days, because I have a plan.
At the end of a busy period, I pay you another visit, but this time, I don’t want to sit at your side and gaze upon your form.
I engulf you.
I hold you and shake you back and forth so that your pen falls from your hand and your glasses drop to the ground.
Your heartbeats are erratic, your breaths are shallower, your face is prickly and your hands are numb.
Is it enough to make you done, Emily? Are you done with me, with reality?
Monday, June 20, 2016
Emily: …no, I’m not. I’m not done with you.
Anxiety: Ha! Are you joking? Amazing, even after I’ve taken the liberty to show you what kind of odds you’ve been up against and will continue to face, you think you can afford to keep—
Emily: I’m not done with you because you’re not a reality to begin with.
Anxiety: …excuse me?
Emily: You’re not my reality. Or at least, you’re not the reality I want to end up living in. You took my world and tried to turn it into some obscure No Man’s Land, a place that I would mistake for danger and uncertainty, but it’s just not true.
Anxiety: Stupid Girl, I don’t think you understa—
Emily: Oh but I do. Anxiety, you feel real. All the things that you said you do to me…yes, it does happen. But when I was kid, you didn’t have this much strength. I remember you trying to sit next to me all the time, but when we locked eyes you would cower behind the shadows and run away from me as fast as you could.
Anxiety: But, but this isn’t about me, this is about—
Emily: Me, I know. And I’m telling you that there was a time where I could make you get lost with just one powerful, fiery, intimidating glare. And unfortunately, that glare has dimmed over the years.
I want it back, and I can get it back.
You scare me.
You hurt me.
But you don’t own me.
You’re a part of my life, but I still posses the power to vanquish you.
Emily: My family loves me. My friends think I’m pretty cool. My classmates have generally enjoyed my participation and my co-workers think I’m rather helpful. It is you—not me—that must face the truth, to understand that you need me more than I need you. The only way you can be my reality, Anxiety, is if I let you.
Emily is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After receiving therapy and attending interpersonal group sessions offered on campus, she was inspired to navigate the stresses of college life and young adulthood.