Anxiety and worry are regular visitors at my place. They drop by at the most inconvenient of times though: when I want to go to sleep, leave the house or make an important decision. They never bring a gift and always leave without a word of thanks. In fact, they usually just deposit an unpleasant taste in my mouth and the feeling of being punched in the stomach.
It’s odd really, the way the host in me works, seemingly welcoming these emotions and refusing to kick them out, even after they start trashing the joint. Sure, before an exam or when climbing a mountain, a little adrenalin is useful, but when your body’s alert systems kick into overdrive every time you lock the front door or cook pasta, adrenalin is overrated.
Anxiety comes knocking because it thinks it’s being a good friend. It wants to keep you and the people you love safe. It wants to make sure you thought of everything, considered every angle and are prepared. That’s why it seems so necessary to check that the hair straighteners are off. And by check, I mean go back three times and look. Or even take a photo in case nerves return later. It’s also why one might spend an evening agonising over a conversation or event, getting all-action replays on repeat whilst cooking dinner just to check that certain words didn’t offend or get misconstrued.
And it’s exhausting, hosting all these emotions all the time. Because it’s not the odd whisper of did I lock the door?, something we all get from time to time. It’s a constant battering of doubt and fear alongside presumed consequences. Anxiety is one demanding emotion. As nature’s defence mechanism against raging wild animals, great. As a constant visitor who never wipes their feet or uses a coaster, less so.
What makes general anxiety so hard to fight sometimes is that anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. There are evolutionary reasons and advantages for feeling anxious. It’s just, as a house guest of the mind, it overstays its welcome. No matter how strict you are, every time you push unwanted anxiety over the threshold, that feeling of uncertainty, that feeling that the iron might just be on is stronger than every reasonable bone in your body. So, just to be sure, just to be accommodating to that fear, that tick, it becomes necessary to head back home and double check. Triple check. From there, from responding to that overpowering compulsion, you’re just one step away from having Anxiety as a permanent house guest, camped on your sofa, drinking all your milk and leaving you feeling hopeless, with very little to fight it.