What is left when the anxiety is missing? What am I left to work with? How do I function without it? It has always been present, waiting, pulling on me for attention that I do not want to give, demanding that I listen, delaying me from living. But what do I do now that it is lessened? I have to relearn how to function, I am still waiting for the familiar panic to set in, for the customary sweats to begin, for the shakiness in my voice to be present. I am still waiting, but it has been missing for days without me recognizing it, I have been functioning this whole time without it, I have ceased to be controlled by it. But it feels like something is missing, like a piece of me is no longer living, like I am cheating. This is not life as I’ve always known it, this is not anxiety, panic, and overwhelming self-consciousness. This is not what I grew up with, isolating self-reflection, a fear that someone will hear the words I have spoken, a paralyzing realization that I am exposed for judgement. This is not how I was raised, to not second guess myself, to move forward without hesitation, to knowingly take on social confrontation. It feels like I am a different person, and yet the same one I’ve always known, and I’m waiting for the true anxiety to be exposed. It can’t be that simple, my problems can’t possibly be solved with a tincture, I was always told there is no cure. This must be a placebo effect, I must be lying to myself, I must just be momentarily doing well, waiting for the next crippling downfall, the next debilitating panic attack, the next evidence to prove that I am still broken. This life long problem cannot be solved already, there has to be more that I must try, there has to be more time put in, this cannot be what the solution feels like. I was not ready, I did not think I could heal, and now I am missing the anxiety I have always held near. I appear no different, there is not visible change in my mannerisms, there is not measurable progress for an ailment that only I see in my own head. It almost makes me more crazy, wondering what is missing, questioning if this is what it is like to functional normally, seeking ways to track my chemical balance changing. But this is above me, I am not doctor with a mental health speciality, I am no professional when it comes to healing, I am no authority on living healthy. This feels abnormal to me, like a change I did not intend on making, like I am cheating the system that I have grown up in, changing the reality I have always known to exist, warping my view of what normal is. I feel as if I have abandoned an essential piece of me, lied on my application, changed the facts of functioning, disregarded the required disadvantages, and insulted a lifelong practice. I feel incomplete, and yet I know that I am still me, I struggle to put together the pieces, to make sense of what I see, to adapt to the way I am now living. This is what I was always seeking, since I identified my anxiety, since it became a piece of me. This is what I always wanted, but why does it feel so hollow? Why does is seem like I am no longer living? Why can I not wrap my head around this sensation and accept this advantage? Is my life easier without the panic, or do I want it back? What makes me realize that I am alive, living, or the panic that comes with it? My accomplishments, or the anxiety that accompanies them? My mental illness or the ability to function normally with medication?
It is a subtle difference, a feeling of steadiness, an even temper that I almost missed, the side effects of this medication. This time is different, there is no doctor prescribing it, no dosages being pushed, no pharmacies to go through. This was a self-referral for saving, a self-prescription that I have been debating, a culmination of many influences that lead me to this alternative solution. It crept up on me, the influence that I didn’t know I was missing, I thought there would be a more instant fix, I thought that I would notice a dramatic difference, I thought that medication might fix everything. But I was waiting for the wrong thing, I was looking for unusual side effects, I thought I would change into an entirely different person. I dreamed that one pill taken consistently could save me, that it could change the way I have always lived, that it could be a miracle solution to everything. I thought I just needed healing, that I was just missing something, that the anxiety was preventing me from living properly, that medication could make me a functioning human. But that was the problem, there is no easy solution, there is no instant fix to all problems, it is not my mental ailments that were skewing my sense of me. Anxiety is a piece of me, it is necessary, it is needed, it is an essential part of living. Medication cannot change this, my anxiety will always exist, but with this solution it is less debilitating, less controlling, less suffocating. You may not notice a dramatic difference, because I am still the same person, just a bit more even, a bit less controlling, a touch less of obsessive tendencies. But those character traits were only visible to me, after years of training I knew how to keep my anxiety hidden, I knew how to compensate for the crazy, I knew how to appear normal. But now I feel that I connect with that role, I feel that I have more control, I feel that my anxiety has less of a stronghold. I almost didn’t notice, I had assumed that it was not working, but I was looking for the wrong side effects, I was looking for a dramatic change in who I am as a person. No one told me that it would be so subtle, that the change I worked so long to make would have no clear results, that I could not measure the difference in what I once perceived as normal. I wish I would have known, I wish that someone had told me, that I was just seeking to become more even, that this solution was so simple and within my reach. I wish that it would have been legal from the beginning, that it didn’t take me ten years to find this medication, that this simple solution wasn’t kept so hidden. The change is so subtle, but the impact is finally noticeable, and I feel as if I can finally grow. I never wanted to be normal, I just wanted to be functional, and I finally found my answer in a plant that was once defined as illegal.
