c/w: anxiety, mental health. If you have anxiety, you can probably relate to the nonsensical mess that runs through your head when you are feeling it heavy. If you don’t, I try here to offer a little insight into the running dialogue in my head when mine gets the better of me.
Sitting at the kitchen table early this morning, I can feel the ocean breeze on my skin as it blows across the beautiful flowers in front of me. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. And then another. I feel anxious.
I think about going out to the beach. I know I have a full battery for my camera waiting in the charger, it’s still dark enough outside, if I hurry, I can get out and work on some long exposure shots of the water. My pulse quickens and my face flushes.
Maybe after a cup of coffee and some cannabis. That should help me find some peace this morning. Why am I not at peace? I’m ungrateful. I’m up without the kid, everyone else is sleeping, or on their way to work. There’s nothing else I’m supposed to be doing.
I hear my toddler stir in his bedroom and my face warms. He’ll be up soon. Yesterday was a tough day with him. I haven’t recovered mentally from it. I am keenly aware of that. I can’t do it again today. I just can’t. He settles back down and that wave of anxiety passes.
Thinking about going outside again, it returns. What the fuck is wrong with me? I live on the fucking beach. How dumb. I don’t appreciate how good I have it. I can just walk outside, through a parking lot and have my feet in the sand. Still I sit here, feeling my face getting hotter and pricklier the more I think about it. Now my heart is racing. I am disgusted with myself. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Why do I feel this way. I hate this about myself. It’s so stupid. l know better. Why won’t it stop? My hands are shaking as I pick up my coffee cup.
It’s like the wolves are back, I think to myself. Remembering this feeling. This feeling of being afraid to go outside. Afraid to leave the house. But not afraid. Not really. I’m not scared. I’m anxious.
I try to break it down into steps. Target where the anxiety is lying. Which part in particular makes me anxious?
I can’t focus. Being anxious makes me more anxious. I hate my brain sometimes.
My partner opens the bedroom door and my face flushes. It’s been a hard past week. I hope he’s feeling better today. He smiles at me, says good morning, and I feel my anxiety lessen a bit.
He puts some shoes on and says he’s stepping outside for a few minutes before work and I’m envious. I feel so stupid. I’ve had an hour and I sat here and wasted it being too nervous to go outside. It’s so stupid. I’m so fucking stupid. No. No, I am not stupid. It’s my brain. Come on, I’ve worked so hard. Stop it. Stop beating yourself up, Nikki. It’s my brain. It’s my brain. It’s my fucking brain!
He returns and I say out loud I am going to go out for a few minutes before he goes to work. If I say it out loud I am more likely to actually do it. I know I will regret not going since we have a limited window on when the beach is open.
With my hand on the doorknob I take a deep breath and open the door, walking outside onto the porch. I pause and look down at the potted plants on the steps that my boyfriend and I potted the day before and appreciated how much nicer they make the front of our house look. It gives me a boost of confidence until I step off the last step and head toward the trio of barking dogs I have to walk between, belonging to people who make me nervous. They don’t like me, I’m convinced of it. It makes me anxious when someone doesn’t like me, and especially so when I know I haven’t done anything wrong.
I get across the parking lot and reach the gate to walk down to the beach and realize I forgot my mask. Fuck. I kept going, since there were only a handful of people on the beach this early and I could easily avoid them.
I feel guilty, ashamed. It’s irresponsible for me to be out here without a mask. How fucking lazy am I for not wanting to go back and grab it? No. I’m not lazy, I just can’t stomach walking back across that parking lot, getting the dogs riled back up, and then doing it again.
It’s fine. I’m fine.
I walk down to the water and take my sandals off, feeling the cool wet sand on my feet. I’m comforted. Taking a few more steps I reach the water and the frigid Pacific comes up to my ankles. I’m able to just be.
I’m okay, I tell myself. I’m okay.
I take a few minutes to just feel the water, hear the wind and the roar of the ocean and for a magical moment, I’m at peace with myself, with the world. As long as I can keep finding these glimpses of relief, of respite, I will be okay.
It’s gonna be okay. I’m gonna be okay.
This post includes some negative self talk that I had to work through. It’s something I have put a lot of work into, and sometimes I backslide. This was one of those mornings. I’m okay. I’m not proud of it, and I’m even a little ashamed that I reverted back to such self-bullying, but I think it’s important to normalize the struggle. It’s a constant work in progress. I am a constant work in progress. We are a constant work in progress.
Nikki is a photographer, writer, artist, and advocate of radical self-love. She writes about mental health, gaming, sex, and inclusivity.