What stories does your body want to tell? #4
Sometimes, when I tell people I have a horrific temper, they look surprised and tell me they could never imagine me being anything but happy. That surprises me because I spend so much my every day feeling anxious. People who know me truly know how much I am capable of crying and how wildly moody I can be — often that feels like more of who I am than the happy face that most people see.
Anxiety — that old friend.
I am filled up with feelings all the time. Noise and thoughts, the endless dialogue. A Chinese doctor once felt my pulse and said, among other things, “You feel anxious a lot, don’t you?” It’s like the anxiety is actually in my blood, always thrum thrum thrumming away, a scabies itch under my skin that runs along all parts of me.
I recognise now that I feel it physically, this shrinking and tightening and prickling around the heart and the head, the hollow in the stomach, the forced effort of breathing. I wonder if this is in other people too, or if they just go about in this steady state of stillness.
Agitation — that old friend.
I learnt only very recently that sometimes the only way to get rid of that emotional scraping that goes on underneath all the time is to really just sit in it, look at it, breathe it all in. “But why would I do that,” I asked, “if it feels so goddamn bad?”
The answer came back, “Because there’s something that wants to be heard. Just listen to it. Breathe through it.”
I finally learnt — sort of, maybe — to rest in the flux. I feel the sadness, or the grief, or the anxiety and I say to it, “Bring it on bring it on bring it on”, I wait for it to come at me and I breathe into it, which feels like you’re an inhalation underwater. Sometimes, I’ve found, that’s all it takes for it to disperse. The stuff just wants to be named and let go.
There were days where the only thing I achieved while awake was breathing, one breath in front of another. I learnt to just be quiet and allowing the anxiety. I’m still learning to slow it down and be alright with being anxious; to know that if I’m feeling really fucking bad that day, then it’s okay to just feel that fucking-badness instead of trying to happy my way through it.
Quiet — that old friend.
When I recently watched that cartoon Inside Out, I cried until I was heaving when Sadness was given her moment to just be. I cried hard because it took 34 years and a cartoon for me to articulate the immense relief that comes of finally allowing yourself to rest in sadness. To acknowledge that sometimes you don’t have to feel bad about feeling bad — it’s okay, in fact, it’s maybe a good thing. To see that all the other good stuff just wouldn’t be possible without the not-so-good. To know that you are exactly where you need to be in that moment.
Sadness, joy, anxiety, peace — all those old friends.