“When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself” – Kandee Lewis
Fiction. Based on a True Battle with Anxiety.
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Each breath feels like it’ll rupture my lungs. Shaky and bloated, too lumpy to swallow. Each second hits like hail, causing me to flinch. I feel like I’m going to shatter at the slightest touch, feeling everything and nothing. Too hyper-aware of each beat of my heart, and I can almost hear my thoughts screaming through my skin as I keep my hand pressed against my ear. Too many gashes that threaten to burst open and release everything. The silent scream that only escapes through tears.
I can’t find the words. They used to come freely, always following my fingers and forming the designs in my mind. Bright pieces of the puzzle manifested into physical form. Shimmering and vibrant as they formed and reformed to string together the rich tapestries I used to rend. Strong fragments of steel forged into one element of cutting down to the deepest parts of the soul. My own magic created with the slightest thought or uttered word.
No more. They are dead embers in a dark fireplace.
I turn over in my bed, caught in the throes of another sleepless night. My thoughts hold me captive, slippery ropes I can’t seem to shake no matter how much I try to escape. Another one loops around my wrist as my mind drags me down another dark alley. I try to turn back from the darkened whispers closing in. Not real. Not the truth. “Remember the foundations of yourself.” I try to scream, but my feet sink into the black mire underfoot. Inky hands reach up followed by the faces of the past pains and failures. I meet their eyes, each one cutting deep. I can’t escape them.
So, I sink, held down by the crushing weight of my own thoughts. Echoes of the day haunt my nights, tormenting me with every misspoken word and error. They sense the weakness and flock to it, drawn to its scent. I scream out for relief, unable to see through the storm. I try to grasp the whispers of peace I recite to myself so many times—the mantra to calm my heart and hold onto. But I can’t hear them.
Or I refuse to because what good are those words? They don’t ease the pain. Raindrops against stone. Useless. Empty syllables strung together by well-wishers who don’t get it. Joy comes in the morning, but I am stuck in the middle of the night.
It will all be worth it.
Once this is over, you’ll look back on it and wonder why you worried so much.
This is only a small thing that won’t matter later on.
Stop worrying about it.
Round and round they go, bits of debris caught in the whirlwind, cutting, and snagging instead of settling the turbulence. Comfort never felt so isolating. My throat clenches and the nausea comes as it has so many times before. Bending over, trying to retch something up, but nothing ever comes up. No purging or relief, but only agony of its lingering threat. Will anything come up one day? Spewing blackness that hides in the deepest recesses of myself, buried with old secrets never uttered to anyone. Will they see it? The fears, the self-doubt, the shame that wriggles around alongside the crippling terror that my vulnerabilities will be too disgusting for anyone to handle. If I don’t throw it up, it may seep through the open wounds and bleed out from my cracking exterior.
I look at my desk where it all sits. The culmination of four years of work and now the final stepping stone to the new world that awaits me. The weight of so many expectations and the proving ground of my worth. I have to summon everything to make this project happen, weave together words and sentences that will withstand the fires of the final test. This is the bookend to close this season of my life and open the path to the next one.
Do I dread the ending of this chapter? Or the unknown beginnings of the one ahead of me?
I can’t summon the words. I try to pull them out, but they end up dead on the paper no matter how much life I try to breathe into them. And the words I used to love so much I now resent, cursing them and myself.
I bite my lip against another wave of nausea, curling into myself as I wish for sleep to come. Beneath the pressing weight, another rises up. Something I keep sealed away—the part of me I fear the most. It rumbles and stalks through the inky black, roaring in my ears as it gets louder. At the center of everything is the maelstrom wreathed in fire and fury. It screams out against the fear and makes it cower, tearing it apart but leaving behind scorch marks on my soul. It’s the part of me that revolts and longs to tear circumstance down from its throne, to take control of that which I have no power over. The rage that bellows against the helplessness and inability to change the forces around me, to stop what is crumbling. It bristles at the words of comfort and the inability of others to understand. A beast that turns its anger on the world and on my own self for not moving forward. It shouts for the turmoil to stop, but it can’t do anything but rage against the dying of the light.
A loathing rage never satiated. I try to bind it between pages, hoping it won’t burn through. Try to cool the inferno and let it die to embers to be buried again. It can never get out. I know what it will do if it leaves the paper bindings and the cage of flesh and thought. I know the hurt it wields, crafted razor words meant to tear down and raze. I know what it is capable of—what I’m capable of.
A lungful of air finds me, and the chaos is swept away for a moment, leaving behind the deafening quiet. The eye of the storm. What remains is the exhaustion, hallow and raw. A
moment of fresh air before the next assault comes. It feels like standing in an empty, dim hallway surrounded by windowless walls. No sense of direction, only moving towards the unseen. The moment of clarity leaves me couched upon the rocks, waiting for the next wave to come crashing down on me.
It goes on and on, slamming against me until I feel like I’ll never stand again. The breaths are still heavy. Everything feels like a weight too heavy to drag. The anxiousness flutters, its wings battering against my ribs. I will myself to sleep, trying to crawl away into the darkness where there is nothingness. There I can find some semblance of peace.
There will be monsters to face in the morning. Now, I need to sleep.