You try to keep it at bay by exercising 30 minutes a day or cutting sugar out of your diet.
You try to keep it under control with deep breathing, yoga, prayer, and spending time with loved ones.
You try to reason with it by finding the cycles, patterns, words and wording, and reminding yourself they are “just thoughts,” even when they feel like the most true statements in the world.
You try to fight it by telling it you’re more than those dark thoughts say you are, by saying you’re beloved despite all of the flaws it hurls at you like jagged stones, and by asking it kindly to shut the hell up.
Sometimes, you win.
The thoughts quiet to a dull roar and gradually subside. Calm returns, and you continue your routine, maybe a bit more weary than you were before but otherwise unscathed.
Other times, you are pummeled.
The stones cut deep, and the blood flows freely. You curl into a fetal position, out of defense and because everything seems to cave in on you. But still, the stones continue to hit, and they hurt something terrible, and when they finally cease, you lay there weary and languid, wondering if you will ever find the strength to rise again.
And as you nurse yourself slowly back to health with tears and fitful sleep, you wonder why nothing worked. You wonder why the medication or the lifestyle changes or the therapy sessions or any combination thereof didn’t fortify the floodgates.
Maybe you’ll even wonder the most paralyzing, frightening thought of all: was it all my fault?
You’ve had these experiences countless times before, but even though you’re used to them, each time can feel more unsettling than the last. Even if your recovery time is better than it has been in the past, it still shakes you to your core and leaves you trembling after the dust has settled.
Because, damn it, what did you do wrong? What could you have done better? What could you have done to have a fighting chance, to not be crushed, to stand strong and not lose the battle?
It’s a terrible question, crushing in its despair and isolating in its seeming loneliness.
And yet, most of us with a mental health condition have asked it.
I wish this wasn’t the case, but I have to admit it:
Sometimes, anxiety wins.
This shit happens. It still does and probably, to some extent, always will.
And it’s not because we didn’t try hard enough, or because we didn’t love ourselves enough, or because we didn’t do enough yoga, or because we consumed a teaspoon more of sugar than usual.
It’s because the exercise, medications, diet, and techniques don’t stop the attacks. After all, they are our tools, not our cure. They are our assistants but not our salvation. We carry them to support us in our lifelong diagnosis.
Sometimes, they keep the anxiety at bay. Other times, they fail us.
And that’s OK. And you’re OK.
I know it can be hard to believe. The sense of hopelessness following an anxiety attack, combined with the cultural expectation that we hold ourselves together at all times, can be crushing.
But the hard days are as inevitable as the good, no matter how high your dosage or how many times you went to the gym or your therapist this month.
And when they happen, whether you stand victorious or lay defeated, you are OK. And you have permission to let go of the expectation that you’re only OK if you “won” the battle.
Because it’s not all about winning. It’s about surviving long enough to feel like we’re thriving again.
You are OK, beloved. You had a hard day, and you are OK.
And I’m glad you’re here.