When I had my first anxiety attack in high school, there was no mistaking what it was. The combination of feelings almost like emotional and physical claustrophobia all at the same time was so uniquely terrible that I knew instantly I was having an anxiety attack. That first attack was quite some time ago, and my anxiety disorder has only become worse and harder to manage now that I am trying to juggle college courses, work, volunteering, relationships, and staying healthy. One of the worst things about anxiety, for me, is feeling disconnected from the rest of the world, feeling like I am the only one who understands what it is I am experiencing. In actuality, over 40 million adults in the United States, and millions more teens and even children, experience anxiety issues.
To help myself feel less alone and be stronger in my will to fight the anxiety I experience every day, I found poetry and short stories written by other people who experience the same thing. Anonymous Poetry on Tumblr is one of my favorite places to find this, but there are hundreds of other sites out there as well, including Hello Poetry, All Poetry, and AADA. These websites are full of first-hand accounts of how other people have struggled and yet prevailed through their anxiety. These two poems, both found on Anonymous Poetry on Tumblr with no author credited, were the most impactful to me personally about my own experience with anxiety.
“Then Anxiety Is” by Anonymous
If love is a mothers gentle, warm embrace--
Then anxiety is being forced into a strait jacket.
If hope is a butterfly flitting from flower to flower--
Then anxiety is a nuclear bomb plummeting to earth.
If compassion is an outstretched, helping hand--
Then anxiety is a gun to the back of the head.
If peace is the rise and fall of a sleeping infant’s chest--
Then anxiety is lightning striking an airplane.
If freedom is a bird soaring high in the sky--
Then anxiety is a shackled slave thrown into the sea.
If happiness is the laughter of a friend--
Then anxiety is the howling of a dying dog.
If tolerance is children playing, blind to skin color--
Then anxiety is being prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.
If nature is the skyline from a mountaintop--
Then anxiety is the metal slab corpses rest on.
If togetherness is the soft kiss of a lover--
Then anxiety is the last living thing on the planet.
If possibility is a child gazing up at the stars,
Then anxiety is a dead rat in the sewers
If future is a woman holding her swollen, pregnant belly
Then anxiety is being nailed into a coffin
If life is the things that people do every day,
Then anxiety is living as a ghost, watching but not experiencing
“Mind, Body, and Anxiety” by Anonymous
I know that the sun shines above me
But the warmth fades before reaching my face
I know that the breeze swirls around me
But the air withers before entering my lungs
My mind is telling me not to lose hope
That there will be an end to the fear
That the anxiety will fade into the past
And that nothing has been changed
My body is telling me that there is no hope
My hands shake, there will be no end to the fear
My eyes blur, the anxiety will never fade into the past
My heart pounds, nothing has been changed
I know that music floats towards me
But the harmony dies before reaching my ears
I know that love flows through me
But the kindness chills before reaching my heart
My mind is telling me not to be anxious
That the anxiety does not have to control me
That there is no reason to be so overwhelming
And that I am loved and supported
My body is telling me I will always be anxious
That the anxiety will always be in control of me
That everything will always be overwhelming
And that I am only loved and supported by myself
Anxiety flows through my mind and body
Never resting, never stopping
Stress holds tightly to my emotions and my thoughts
Never relaxing, never fading
My mind is telling me to confront my anxiety
That I should not make decisions based on fear
That my feelings do not have to be ruled by “what if’s”
And that the anxiety does not define me
My body is telling me to accept my anxiety
That my decisions will always be based on fear
That the “what if’s” protect my feelings
And that my anxiety and I are one and the same
Anxiety resides in my heart and soul
Always present, always painful
Stress remains in my present and future
Always impacting, always effecting
My mind tells me that I can defy my anxiety disorder
That it does not have to impact who I love
That it does not have to tell me what to do
And that it does not have to change who I am
My body tells me that I am my anxiety disorder
That it will always impact who I love
That it will always tell me what to do
That my anxiety disorder is who I am
And that we will forever be one and the same
These poems have really captured how my anxiety feels, and I hope these authors will somehow know how helpful they've really been.