Is it me or is it anxiety? I can’t tell. I’d like to say I knew the difference, but that wouldn’t be true. Anxiety has a way of holding my mind in a trap. It can’t get out or even move. It wonders and obsesses over one thought over and over again, a feedback loop, needing an escape. It wants to breathe, to move on, get out of that trapped place, but it can’t. Anxiety won’t set my mind free. Instead, it lingers over the cage, dangling the key, taunting my mind. It wants me to know that it won’t relent or give me a chance to catch my breath. It won’t excuse me so I can use the restroom. I just want to sit in the stall, hiding. Not even using the bathroom. It’s so quiet in there, but I don’t get that break. I’m listening to the same words of the same line of the same thought repeating over and over again, haunting me.

Is this what I feel or is it anxiety? It’s anxiety, but anxiety has convinced me that it’s how I feel. But how I feel is afraid, frozen, waiting to find the answers to questions that don’t show themselves. It’s not secure in here. There are guards outside the cage, waiting to see if I have a different thought. Is it a chemical imbalance in the brain or should I work it out in therapy? I can’t tell. Maybe I don’t need to know, but I want to so badly. I want to shake answers out of people who can’t give them to me. But I’m stuck in this anxiety cage, watching the key move higher and higher out of reach.

I wonder if I’ll ever break free. I think about what it must be like to be out of the confines of anxiety’s grasp. I’ve never known anything else. I’ve worried for my entire life. The first memory I have is one that is free of worry. I was probably around two, and I remember going down a red slide in nursery school. I felt free. I wasn’t concerned about what was going to happen after that. I was entirely in that moment, enjoying the action of propelling myself down the slide. It was the opposite of anxiety, there was peace.

Nobody can tell me what to feel when I am outside of the anxiety cage. It’s just that to get there, I have to work the strength up to break free. I am strong, and I can kick the cage door down if I put my mind to it. However, it requires every bit of focus I have to let go of the repetitive thought. It takes all of my mental energy to push through, break free of the cage and remember who I am and where I want to go. It doesn’t matter who is coming with me on this journey. As long as I remember that I am strong, I am brave even if I am afraid. I will be okay. Anxiety doesn’t have the hold over me that it thinks it does. Once I break out of the cage, I’ll jump up and grab the key from anxiety’s clutches. I’ll stay out of the cage as long as I have the energy to fight anxiety. Each time, I get a little stronger, but it still knocks me down. I won’t forget how to fight.