The light of my life, I never really understood the sentiment until I met him. It was an unexpected meeting, sprung on me last minute, sending my mind into spiraling anxiety. But there was a way about him that was so calming, except that he was full of energy and ecstatic to meet me, but unsure of who I would grow to be to him. He was cautious, this was not the first time he had relied on a human to care for him, in his eyes this could be the beginning of another failed adoption. But he was trained for trusting, and listened obediently, or at least he did when he first met me. But he has such a personality that it could not be contained by training, he is so intelligent that he needed more stimulation, he proved to be too much dog for the rigorous program. When we left he was smiling, almost boasting, about that fact that he was finally free to live normally. I thought he loved me for the taste of freedom, I thought that is all I could mean to him, a means of escaping. He was wild at first, selectively disobedient and randomly testing my patience. He was confused about his role, no longer working at all hours, no longer training for small rewards. He challenged the authority of my word, pushed the limits on what he did out of boredom, and demanded that I work with him. It took time for him to grow with me, for us to establish a trust and solidified bonding, for me to develop this feeling of dependency. But if I would have known about this rewarding feeling, the love that can be created through caring, the love that feels like an obsession, maybe I would have never waited for him. If this feeling of being needed was what drove this from the beginning, maybe I would have never met him, maybe I would have another creature for which I would be caring. If I was so desperate to feel wanted, maybe I would have never had the chance to meet the creature who taught me what makes life worth living. He gave my life new meaning, he forever changed the way I was living, he has made me dependent on a routine of giving. Giving him food in the morning and toys for entertaining, giving him walks in all weather and sharing a bed together, making sure there is more food in the evening and giving his coat a careful brushing. He invoked something in me, a need to be motherly, a programed reaction for caring. He taught me a different form of dependency, a different way of obsessing, a different approach to loving. He grew to be there for me, look out for me constantly, live to be at my feet. It took some time to get here, some tears and frustration, some internal debating, but it was worth every difficult decision, worth it for every moment spent with him, worth changing the way I was always living. This must be what mothers feel, this must be the light, he must be what I needed in my life.
What did we gain from segregation? What did we achieve with sanctioned ignorance? More hate or a compromise in social tolerance? Did the exposure educate either side? Or just make them uncomfortable enough to step aside and let it happen? When were we willing to make it personal? When the ignorance enters my home? Or when I feel that it is finally appropriate? Does segregation still exist? Or have we buried it deep enough to ignore its side effects? Can we admit where we went wrong as a collective? Or does it take individuals to make tolerance stick? Does it need regulation? Or can we make a difference in small ways? What is it that initiates change? What can I say today to right the wrongs that were made before me? What is it that will eradicate hate? What will it take? Is it the act of extending a hand to another? Is it the way that we listen to each other? What is it that will bring universal understanding? Is it wrong to admit that I still see it? To claim that the law did nothing? To provide examples of disadvantaged communities still struggling to make a normal living? Who defines the race from which we need to be segregating? Is there a drawing? Did someone pull the short stick? Or is this something that history determined? What justifies a whole population’s needs being ignored? Is it the way that they speak? The food that they eat? The mannerisms that are unusual for the people surrounding them? Who determines normal? Is it really universal? Do the same biases exist in this country and around the world? Do we all hold the same basic judgement? What makes one group of people not fit in? Are we just giving in to human nature with segregation? Are we just noticing the differences and addressing them? Or are we acting unfairly? Are we making assumptions that are opposing to a group’s basic philosophies? Does it take conversation to breed understanding? Or more exposure to become worldly? Did the internet change things? Or only give racism a means for spreading? Do video games encourage diversity? Or teach kids how to target enemies? Do videos show another side of living? Or do they just allow us to see what we want to see? Is a global economy a cursing or a blessing? Do we now recognize the benefits of diversity? Or did we just learn to broaden stereotypes that were already established? Did we just become more aware of our habits? Do we feel more educated in our prejudice? Are we simultaneously encouraging what we are up against?
Where is this elite group that I grew up with? What are they now doing with their birth given privilege? Are they working for their parents or struggling to live? Which direction did they head in? Did the easy access to drugs prove to be too tempting? Did they get lost in one of many financially enabled addictions? Or did they actually use their advantage for something good? Are they changing the world as they know it? Are they looking out for the disadvantaged? Or did they become further separated from people like me? Do we now live in realities that will never overlap again? Where is my sense of privilege? How did I take my upbringing for granted? Where is my thankfulness for being fed? Where is the gratitude for being kept out of gangs and bad neighborhoods? When did I begin to take advantage of my skin color? How did I forget about the perks of my gender? And where would I be without all of this? Would I have ended up arrested or dead? Would I have graduated or barely made it out alive? What would have happened if I was not the poor kid? What if I was the one caucasian in my class? Would I still have felt disadvantaged? What if I was the only straight A student? Would I have been the elite? Would the roof over my head and lack of drugs in my house made me the child to envy? Would a supportive mother have been a curse of a blessing? What would it have done to my social standing? What if there was no AP classes or 4-H? Would I have had time to feel like a teenager? Could I have claimed I was normal? What if I was never an athlete? Would I have remained healthy or subjected myself to teenage pregnancy? What if both my parents were still living? Would I have felt like I fit in with my privileged surroundings? Or would I always be the poor kid amongst those who seem to have everything? Or was I the kid who escaped a life of poverty? Was I always lucky? Was my perception just skewed by my surroundings? And could I say the same for the kids that I once envied? Did they see the same privilege that I perceived? Or were there others who they envied? Can we ever feel lucky for something that is out of our control? That we had no influence on at all? Can we choose which financial bracket in which we are born? And who defines what is normal? Is social status pointless? Did it have any influence over where I ended up? Does it make me any less thankful for how I grew up? Did it change the fact that I am still living? What is the definition of elite?
