My new therapist asked me a question two weeks ago that I honestly couldn’t answer:
“What would your life look like, without anxiety?”
This made me stop dead in my tracks. I tried to think of living without my brain moving at a constant 70 miles per hour, sometimes, only sometimes slowing to 65, when I’m really lucky, and I couldn’t. I tried to think back to a time in my life when that wasn’t the case, and I couldn’t. I tried to remember any single tiny moment where I didn’t have racing thoughts, or struggle to keep my worry to a manageable level, and I couldn’t.
What I could do is imagine other people’s lives, and how they live with a limited, manageable, and appropriate level of anxiety, worry and/or fear. Imagining how lucky those people are came easily. But to imagine that for myself was utterly impossible.
I said so much to her.
She smiled at me.
I grimaced, feeling hopeless.
She let the silence be for a long moment. Then she said, “Let’s put all of your anxiety together, in a single form. What would it look like?”
I pondered, silently.
“Where would it go? What would it do?”
One side of my mouth turned up, in a smirk, thinking of how quickly my anxiety would move through space.
“How would it act? What would it’s name be?”
I frowned and sighed. This was too much.
She noticed it and said, “I think that’s what I’d like you to start thinking about, as homework, this week.”
So in my moments of silence (of which there are many, since I work at home by myself all day) I try to imagine shoving all of my anxiety into a single form, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
It’s definitely a she. A ‘mean girl‘ for sure. I do not know how or when she was born. She’s physically flawless, and is an irritating chatter box. Her favorite thing to do for fun is work at supersonic speed judging everyone and everything. She’s especially good at negative reinforcement. She never keeps her mouth shut, and is constantly spewing word vomit.
My anxiety associates with other physically flawless entities, and entities that are good at everything they try and always have motivation to get everything done, at all times. My anxiety’s IQ is very high. She has common sense, street smarts, and is a great test taker. She’s cunning, sneaky, manipulative and intelligent.
Normally, she dresses in clothes I can’t afford and is always impeccably accessorized. Her hair is always cut and colored with the trends, and salon-blowout quality, and her makeup is always perfect and never smears. Sometimes, when I haven’t given her enough of my attention, she dresses like a ninja and comes out of nowhere on full attack. She has no weaknesses, and she’s always around, somewhere close by.
She has traveled the world, twice over. If she had a career that wasn’t ‘Angela’s Stalker’, she would be drawn to jobs where she could have all the attention she wants (and feels she deserves) and still be evil and conniving, she would make an excellent politician.
When I write it all down, it almost sounds ridiculous, but I notice something: My anxiety is everything that I am not. Sure, she and I share some traits, like common sense and street smarts, and I like to think I’m somewhat intelligent… But for the most part, she’s the opposite of me, and constantly points that out.
I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to do with all of this information, but I will be sharing it in my next session, and we’ll go from there.
I should admit that it feels good to imagine all of this… So give it a try! Let me know what you discover. Remember, it’s my anxiety that’s the judge-y one, not me!!!