So, I have anxiety. This means that everything that goes awry in my life is amplified. Coursework is more overwhelming, mistakes are irrevocable, small tasks seem exhausting. I want to try to write about it, to explain it, so maybe one day I can better understand myself.

Who knows? Maybe someone else will read this and know that they are not the only one with what feels like bumblebees buzzing around in their mind. Anyways.

It goes like this.

I've just woken up. The air outside is relentlessly cold. Sunlight peeks into my bedroom through the crack in the curtains, which are open just an inch too much.

I allow myself to snooze for two, five, ten minutes, and then I am out of bed. My heart hits the floor before my feet do. Heavy is the best word to describe days like today. Heavy, crooked, an overall not-rightness.

It takes 75 milligrams of a medication I can hardly pronounce and an extra shot of espresso to bring me somewhat close to pushing through my constant cerebral fog.

I've come to find that there is no miracle combination, no drug or Starbucks order that would ever balance the chemicals in my brain. But it tips the scales ever so slightly to shift me into some semblance of normality.

I am walking to my first class, careful not to slip on the not-quite melted ice on the sidewalk. A similar reaction is happening in my body, the medication having not-quite dissolved and made it's slow parade to my brain.

Most days start like this. The waking, the medication, the coffee, the walk. My classes are interesting and I love what I do. But as soon as something is out of place, so begins the spiraling.

It goes like this.

It's almost time for midterms. The classes are starting to remember they're classes with coursework, and projects, and exams. I am keeping up but I feel like I could do more. I am keeping up, but that is the bare minimum. For me, there is a life that exists outside of classes. There are multiple lives, but I am just one person.

There is the deadline, the editor, the rehearsals, the performance, the decision, the movie-screenings, the rent, the job search, the social life, the family, the friends, back to the schoolwork, the internships, the scholarships, the activism, the need to create, the phone call, the concert--anyways.

Some days are fine. I pose my thoughts in a neat to-do list. They are perfectly strung Christmas lights on the walls of my brain. I even remember to unplug the lights before I go to bed, to let the thoughts fall away as I sleep.

Other days they are a tangled mess of bulb and wire. They are impossible to manage and they weigh heavy in my mind. When the panic starts, the lights fall off the wall. It is dark and broken and overwhelming.

It goes like this.

When the panic starts, it's usually over something small and insignificant. Something anyone else would have shrugged off a moment later. Maybe I took too long to put my change away in the coffee line.

Maybe my performance wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be. Maybe someone made a comment and I took it the wrong way. It shouldn't be a big deal. But because of the chemical imbalance, there is only fixation and spiraling. No one can get to me.

There is only a breath that I cannot catch. There is only an unstoppable whirlwind of thoughts. I can't speak, I can't come down, my head has spun off of my body, my lungs have been tied in a knot, everything is screaming, someone is asking if I am okay, asking me what happened, asking me what they can do.

But the answers aren't simple. How do I say it? I'm not okay but I will be. Or, I'm never truly okay, but some days are easier than others. Nothing happened. Everything happened. I don't know what I need from you. I don't know how you can help.

I want to try to talk about it, to explain it, so maybe one day I can understand myself better. This is what my anxiety looks like. This is the Shape of The Monster. Part one. Thank you for your time.