“Your anxiety is showing—better tuck that back in,” whispered the little voice inside my head. “After all, you don’t want anyone to know about the sadness you sometimes feel without cause, or the depression you must fight away.”
Anxiety has a way of sneaking into your day, into your thoughts, and into your routine. You never know when it is going to rear its ugly head until it does. For me, it was on day four of our multi-family vacation when something within me shifted. It was almost as if I could literally feel the chemicals within my body change. I know it sounds crazy, but I bet someone who is reading this can understand and relate. It all started with how many pizzas to order that night and what toppings would go on each one. Seems like a simple task, right? But in the midst of the decision-making process, and suddenly feeling overwhelmed, something within me radically shifted. Instantly, I didn’t feel like myself. All I wanted to do was forget about the pizza and crawl into the unfamiliar sheets as I hid underneath the bed covers, which is what I did.
And under the covers is where I stayed—throughout the next day while everyone played in the pool and built sandcastles on the beach. I wanted to join them; but again, something within me had shifted. The “me” I knew was gone and this other person who felt depressed had emerged. I knew what it looked like from the outside, which was pouting. I could hear my daddy’s voice inside my head tell me to “tuck that lip back in” just as he did when I was a child and pouting. But this wasn’t pouting, even though it looked as if it was to the outside observer. Instead, it was anxiety. And it could be seen by me, the inside observer. I tried to hide it. I tried to tuck it back in. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, anxiety can’t be tucked back in. Sometimes it shows with a sudden onset of irritability. People assume you are having an “attitude” or being “moody,” but it’s actually you feeling anxious and having a panic attack. And it’s also needing to isolate yourself and be alone. Not tucking away your anxiety, but rather tucking away yourself in order to process.
Maybe you have been there—at that place when you become overwhelmed and pushed over the edge by even the littlest of things. Because it’s not just deciding on the pizza toppings or if you should get the 12 or 14 inches, but everything else that is overwhelming you, coming to the surface and crashing together. I want you to know that I see you. I am you. And you don’t have to try to tuck your anxiety back in. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to hide under the covers and stay there for hours. It’s okay to cancel plans and curl up in a ball on the floor. And it’s okay to isolate yourself for a short amount of time as you work through your feelings and process your thoughts. It’s not pouting. It’s coping. But, when you are done, do the work to pull yourself back together and get back up. Because, friend, you don’t belong down there.
I didn’t belong down there. After spending a day of vacation alone and tucked away, I pulled back the covers, washed my face, put on a pretty dress, and together with my family went out for that same pizza which caused me so much anxiety the night before. We ordered with ease one thick and one thin. One supreme and one pepperoni. Both 12 inches. It felt good to be out; but in order for me to have reached that place, I had to first tuck myself, and not my anxiety, back in.
If you are someone who feels as though your whole world is falling apart and it’s difficult to see yourself not be yourself, go tuck yourself in. And know that eventually your spark will return and you will shine as you did once more.
“It’s okay to cry when there is too much on your mind–the clouds rain too when things get heavy.” ~Amina Mehmood
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on waitingforbabybird.com.
Featured Image by Ansley Ventura