I have anxiety.
This does not just mean I’m stressed, or nervous, or worried. It’s a clinical diagnosis known as Anxiety Disorder. It came a year ago after I sought psychological counseling following an unexpectedly stressful change to my life. It does not mean I’m broken. What it does mean is that I’ve kept entirely too much pain, stress, and fear to myself, and it’s led to me being less than great at coping with hard, challenging, and uncomfortable times.
I internalize everything. Mistakes at work, arguments and disagreements, conversations with friends and family, and memories from long ago. On several occasions, words said or things done to me have stayed with me, and they have changed my programming. My brain immediately runs to worst case scenario in any unfavorable or uncomfortable situation.
My self-talk is often dangerous. I wonder if people hate me, if they do things to spite me, if I’m the target of bullying. The latter is somewhat logical, given that I dealt with bullying as a kid. The others are a result of the worst-case-scenario mentality I run to in tough times. I internalize things that go unsaid, and also things said and done that were unnecessary. I embarrass and scare easily, despite all evidence to the contrary. I put on a great show.
I am an introvert. What it means is that some people, known as extroverts, are extremely outgoing and draw energy from social situations, while introverts aren’t necessarily as outgoing in social situations (unless we’re comfortable with the people involved) and we expend energy in social situations and need to retreat into solitude to recharge.
My introversion and my anxiety do not coincide, but my introversion does not help in dealing with my anxiety. As a result, I attempt to connect with and become close with people like me, who understand me, and who care about me. Some of these people are extroverts, but they understand my design and do not push me into discomfort. Sometimes, I get too close, and the cycle begins again.
Some wounds don’t heal quite right. Others don’t heal at all. Every last one of us is damaged, haunted, by something or someone. Sometimes both. There are times when it takes everything we have just to hold it together.
We all carry dead weight. Ghosts of days long done. We want to let go, but we can’t, for reasons we don’t understand. We’re left with a pain that can be sharp and searing or dull and nagging, but it never goes away. Not completely. So we move forward, pulling extra weight that we don’t need.
We pass this pain, this extra weight, to the people we love, not because we think they deserve it, but because we feel like we deserve it, and there’s no clear way to stop the cycle. We become self-destructive, and hurt the people who want to help us.
We’re all fighting a hard battle, but can’t see beyond our own pain. We forget that we aren’t the only ones at war with ourselves. That’s why when somebody offers to help us carry our baggage, instead of ignoring the offer, we should take the help. Nobody has to struggle alone.
And sometimes, the only way to stop the pain is to build a divide, a chasm, between us and the source of the pain.
Some bridges are meant to be burned.