This can’t be what I wanted, they must have messed up my order, or maybe they never took it at all. I am confused and still waiting by the door, looking for a sign that I might move on. This can’t be my reaction, this is not what I always practiced. Where is the side of detachment, the spice in my reaction, the fire I planned on setting? The first course came out too quickly, too hot, too intensely overwhelming. It burned me, but still I could not resist tasting, reaching out for a peice, asking for it to be handed to me. But I wasn’t ready, I hadn’t even finished my first drink, my first taste of dating. My last sip was left waiting, I thought my glass might never become empty. The second course started with an apology, and forgiveness from me, accepting that sometimes things come out too spicy, the flavor too intense, with adverse side effects. I took it as practice, and opened my mouth for a next course, welcoming the bluntness of what I thought to be honest discourse. I thought I was expanding my taste buds, introducing them to new experiences, finally tasting the flavors of love. I thought this course could fill my stomach, could tame the pains of hunger. I thought I had even more to offer, which is why I allowed for a third course to continue. But this one proved to be too cold, too worn out and bored. It started with a cream base, stirred up by restlessness for the long wait, making it linger in the pit of my stomach for days. I thought it might change, that I could give it a chance to convey its subtle taste, that the flavors might surface if I was patient. But the flavor proved to be allusive, or abusive, leaving a taste in the back of my mouth that I am not used to. It tasted like questions and doubt, seasoned by time spent apart, it was undercooked or overdone, but either way it was too tough. It was a struggle to swallow, sticking in my throat for years, days, or hours, I was never really sure. I thought I could dissect it with my fork, pull it apart to see what it is made of, see where they went wrong. I tried to break it apart, to resist the urge to trust it further, to remind myself of other flavors. But I proved to be too hungry, too desperate for a plate to be in front of me, too malnourished to see what I was eating. I wanted to wipe my plate clean, taste every piece of this mysterious entree, to fill my stomach with something, anything, to finally feel full and sleep soundly. I tried to add my own seasoning, but nothing made it taste healthy, nothing I could add would change the dishonest ingredients. I was still hungry, I asked for this final course, I wanted to have one more taste, I craved the sweetness of having something with which I could relate, something familiar. But did not realize that I was allergic to the ingredients, that I would suffer from such a violent reaction, that my diet still needed to be restricted. The final course was different, and I can never forgive it. I am not used to holding grudges, but this cherry on top may deserve it, my bad review may be agreed with. This meal ended in vomiting, it feels like food poisoning, gut wrenching and debilitating, leaving me bedridden indefinitely. This might be the worst meal I have ever eaten, but I learned a valuable lesson in proper seasoning.
It finally happened. I let him back into my life, and allowed myself to try again. Hopefully this time it will be different, hopefully this time I will be able to speak my mind, hopefully this time I will be able to identify what is going on. He might be the one, or at least someone of significance, because I’ve missed him, and he claims to have missed me, and I can feel the genuine intention behind our embracing. It has been six months at least, and it feels as if everything has changed since the last time we banged, like we have become different people from the same reality, like we hit the restart on our past for a fresh beginning. But he proved to still know me, to still understand my idiosyncrasies, my anxiety, my struggle to speak openly. He still has pieces missing, but he is patient enough to continue asking about them, to continue allowing myself to open up to him. This time he noticed something different, and I could see a change in him, both of us working to continue progressing at our own pace. He supported my dancing, and the adoption of a dog who means the world to me. He applauded my employment and persistence in development, claiming to know that I would always be a success. He promised to come see me dance burlesque, and boldly stated that I have found my calling, that I am a sexy, brave, and thrive on empowerment. His support means the world to me, I crave his belief, since he is someone I have always admired, who I’ve always found to have the strength I was striving for, to have the answers to questions I hadn’t even considered before. He is so incredibly unique, and I am addicted to his attention, crave his admiration, and am obsessed with staying connected to him. I no longer question if he is bad for me, I know the answer to that self-deprecating musing, that he is only as bad as I allow him to be. I now see things differently, I am just as addicted to him as he might be to me.