by Sarah Hadley
Sometimes I get overwhelmed with anxiety about things that don’t even exist, waking up at three in the morning with a heaviness on my chest, as though I’m trapped below an invisible block of despair.
Despair over things that don’t exist.
It’s a strange phenomenon, waking up like that. Crushed by something I can’t define; something that must be real because it’s crushing me, and make-believe things don’t have weight. Except they do.
It’s a special sort of weight, one not defined by a scale, or even logic for that matter.
It’s the weight of worry, the weight of fear — the heaviness of rejection and expectation. It’s being gagged by my own self-destructive thoughts about my competence and worth (a gift from my mother).
It’s a difficult place to be — being crushed by something I can’t see, or touch, or most of the time explain. It’s heavy, it hurts, and at the time, it feels as though it will never end and everything is over, because I’m laying there stuck.
And since I’m stuck there, I might as well consider all the things I’ve forgotten, or failed at, or missed out on — or will miss out on because clearly this is the end.
Except it’s not.
It took me a long time and a lot of therapy to see this for what it is: PTSD peppered with some anxiety. And when I remember what it is, it begins to take shape. And when it takes shape, I’m able to feel a little more in control because at least this is real and not make-believe and I know how to deal with real things. I can take action on real things — I know what to do with something that is real.
Now that it’s real, I know what to do with it. Now that it’s real, I can touch the corners — find that it really does have an end. Now that it’s real, I can move it off of me. I’m breathing better already.
I get out from underneath this weight by seeing myself standing at the edge of the ocean, just beyond the reach of the water. I stand there and I take all the things that feel heavy and overwhelming and scary and awful and I set them down on the sand.
I stand there with my toes dug into the sand, with all my baggage laid out before me, and watch as the ocean comes and washes it away.
And I do that over and over and over, until there is no more. Until it comes again. Because it will, but now I’m ready for it. I know what to do — because it’s real, and we know what to do with real things.
Sarah Hadley, Courageous On The Page
Sarah writes for others the words they struggle to write for themselves. She is a professional storyteller and freelance writer. This year, she also became the owner of a craft soda company — but that’s a story for another day. She believes every person has a story to tell, whether it’s the story of their business or the story of their life. She helps tell those stories.