Since I’ve moved back home until the semester starts up again I’ve been spending a lot of time in my room. I like my room, it’s cozy and safe. There are books everywhere, my desktop serves as a scrapbook with pictures full of my fondest memories and favorite quotes taped on, I even still have my huge teddy bear from when I was a kid (although to be fair he was a lot bigger from the perspective of a really short four year old..)
so sitting in my room yesterday I got the bug to clean it up. I mean really clean. Every year I do a semi sort of cleaning which consists mostly of moving things around the room a little to give myself the illusion of a tidy space. So I set to emptying my desk drawers of old book reports and empty plastic bags ( I have this obsession with saving shopping bags and then forgetting they are in the drawer when I really need a spare one). It took me hours because obviously every time I came across a pile of old poems I wrote or old birthday letters from friends I sat down to read them. Then I found a memory notebook from a couple years back. It was from a year long program I had been apart of straight out of high school. At the end of the year we each got a beautifully bound notebook and spent the last week writing in each others books. Like a version of a high school yearbook but instead of signing our names with the obligatory “keep in touch” we wrote deep and personal letters to each other full of things we appreciate and learned from one another over the past year. So I sat to re-read mine and five minutes in I had tears pouring down my face and didn’t stop crying until ten minutes after. When I finally did stop I felt as though this massive weight had been lifted off my chest.
You see every single one of the entries talked about how I was a calm and peaceful person, how much inspiration my friends took from watching my “zen”ness all year, that I was a calming presence throughout our time together. Me. calming. The chick with general anxiety disorder. I cried and laughed disbelievingly as I read those words at first. But one after the other they all mentioned it in some shape or form, and I realized something.
I realized that I had let myself get sucked up and defined solely by my disorder. This year was a MESS. It was hard and exhausting. I had to pick myself up again and again and get back on the horse almost every day. I had to fight for air. I still do sometimes. My battle is far from over. Part of what made it easier was giving it a name. Knowing I have an anxiety disorder and I’m not paranoid or insane makes me feel more normal and it allowed me to begin to accept it and myself this way. But I realize now that it also made me dismiss who I was before all of this anxiety blew up in my face. It made me forget that instead of being scared of storms not to long ago I used to dance in the rain. I literally bought myself rubber boots when I was 20 so I could jump in puddles. I convinced myself that the me who was calm was the fake one and this is the real me and I have to adapt.
But it’s not true. I have a whole notebook saying how it is not true. The fact is, they are both me. The girl with anxiety is also the girl who’s most prominent quality is peacefulness. And if I used to be her I can be her again. I had two moments this week that in retrospect drove this point home. One was at the beach, the other at a park near my house. Both times I found myself blissfully happy, mindful of the beauty and quiet around me. Both times my instinct was to take a picture as if on some subconscious level I needed proof.
Proof that I was calm and enjoying myself without having to work at it. I viewed these moments as the exception, and disaster and trouble and anxiety as the norm. So much so that any time something went the slightest bit wrong I made a huge deal of it. As if again proving to myself that “here we go, back to normal”. And in a weird twisted way I think I even took comfort in the screw-ups. Because anything else had become so foreign. But that notebook is also proof. Proof that the calming and peaceful presence in my life doesn’t need to be the exception. I just need to let it be the rule.