As 2015 draws to a close, there’s a letter I’ve been meaning to write for a long time about something that has been very near to my heart my whole life. I am incredibly proud of myself that I can write it now, because I’ve never been able to before. I could have just written it in my journal, but then it would have felt kind of like I was hiding it, and I don’t want to do that. I want this out here, clear as day, and I can think of no better audience to share it with than you.
We’ve been together for a very long time–probably as long as I can remember. You’ve occupied the pit of my stomach, you’ve clenched my heart, you’ve pierced my lungs and, to be honest, you’ve taken up way too much space in my head.
I know you may have meant well at first. You existed out of some primordial need to protect me from the dark and nasty things out there, the things you think I’m too dumb to fully comprehend. But here’s the thing: You don’t protect me. You possess me. You don’t help me. You limit me. You don’t keep me safe. You isolate and confine me. You try to tell me it’s for my own good, but it’s not. You’re not.
Because the truth is I’m very smart. I know better than to jump off a cliff, or walk into a tornado, or go for a run in a hurricane. I know when to be scared of the dark. All those things that threaten my life–I know they’re out there without you to remind me. I’ve got a plan for every eventuality–sometimes three plans, even. I’m aware. I’m awake. I’m capable. I’ve got this.
Anxiety, you make me tired. You make me weak. You and your horrid friends–fear, worry, doubt, and panic–wreak havoc on my life. So when you go, please take them with you and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
Yeah. I cursed at you. You know why? Because I’m angry. I’m angry that you put up this pretense that you’re here to, in some way, preserve my life–that without you I’ll be hurt, or humiliated, or injured. Guess what? I am going to be hurt, and humiliated, and injured anyway. That’s part of life. I am old enough and wise enough now to accept that. And I’ve also been through enough to know that I’ll get through those hurts, and humiliations, and injuries the way I’ve gotten through all the rest–with the help of God, my family, my friends, my faith and . . . my self.
Besides, how many of the things you’ve occupied my mind worrying about have ever really happened? Did you ever once predict the most devastating things? Did you sit there and make me worry about my grandfather dying on the day of my high school graduation? Of watching my mother-in-law die of cancer? Of miscarrying my first child? Did you predict the day or the time that my grandmother would peacefully pass away in her sleep? No. No you didn’t. You didn’t ever even suggest one of those things. You made me worry about failing every test I ever took–all of which I did great on. You made me worry about losing my friends–all of whom are still here in my life. You made me worry every time my kids fell ill with so much as a sniffle, and they’re (thank God) healthy as can be. Every time you entered my brain and filled it with fear you lied. You misled. You panicked me for no reason. You never got one prediction correct. Yet I have allowed you to keep talking. Until today.
Because now, on this last day of 2015, I’m writing you this letter to let you know I have no use for you. I do not want to listen to another thing you say. And I want you out of my life, forever. You are not welcome here. You will never again be welcome here. I will not allow you any more access to my stomach, lungs, heart, or mind.
Oh, I know you’ll try to get back in. I know you’ll try to whisper to me in the night, or intrude during my quiet time. Guess what: I’m going to block you right out. When you try to whisper in my ear, I’m going to sing you away. When you grab a hold of my stomach and fill it with weights heavier than stone, I’m going to walk or dance you away. When you squeeze my lungs or batter my heart I’m going to pray you away. If you’re really persistent, I’m going to call any one of my countless friends who have more of a right to a place in my heart and mind than you do. Friends who believe in me rather than make me doubt myself. Friends who lift me up instead of bringing me down. Friends who fill me with confidence not fear. Friends who stand by me and stand with me. Friends who show me all the ways I will succeed rather than warning me of all the ways that I can fail.
Ah, anxiety. You’ve had a good run. I’ve let you occupy my body and harass my soul for forty-three and a half years. In all that time, you have never brought me even one good thing. All you have done is cast a shadow over the good, and made me fight for the strength to handle the bad. You are the enemy, not an ally.
So today, anxiety, I say no more. And I’m sharing this with all my friends in the hopes that they, too, will find the strength to shut you down, to shut you out, and to send you away for good.
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite movies was this silly little fantasy film called Labyrinth. It was about a girl named Sarah, who has quite a lot to be thankful for, but who instead decides to focus on the one negative in her life–that her father has remarried and has a new baby, Toby. She rails against the unfairness of life and asks that the Goblin King come and take her brother away. Being fantasy, this is exactly what happens and she has to navigate a labyrinth of riddles and tricks to find Toby again all the while being tempted by the Goblin King with promises that if he can just keep the baby he will make all her dreams come true. But of course, being a good heroine, she cannot let him keep her baby brother and when she finally reaches the center of the labyrinth she reclaims her brother with a speech in which she realizes that things only control us with our permission.
And so, anxiety, I send you away in much the same way Sarah sent away the Goblin King, with a few minor alterations:
Through dangers untold, and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the depths of my soul to take back the Diane that you have stolen. I am the heroine of my own story now, and the writer of the book that is my life. My will is easily as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great. YOU. HAVE. NO. POWER. OVER. ME.
Anxiety, you have no power over me.
Fear, you have no power over me.
Worry, you have no power over me.
Doubt, you have no power over me.
Panic, you have no power over me.
So get out. And never again darken my door.