the first time you feel it is a wave after you bomb a test.
at least, that's how it started.
and it feels like you're dying.
you always knew there was nervousness, but you've never felt t h i s .
the second time you feel it is in the school auditorium
when the world is too loud and there's too much noise, and you don't know what to do but cover your ears and just hope that it all goes away. the choruses of "are you okay?" only make it worse.
you don't want to be a burden
but that's all it feels like you are.
and what you quickly learn about anxiety is that it takes
and takes, and takes. suddenly, you haven't gone outside in three days because the world is too much and the girl you've passed in your car maybe twice is DEFINITELY judging you.
and it's a lot harder to get it back than it is to lose it.
every word, every sentence, every breath you hear is saying in words that aren't really spoken, "you messed up. this is your fault."
what is said
and what is heard
"i'll talk to you tomorrow!"
"i hate you, and i'm making excuses to stop talking to you today because that's just how much you annoy and disgust me."
"i'm sorry—i've had a rough day."
"maybe if you hadn't done that one thing five years ago, my day wouldn't be so awful. this is your fault."
"are you okay?"
"you look like an idiot and i can tell you're having issues. i'm only asking out of societal obligation, and i feel no actual urge to help you, because you're disgusting."
eventually, it's time to stop listening
because what you're hearing isn't what's being said, even though it really does feel like it.
and suddenly, just once, for just a little while,
there is a break in the clouds of your mind
and someone says something small
"i really like your smile!" or maybe even just "you're really funny!"
and it's the first time you've smiled in days
and it feels amazing.
and suddenly you WERE falling but now you've hit ground
and there are steps beside you—there's a lot of them, and they aren't perfect, and they wind and twist and there are a few steps missing,
but they are your way back to the top.
so you take you first step.
and at the top, the clouds of your mind are gone
and suddenly, you can see the stars. you haven't seen the stars in years.
the stars are every compliment, every encouraging word everyone has ever said—they were clouded over, and you could not see them, but now they are back, and you are safe. nothing will hurt you.
you are safe.