A Self Portrait on Anxiety
By Manasvita Maddi
The world around me is haywire.
There is hate, economic decline, global warming, discord and most importantly, a yearning to get out the mess we created. I tried asking myself, “can I trust myself to create a world that exists within me to empower and safeguard myself? Can I build a home to come back to?”
Growing up, I found myself unequipped to deal with the environment around me. I slowly lost the ability to be confident in what I do and the worth of what I stand for. While I did gradually pick up my pieces and build a person again, my anxiety and overthinking are what seems to break it all apart again. But the time has come to cross this hurdle because I can no longer allow it to bring me down. I tried exploring and expressing my anxiety through self portraits, to finally give it physicality and make it something I can shatter loudly and for the final time.
A Battle of Emotions
All it takes is a split second to somehow take me from having the time of my life to a cold, numb place.
It leaves me quiet and needing to look for space to escape and cry. It leaves me without an answer when the people around me ask, "Are you okay? What happened? Tell us!" How do I explain something that I don't quite understand myself? Why do I suddenly feel like I do? Moments like this help me understand the power anxiety has over my life. The amount of moments and opportunities I missed because I let my anxiety overwhelm me are constant reminders of why I continue to fight. Can I always control this? No. And I shouldn't. What I can do is be there for myself and shower myself with love and forgiveness and give myself space to gain back the real me.
For everyone shedding tears silently with the world unaware, looking for comfort and solace but with no clue how to find it, I am sorry. I know how hard and shattering it is to clutch your blanket and pillow to find comfort and strength to stop those tears from flowing out of your eyes, to hold yourself and crouch into a ball to find warmth and strength to search for the last strand of composure left within. But from those sleepless nights, I learnt how to self soothe. I learnt that in the darkest times, I will have myself, however I am. Can I always comfort myself? I have to. I will learn to. Because no one can support me as much as I can.
The ping of a new email. The impending doom of the upcoming midterm. The never-ending list of assignments. Realizing the incompetence of self. The hateful words that follow. The big picture fading out of sight. The small faults taking center-stage. The mind tricked into fear and losing perception of reality. Then, procrastinating to escape.
As this unstable mountain builds in mind, I fear the inevitable day it all comes tumbling down. If I could point to the reason why this is the way my mind works, it would be overthinking. It is a strange ability that over-thinkers have to blow things out of proportion. Suddenly walking to the kitchen to grab an apple becomes about how worthy I am to stay in this household and eat the food that my parents bought. Can I stop this? Yes, because I do this to myself. The control lies within.
If I could sum up my vision of overthinking and anxiety, it would be this picture. To constantly dream of reaching pedestals that seem too big and far from what you are capable of. To feel so tiny and overwhelmed with tasks that are normal in reality, but gigantic in my mind. To run toward something that you tell yourself isn't possible. To always put your ambitions and goals foremost rather than your self love and mental health in your priority list. To put things that make you happy in the back seat, to live a life that you are "supposed to".
Can I reach this pedestal? I hope I do.
One of the habits I developed during my gap year is sitting on my terrace as the world around me goes to sleep. The stillness somehow gives me the ability to understand the boundaries of my world and the influence of the external. Sitting that far away from the outside world, looking at tiny cars and people passing by reinforced the control I have on my life which seemed to be fleeting during the day. The big sky, as cheesy as it sounds, showed that my actions and my being are so, so small compared to the world. In that indifference, or un-importance, I found comfort to share my biggest worries and ravaging battles of thought to the still, peaceful world. Can I ever stop it wandering to dark places? No. But I hope to gain the strength to bring myself back to a stronger place.
I wanted to show how trapped I felt with feelings of anxiety in this picture. Light isn't physical like an iron cage, and neither are my emotions. But the imprint it has on me, like the shadows from my window in the picture, seems as physically limiting as a cage would be. I sometimes completely lose the ability to see the bigger picture and understand that it is okay for me to be loving and forgiving to my shortcomings. Anxiety has led me to build a world that traps me to think that all I have are problems and hate toward myself. Can I shatter it completely? No. But I hope I am getting there.