My mind has always felt more haunted house than head. I learned anxiety before the sound of my own name. You can still hear it like an accent in all the unnecessary apologies I pepper in my sentences. By 8, depression moved in. My head made islands out of crowded rooms. I never felt like I belonged, always isolated the the thunderous, looping fictions I told myself.
As I got older, I looked for people who were adrift like me. I looked for wrists with scars that matched mine, like self abuse was a language written in hieroglyphics on the skin. I wondered how many people saw food as the enemy instead of just… food. I was homesick for community. My pre-college self was a nomad desperate for a hometown, some coordinates to stake herself into.
College offered some relief. Still, in college, I wondered how many people posted galleries of the lives they hoped to live, a contrast to loneliness. Even when I was happy, surrounded by people, I’d feel my spirit drift in the gray space where you aren’t dead, but apathetic toward continuing to live.
Ten years ago, I couldn’t fathom my early twenties. It sounds so silly now, and I hope if I read this at 40, I’ll roll my eyes, howling. Conceptualizing a complex and fulfilling existence on the pillars of my own creation seemed more fantasy than future in my teens.
There’s nothing “after” about this. Most days, my breath feels more concrete than air. My head makes islands of crowded rooms. There are nights anxiety holds me hostage from sleep and mornings when everything outside me is barbed wire. I don’t feel like I belong a lot. I am what high functioning anxiety and depression looks like. I’ve known depression longer than most of my favorite people. Anxiety is the native tongue I’d give anything On the worst days, I choose my life over the alternative. Every day I live is a monument to survival, a love letter to all the women I’ve been before–thanking them for not letting go. I can’t regard my past selves with anything but reverence, knowing that every painful day she/they endured brought me to this messy and beautiful and rich and unconventional marvel I call my life.