Bookends

Anxiety book ended my day. I woke up mid-morning, sleeping late like I usually do after an evening shift. I felt off. I’d forgotten to turn off the battery-operated tea light candle on my bedside table. I could see it flickering still. My sister bought me a set of two votive holders from Crate & Barrel a few years ago. Dark brown metal on the outside, coppery orange inside. Punched out holes in the shapes of leaves let the light flutter through.

Was I uneasy from my dreams? From what? Or from nothing. Unease easing in at will, because it can. Insidious anxiety, a ghostly fog seeping under the door, tendrils curling up my bedposts, into my brain, my lungs.

When I wake up with the unease, anxiety has come to call.

When I wake up with the sadness, or worse–the void–depression has stolen something away from the day.

When the anxiety ratchets up too much though, I can finally rise from my bed. I go upstairs. I pour the coffee. I add the almond milk creamer I bought this week. I trick myself into thinking that this is a normal day. I go on a walk in the sunshine. It feels good to be moving. A low whisper asks why I’m not running instead, hmm? I ignore it best I can. I breathe and tell myself I’m doing the best I can. I try to believe it.

I take a shower and wash my hair. I use product and blow dry it, fingers crossed that it will turn out full and wavy rather than frizzy. I put on makeup and clothes. I have a meeting at work. I would complain that I hate to go in on my one day off this week, but I’m glad for a reason to get ready and face the day, face other people.

I smile at my coworkers. We joke around. We eat leftover candy. I come home. I put laundry in the washing machine: cold, normal cycle, medium spin. I order Thai food for dinner: pad see ew and pot stickers, a special treat. I really just don’t feel like cooking. Or eating. I set up my take-out on a plastic tray, with a bottle of Diet Coke from the fridge. I take a picture and send it to a few friends from the city: See? We have Thai take-out here in Nebraska too! Come visit!

I remember all the nights ordering in, watching The Bachelor or Survivor or bad Netflix movies with my roommates on our Ikea couch. I move my laundry to the dryer, taking out delicates and synthetics to air dry on the rack. I answer my phone and talk to a friend for a bit, help her decide what books to suggest to her book club. We set up a sleepover for next weekend. It boosts my mood. I don’t talk about me, because I forget I have anything to talk about. I forget about the uneasiness, the off-ness.

I turn off the lights and go downstairs. I fold my laundry, put on pajamas. I open my laptop, finish an episode of a sitcom. I think, I should go on the job site, see if there’s anything new in the area. I think, I should look into grad school. So I do. These rabbit holes masquerading as productive planning sessions are a murky spiral that end with my crying in bed in the dark. Tight heart, tight lungs. I whimper, I need help. It is a prayer. It is pathetic, I think. Maybe God specialized in pathetic prayers, though. I tap out in my phone the thoughts whipping through my head. They read like read like lies but they feel true.

I tell myself I’ll feel better tomorrow. I amend that. You’ll wake up tired but better. You are not alone, despite what you feel. Crying helps. Music helps. Writing helps. You know what helps you. It’s not a cure, but it is a way to cope.

You will be tired tomorrow, no doubt. But you will be alive.

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