My anxiety is an ocean.
There is high tide, and there is low tide.
When the tide is low, the ocean is still churning. It is still full of fears and expectations and nerve endings and pain, but it is further from the surface. I can walk along more of the beach without getting sucked in.
When the tide is high, the ocean is harder to ignore. It is an ever-present body that reminds me of those same worries and wounds as it laps at my ankles and begs me to step further in, just for a minute. Only a minute.
When the tide is low, I am better able to stand. I am more capable of standing up straight, looking out at the endless horizon and feeling both small and big at once. When the tide is low, I am not fearless, but I seem to have just a little more courage.
When the tide is high, I can’t simply walk past. I have to watch. I observe its comings and goings, its rips and pulls and eddies. At times, the tide comes in so quickly that I trick myself into bravery. I let myself believe I can keep my courage as I step into the water, just for a minute. Only a minute.
Too easily, that minute becomes an hour, becomes a day, becomes a week of swirling, consuming, maddening wet that seeps so far into my skin, I forget what my once-discovered bravery ever felt like.
Getting back out again is sometimes a fight and sometimes a rescue mission. There are days I swim like hell, and there are days some kind soul in a boat rows out to find me drifting.
I live the drifting days praying I can swim, begging not to need rescuing. It happens anyway, and I think it always will. I’m grateful for the boat, yet I curse its necessity.
When the tsunami comes, that is my panic attack.
It’s not her fault. She doesn’t know the destruction she wrecks on my peace. She doesn’t understand the carefully constructed courage I’ve found. She doesn’t see her own power over my minuscule, human form.
The tsunami will come with or without my humble, frail permission. She won’t wait until I’ve reached higher ground. She cares nothing for my home, my family, my routine, my life. She comes anyway, only seeking to let the ocean make itself more known.
What she cannot know is that I am incapable of ever forgetting the ocean. The tide is low, the tide is high, the tide comes quick, the tide keeps away awhile. But never can I detach myself from the depths. I am painfully, harmfully, achingly aware of its vastness, its uncertainty, its unkowns. I know its many monsters hide far from my view, unculled and uncalled for.
And no matter how far inland I travel, there is the memory of my ocean, teasing at the edges of my being with its streams and rivers. Reminding me of its size and its weight. Reminding me of its influence. One can drown in under three inches of water, you know.