My name is Anxiety, and I am thrilled to meet you. I’m sure we’re going to be quite close, you and I. Your deepest fears, your wildest dreams, your difficult feelings, and your most shameful secrets will soon be mine to know.
You’ve heard of me before, and we’ve met in passing a time or two. You know me as an acquaintance, but I know you much better than that. You think you understand me, and I don’t blame you for feeling confident in that. You’ll discover soon enough, however, that you don’t understand me at all, that you had no idea how I worked, that you couldn’t have imagined what I want most in the world. You don’t know who I truly am, and soon you’ll find out that not many others do, too.
My name is Anxiety, and I’m here to become quite close to you. I’m flattered when you think of me, but your mind isn’t all I’m after. I want to make your stomach churn, want to make your lungs feel like fire. I want to make your hands shake and your voice quiver. I want every part of you, so that you live not only in fear of the worst, but so agitated that you rage, so overwhelmed that you weep, so bound that you can’t sleep. My name is Anxiety, and I want all of you.
You think that you’re smarter than me, that you can stop me at will. You think I’m a choice, that I have an off button, that I’m a sign of weakness or a loss of faith. You don’t give me enough credit for how creative I am, the scenarios I can piece together. You forgot that I want all of you, down to the very chemicals in your brain. You think I’m worry, but really I’m dread.
My name is Anxiety, and I’m looking forward to our future together. Everyone wants to leave the past behind, and I agree. Let’s look forward, onward, towards all that could happen and every possible outcome. Let’s imagine everything in the future, the unknowns and the what-ifs. Let’s look ahead to what we can build together in your mind, what we can imagine for your future. I love planning, and I’m thrilled to be doing it with you.
My name is Anxiety, but you may not know me by that name. Sometimes you call me insomnia, sometimes you call me stomach ache. Your children think my name is rage, your spouse thinks I’m called irrational. You flatter me when you think I’m good planning, you make me laugh when you call me preparation. I do manage a passing resemblance to those, but in reality I’m so much more.
My name is Anxiety, but your name is irrelevant. No matter what you call yourself, I get to pick new names, names you’re afraid other people will call you. I call you ugly, broken, worthless. I call you weak, stupid, a fraud. My memory is excellent and I remember every name you’re afraid to be reminded of. I’ve kept account of all of your mistakes and shames, the public humiliations and the dark secrets no one has discovered. I’m keenly observant and notice every difference between yourself and others. I see the moms who are better, the women who are thinner, the house that is cleaner, the kids who are more well-behaved. I see these differences and point them out to you, giving you the chance to make sure no one else notices them.
My name is Anxiety, but I’ve been known to stretch the truth sometimes. Sometimes I introduce myself as insecurity, sometimes I go by perfection. My name isn’t the only thing I lie about, either, but you know that already. I love to play tricks and pranks on you, convince you that danger is lurking, death is imminent, failure is certain. It’s great fun to see what I can talk you into, what I can talk you out of. I’m sure it’s frustrating that you can’t always take me at my word, but hey, I’m Anxiety. That’s what I do.
My name is Anxiety, my game is imprisonment. I don’t play fair and I have no problem cheating. I’m strong, I’m smart, and I’m able to disguise myself. I am not your friend, I am not your wisdom, I am not your weakness, and I am not your fault.
My name is Anxiety, and for all my strengths and talents, I still have a secret that I’m hoping you never learn. You know my tricks, you know my mission, you know so much about me, but I hope that you never, ever find out that you’re better off without me.
An earlier version of this post first appeared on Her View From Home, a platform I’ve long been writing for.