Anxiety tells us a different story about the world around us and it makes everything feel scary and unsafe. A bird is as loud as a truck and the traffic lights are as bright as the sun. It’s daunting and exhausting and it feels like there is no space to escape.
Anxiety can hit you anywhere. Anxiety is cool like that. It creeps up on you like a jerk in a dark alleyway, jumping on your back and taking control of your life. It’s violating and unpleasant and very hard to kick in the balls. It follows you everywhere and you feel paranoid that you’re the only one that’s worried about it.
You hide in a waiting room full of tiny trees and old magazines and perfectly aligned Ikea chairs and it makes you feel trapped. You want to throw one of those stupid chairs out the window and then lie down in a puddle of tears. And then flee. And run and run and run and hide. Anxiety can be a bit melodramatic like that.
And then there’s social anxiety, an upgrade of sorts, if one was inclined to be so positive. It is completely incompatible with normal human existence. The thought of leaving your apartment has you so tormented that you basically give in to the idea you will be a hermit for the rest of your life. IT’S OK, you reassure yourself, WE HAVE DELIVEROO NOW. But then you get scared of random people turning up to your house and everything turns into a giant, circular, maddening mess and you retreat as far as possible into your shell until you can see nothing but darkness.
Soothing, quiet darkness.
Lonely, terrifying darkness.
Nobody there but you and your thoughts.
Just where you wanted to be…
Until you realise you are entirely alone with your asshole inner critic.
You want to stare that bastard down but you are so tired of fighting him that you just don’t have the energy. And you are so god damned scared that if you look right at him, he will look right back. He’ll stare straight into your soul and use his laser vision to drop your facade and show the world how much of a shit person you really are.
He leaves you feeling too open, too exposed. You panic. You feel so vulnerable that even if if you walked around in a sleeping bag with a paper bag over your head you would still feel more naked than Kim K.
While you fret about your bared soul, the voice of your inner critic becomes overpowering. Like too much coriander or pineapple on a pizza, he spoils everything. You’re too scared to run back out into the open so you shrink like a snail back into it’s shell after a nasty child has been poking at your eyes. Blinded and afraid, anxiety crushes you carelessly into the pavement with the loud, incomprehensible words of a passer by asking you if you are OK.
When you open your little eyes, you realise you’re squashed flat as a flounder and you’ve lost you’re shell. The brightness strikes you as if you’ve been living in that shell for 20 years and the world feels different, unfamiliar. You feel insecure and out of place, like a mushroom in an ocean of gummy bears. Normal life is an island that you have drifted away from and you have no freaking clue how to get back there.
The sound of laughing and playing and being normal drift through the wind and taunt you mercilessly. You’re a squashed snail that lost it’s shell and you’re tapping your figurative feet together furiously chanting…
There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.
Until a purple pelican appears, scoops you up and delivers you right back into the eye of that tornado. The one you just escaped while wishing desperately to be a part of it again. And you try to do the normal things and do A+ humaning, but you’re just a squashed snail that lost it’s shell and been rescued from a gummy bear ocean by a purple pelican.
Surely, you think, there is only so much one can take. AM I LOSING MY FREAKING MIND??
Suddenly, like a fog lifting, you start to notice that there are other squashed snails that lost their shells, whirling around in the storm with you. You reach out your hand to catch one and notice that when other squashed snails that lost their shells look at you, they don’t quite see right into your soul. They see you with your shell on because you were wearing it the whole damn time. And instead of speaking pounding words that crush you into the pavement, the other squashed snails that lost their shells just hold your hand and ride out the storm.
After the storm settles, the purple pelican stops circling to land on the pavement beside you. As the pelican disappears, you suddenly feel whole again, because the purple pelican was the nice thoughts. The ones that you lost on your way to the dark side, when you were too busy following your inner critic to hear the words of your greatest friend.
And when you hear the words of your greatest friend, they sound comforting and familiar and a lot like your own.