An open letter to my anxiety-riddled brain

Dear Brain,

I have a confession to make. A confession to you, my anxiety-infested brain.

Sometimes, I wonder why I was cursed with you. You who is unreliable and tells me to panic when everyone else is calm. You who whispers that I’m not good enough even after a great accomplishment, and you, the one who takes over my body in immobilizing panic attacks without even a moment’s notice.

I hate that you’re aware—or at least, a part of you is—that my anxiety doesn’t match up with reality. Part of you tells me that my fears aren’t really happening. Part of you is rational.

But only part of you.

And that’s unequivocally, painfully cruel. You HAVE to know how cruel that is, brain. Because even though you know I should just let this fear go, you won’t let me. Even as you taunt me with reality, you still force me to clutch that anxiety to my chest. You force me to go to war with myself, to make me ruminate until I’m physically and mentally exhausted, to make my thoughts bounce back and forth between “what-ifs” like balls in a pinball machine. The only way I can truly let go of my worries is from sheer exhaustion.

I hate that you force me to pull aside my loved ones and ask them about my fears—ask them if they’re truly real, or just inside my head. I hate that you embarrass me in such a way. And I hate that when you’re finished putting me through such ridiculous anxiety drills, when I’m able to look back at the situation clearly, it’s so easy for me to see that the doubts you plagued me with aren’t real, that they’re ghosts of the world you created within me, the world where everything fails and adrenaline reigns supreme.

I hate you because you make me feel like everyone was handed an instruction manual on how to live life happily and worry-free, and somehow, mine was lost in the post. And now I’m forced to live in this ghost world, this world of fear.

Sometimes, I hate you, brain. And because you’re an extension of me, sometimes, I hate me.

But then I remember that you’re not just an extension of me. You are me. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to feel the sun’s gorgeous rays on my skin. I wouldn’t be able to slowly sip my morning tea, watching the steam swirl into the air above me, free from its vessel. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to smell the flowers that are already starting to grow in the garden in my backyard. You enable me to appreciate the little things.

Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do anything I love to do. I wouldn’t be able to write. I wouldn’t be able to read about topics that I am (and you are!) passionate about. You give me motivation to live to the fullest. You give me great ideas that make me run to my notebook and jot them down. You make passion burn deep within me. You enable me to achieve.

Without you, I wouldn’t be able to go on long, sunny drives with my brother, or laugh with my friends, or hug my parents when they give me advice, or kiss my boyfriend after he acts like a goofball. You enable me to feel deep, true love and adoration, that bubbles up from within me.

You enable me to be me. And I love you for it, because deep down, I do love me. I love that I’m a kind person, a person who is able to express herself, a person who is worthy of being here, just as much as anyone else. For years, I viewed you as something I was stuck with: my brain, a dark force that could strike at any time, that would tear me down when I finally felt unafraid, that would remind me that life is terrifying. But none of that is true. You are me.

And part of me means being afraid sometimes, for seemingly no reason. Part of me is that scary world, filled with ghosts and uncertainty. Anxiety doesn’t fully define us, brain, but it’s certainly affected us, and it’s affected how we live life. It doesn’t mean I won’t constantly try to combat it, to tame it, to make life more bearable for both of us—but it’s not something to hate, because to hate it would mean to hate you. To hate me.

You are reacting to something we were born with. You’re just trying to help me cope. You’re trying to protect me. We have a mental illness, and we’re going to get through it together—but not through hate. To hate your process would be to destroy us. We’re going to work on your process to make it less painful for both of us.

But please, know that I love you. I love me. I love us. And that’s why we’re going to get through this. . . together.

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