*The following amazing piece is a guest post written by my dear friend Stephanie from Twitter*
Congratulations! Your diagnosis is general anxiety disorder. You now see a therapist named Sherry every week. Sherry sends you to a doctor who gives you pills to help you stop hyperventilating in the shower before work. Keep your weekly appointments unless you want to pay a twenty-five dollar cancellation fee for being too worried to leave your house. Keep taking your medication unless you want to know what the end of the world feels like.
Enter her office and sit on the couch. Suppress the urge to lay down like they do in the movies. It’s not one of those couches. Every corner of the room has a plant and every table a tissue box. Sherry asks if you have irrational thoughts. You do. Tell her formal gatherings make your armpits itchy because you look weird and say inappropriate things when you get nervous and you’re always nervous when there are people. She’ll say there’s a pill for that. After an hour, she will look at her watch and smile until you are finished crying.
You spend weeks wearing a ruddy orange sweater with balled-up tissues in the pockets and smears of dried snot on the cuffs. Poke your fingers through the weave when people ask you questions you are afraid to answer. Wear it in bed and sleep with it under the pillows because it smells like things will soon be all right. Do not leave your house in this sweater. Do not leave your house.
Sherry asks you to write a list of things that make you afraid. She calls it homework. When she says that, open your mouth and make a laughing sound so it appears you are feeling. In three days, you will have compiled a shameful list. Cross off most of the items and edit it down to a few safe: Driving at night, throwing up, other people throwing up, thinking about getting on an airplane, being in an airplane, campfires, fire alarms, people sitting on the edge of anything, vacuuming. When you give her the list she will fold it and put it in a folder without reading it. You are disappointed and relieved.
Count backward from ten and repeat after me: Don’t be weird. Repeat over and over before going anywhere in public. It won’t help. From now on, talk yourself into going to terrifying places like concerts and the grocery store because Sherry says it’s good for you. Count backward from five slowly and tell yourself that antibacterial wipes remove 99% of germs. Whatever you do, don’t use fifty wipes cleaning the shopping cart. It’s best to stop just short of wiping the wheels. You spend a lot of time counting backward now. It won’t help. There’s a pill for that.
While driving, you remember not every trash bag lying next to the highway is a chopped up dead person. Occasionally it’s just trash. Avoid further thoughts about dead things, death, dying, illness, life, or living. If you’re existentially preoccupied, Congratulations! You also have a depressive disorder. It makes you so small your whole self fits on the head of a pin. Don’t worry, keep going to therapy, exercise, vacuum less, continue counting, and talk to people. And if all that fails? There is a pill for that.
Here lies Stephanie. Florida born in the 70’s. Mediocre mother of three, aspiring juggler, and occasional closet crier. Loved dogs too much. Hated mayonnaise. In lieu of flowers, leave books