2018 was an amazing, but difficult, year.
Over the past 28 years, I have developed an interesting combination of depression, anxiety, fear, courage, ferocity, and determination. There is a minute-to-minute battle that occurs between these opposing forces – whether I will leave the house, whether I will take a shower, whether I will do my homework or quit my job or go back to school or drink water or eat.
I am a ferociously driven person that has crippling anxiety and fear. It’s a pain to live with this mixture of traits, but negotiating between them has given me a resilience and drive that I wouldn’t otherwise have. And without the courage, the determination… that anxiety would consume me, and the depression would never leave.
Many people strive to achieve success in the face of their adversaries; their goal is to show that one teacher or that one parent that they have the ability to be great. Instead, my greatest adversary is my own mind. My very genetics have mental instability written into them, yet at the same time they refuse to respond well to antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. More contradictions that I cannot control, only fight against.
So I fight. And yet I wonder what would happen if I stopped fighting and found another way. Waging war against my own body and mind works to an extent but leaves me hating a part of myself, endlessly frustrated and irritated. What if instead, I loved those parts? What if I loved the anxiety, loved the ever-present threat of depression, loved the fear?
I doubt they would consume me. And maybe on a steady diet of acceptance and love, those traits that currently rule me more than I’d like would slowly fade. These seemingly vindictive qualities did not develop out of self-hatred. The depression came about at an early age to protect me from the harshness and too-muchness of the world, to shield my sensitive body and mind from things I just couldn’t handle. The depression kept me safe, kept me dreaming and writing inside a cocoon of my own safe worlds.
The anxiety came about after an abusive relationship in high school, a relationship that left me looking over my shoulder and dreading phone calls. Without anxiety I could get found, I could become vulnerable to a threat that no one seemed to be protecting me from. The anxiety kept me safe when I was vulnerable to someone who could have done me harm. Someone who already had.
The fear was a natural result of that toxic mixture of anxiety and depression. The world was no longer safe for me for so many reasons, from the harshness of other people’s emotions to the threat of being harmed. Fear kept me from forming real relationships that could open me up to being hurt or taken advantage of. Fear prevented me from going to parties where my senses couldn’t cope, where there could be someone hiding in the crowd. Fear kept me from taking risks that were too large, because I could not handle failure. Fear kept my body and heart safe. For a time.
2018 was the year I began trying to dismantle the anxiety and fear once and for all – in response, they retaliated. The anxiety said “what if he finds you, what if a car hits you, what if you fail, what if they discover who you really are and they don’t like it?” The fear loomed over me, smothering me, making it hard to breathe.
But then… I failed. And a car did hit me. And I’m still here. The anxiety and fear wavered, because if these things still happened despite their presence… what’s the point? They aren’t keeping me safe, not anymore.
So here I am, in 2019, desperately trying to convince myself that panic attacks and constant vigilance are not the only way to be. It’s hard, when these things have seemingly been my only defense from cruelty and pain for so many years. It’s going to take time, another thing I have to try and be okay with.
I’m going to love the anxiety, and the fear, and even the threat of depression. Those things are a product of my younger mind, doing what it could to keep me safe. I’m going to love these coping mechanisms and at the same time, convince them that I don’t need them anymore. At my core, I am safe without them.
The courage keeps me safe from a harsh world. The ferocity keeps me safe from people who could cause me harm. The determination keeps me safe from surrendering to failure.
I’m happier, more fulfilled, and safer than I’ve ever been. This year, my body and mind are going to catch up.
Thank you 2018. Thank you for disrupting the waters. 2019… I’m so ready. As always.