A Love Letter to the Anxious

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I’m sorry, and I love you.

I’m sorry. I love you.

I’m sorry I love you.

October of 1999 — I was forced to confront that I have lived nearly four decades with anxiety and had been suffering panic attacks in silence, closeted, that entire time.

Living inside the protective silence I had manufactured was a sense of extreme alienation from almost everyone and a persistent feeling of being an imposter.

After the panic attacks of that October, I then went on a four-year journey with anxiety medication, gaining weight and begining to understand my anxiety and its relationship to my world, people I had hurt and experiences I inevitably either avoided or ruined for myself and others.

Not long into those four years, I was with a dear friend cycling who experienced a panic attack, which I missed entirely and failed miserably to support because her panic attacks were nothing like mine.

Sitting here now almost 20 years into awareness about anxiety, I am nearly expert about my anxiety; I am off medication, but I managed the anxiety in a variety of healthy and not-so-healthy ways — and I still routinely fail myself and others, especially the people I care most deeply about.

We manage anxiety — I suppose like alcoholism — but I think we are never cured of anxiety. That, I fear, would require a full removal of our bones, or at least a thorough cleaning of those skeletons.

But here are some things I do know — although these are not promises.

Anxiety is mostly when our inner selves are out of joint with the outer world. Often because we perceive there is an outer world of expectations, judgment; and thus, we are haunted with “Am I doing the right thing?”

Won’t someone please tell us we are doing the right thing.

This will not help, but let me assure you there is no right thing and there is no one except you who can confirm if you are being the you that you should be.

And that makes me anxious — to acknowledge that we are ultimately alone in all this; that is the human condition people without anxiety can ignore and the anxious cannot set aside.

Even for a second.

Here is something else that I know: Two people who are anxious and friends or intimates want desperately to be someone soothing for the other’s anxiety, and that makes each of you anxious, and then guarantees that you will not be soothing, cannot be soothing.

And that makes me anxious because in true existential reality, our passions are our sufferings. Nothing can make us more anxious than to care, to love, to desire.

Although feeling nothing comes pretty damn close — like being on anxiety medication.

Maybe the only thing we have is “I wish I could have done better by you because I love you in a way that makes me incapable of being the one who doesn’t need to apologize.”

I’m sorry, and I love you.

I’m sorry. I love you.

I’m sorry I love you.

Written by

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

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