Yesterday I woke up to find anxiety gnawing on my brain and sitting on my chest. My breathing was shallow as it tried to push past the tense pressure on my lungs, the crushing weight of a threatened panic attack.
Stay still, anxiety whispered, make yourself small. Its voice like a snakes hiss in the corners of my brain.
I wanted to curl up and make myself as tiny as I could to try and hide from it. Everyone knows about Fight or Flight but the third option is Freeze. If I stay very very still maybe it will leave me alone I think, as I shut my eyes tightly and push the heavy air through my lungs.
Life went on around me as usual as I froze, hiding from something that lives inside my head, tricking me into thinking that I could out maneuver it, that I could wait it out as it quietly ate me alive. The dogs knew, their heads tilting as they looked at me, wet tongues on my face and heavy bodies curling up on either side of me, pressing the air in and out of my tired lungs. And so I was forced to move, because while I couldn’t seem to do it for myself, I would fight this serpent for them.
I got dressed slowly, every task feeling much larger than usual, time happened in a strange kind of warped situation, rushing past me, leaving me behind. One task at a time, one shoe, then the other, the key in the lock, the hum of the ignition, the endless road in front of me.
Anxiety can be described in so many ways, for me it feels like someone has turned up gravity, like my body is heavier, my feet wading through cement with every step.
Park the car, lock the doors, one foot in front of the other. The snake whispering to turn back, to go back to hiding, the whisper turning to an angry hiss as I keep trudging forward. Quiet resolve takes over as the snake is throw off guard, it does not live out here in the sunshine, the dirt trail drives it back into the dark corners. My eyes glance up from the ground for the first time, I take a breath and my lungs don’t seem to ache as badly now.
I checked to see if anyone was around before taking a sharp right turn off the path and pushing through the bushes. I know this trail well, I know the snake cannot survive here. The dogs crashed through the bush in front of me, knowing exactly where we were going, our secret place. I climbed through undergrowth, pushing branches aside, until the smell of wild sage let me know we were on the right path. I touched the wild herb with my finger tips and the fragrance spilled upwards into the air filling my shallow lungs.
Eventually we emerged from the foliage onto the hidden beach, the dogs fur smelling of wild sage, the fragrance of wild rosemary in my own hair. The colours of this secret world dazzled me momentarily as they always do.
The crystal clear water twinkled up at me, swirls of turquoise and jade glittering in the sunshine as it flowed gently through the valley. The mountains all around towered over us, blocking the rest of the world out, their bright green foliage clinging to them for dear life.
I peeled off my hot clothes, my movements faster now as the snake got caught in it own cement, the hiss barely even a whisper now. One last thing to do to drive it away. I plunged into the water. The cold hit me like tiny needles all over my body, anti anxiety acupuncture driving the constant mental chatter away.
Then all there was was cold. Cold turquoise water and the blue sky above and nothing else. Silence, in my head and all around. I swam and I floated, the gentle current twirling me as I lay on my back, looking up at the blue sky, the anxiety washing away downstream far away from me.
It lies you know, the snake in your brain, it manipulates, telling you that you can’t do things, that you are better off curling up and hiding when really it is talking about itself. The snake wants to curl up in the safety of bed, it cannot survive out here. The cold water drives it away, love steps on its tail and action shuts it up.
Do not listen to the hiss in the corners, get up, go out, move, and just remember: the cowardly snake can’t swim.
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