I want anxiety the way a five-year-old wants rainbow sprinkles. Bright, obscenely sweet. Unnecessary. Luxurious. An extra 50 cents, but they’re worth it. Catching in your teeth, but only for a moment. Wanted, swallowed, forgotten.
Sometimes, I feel like my veins are full of sparkling water. I am on edge, I am nothing but edges, I am vibrating like a guitar string between chords. The world is immediate. Time makes me dizzy. I have so much to do. Electric, burning, burning.
I toss salads and mix metaphors. I tremble. I accomplish things. I write novels with fire hissing beneath my tongue.
The girls in high school glittered. I never understood how they did it: flawless eyeliner, internships, confidence, boba tea, effortless laughter. They seemed to inhabit another world, one with fewer predators. All I could see was angles.
They said things like oh my anxiety oh I’m so anxious I’m, like, seriously gonna have a panic attack.
My first panic attack, the ceiling swam and I couldn’t feel my legs and my breath thrashed in my lungs like a dying fish. Then there was another and another and another, as the world grew less real.
I search “anxiety” on Etsy and I see anti stress crystal bracelets + weighted blankets + aromatherapy inhalers + a sweatshirt with a mock-school logo that says “anxiety state” + more bracelets + a happiness journal + a notebook with “overthinker” stenciled on the cover in rose gold.
Sometimes, empathy is not always helpful. Normalize asking for help, they say. Normalize therapy, Prozac, mental health days, bath bombs, burnout. It’s okay not to be okay.
Healing crystal chakra bracelet with free shipping. Fidget toy–great for focus! Mindful breathing necklaces. The “fuck anxiety” mug is a bestseller.
I don’t mean to be petty or judgmental, but it bothers me when they say “I have anxiety” because everyone has anxiety, just like everyone has mitochondrial DNA and pet peeves and human emotions and a Social Security Number.
Anxiety is to anxiety disorder as domesticated chihuahua is to Arctic wolves. And those wolves can eat you alive.
Spell jar. Stress-relieving sleep balm. An ugly brooch.
Once, someone told me a story about wolves. There were two of them, fighting for food, and a child perched in the branches of the tree, watching them struggle. An old man crossed the forest grove and asked, “Which one will win?”
“I bet on the favorite,” the child answered. The old man departed and the wolves grew sick of cannibalism, so they turned on the child, and he cried and cried but no one came.
At least, I think that’s how it goes.
They wear their anxiety like a bracelet, so everyone can see. It gives you status, in a twisted way. It lets you say oh yes it is awareness week and I want to erode the stigma and I think it’s really important like to be honest about stuff. This makes people smile.
I wear my anxiety like an oversized raincoat that makes me sweat and stumble. When I’m sick, really sick, I talk to myself and lie on the concrete and squint into fluorescent lights and repeat meaningless words, Thursday, Thursday and say things like Are you real? This does not make people smile.
Unicorn wonderland slime. Bestseller!
I want sprinkles but I like butter pecan, too. I learned when I was eight that you can’t have a banana sundae and a waffle cone at the same time. You have to choose.
There are days when the raincoat suffocates me and there are days when I am unbothered. And sometimes, it rains and I am glad I have a raincoat, and everyone around me is shivering.
I will never be a glitter girl or put on eyeliner with a steady hand. At best, I flicker.
There is a comfort in flickering, and a beauty. I am reminded of Shabbos candles and weak wind and Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Empath necklace, therapy journal, mental health wallet card, panic relief wax melts, agate bracelet, self-care notepad, shower eucalyptus–
I slam my laptop shut.