In the darkness, with my eyes closed, I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. The house is quiet except for the random creak of our aging house, or the dog laying on the end of the bed having a dream. I am left alone with my various thoughts about life–the philosophical questions, the fears, and my hopes and dreams. It is the anxiety that threatens to steal my life if I let it.
I wonder if I’ll ever move past the feeling of loneliness. I ask myself a thousand questions about God, marriage, my family. It always ends with me wondering if I’m not crazy. Why do I have to feel everything? The darkness isn’t on the outside of me–but in. That’s the part that scares me the most. How do I battle this thing I cannot see?
Everything is in silence except for my thoughts, which are loud if only you could hear them. They would annoy the quietest of introverts if spoken. They would exhaust the strongest minds. But I think them, every night, and tire of them before long. My eyes grow heavy and I drift to sleep, trying to still work out life’s problems but unable to. I drift off into dreams of fighting, struggle, and just plain weirdness.
Morning comes and I am faced with more thoughts. Anxiety might seem at rest when I am, but it never is. It intends to wear out its’ victims slowly. As much as I try to fight against it, it is always there nagging at me to do more, be more, and reminding me I’m not enough. It draws attention to my fears and inadequacies, pulling me down before I even get out of bed.
Going through the motions of the morning, I push aside the dread and depression. I start the day with tasks I don’t particularly like: getting kids out of bed, starting laundry, rushing everyone off to their proper places. Then they leave and it is silent again. Anxiety is like that prideful extrovert that likes the sound of his own voice, except instead of talking about himself, he likes to terrorize everything about you. And he’s really good at it.
The day could be a warm, sunny day with the expectation of joy and happiness. But there it is–always. Waiting with nagging reminders.
The darkness does not get the final say. There are small victories for me. I take a paint brush in hand and I move it gently across paper with a watercolor mixture. It glides in any direction I choose, bringing color to a place there was none. You can observe the painting, but what you don’t see is the way it “brushes over” my anxiety. I move my brush up towards the top of the paper, breathing out whatever emotion that seems to be haunting me, and breathing in a sense of peace. No one is here to fight these battles for me. I must fight them myself. I wash off these battle wounds–swishing the brush back and forth in my water cup. Clear, pink, red. I add a new color; a new emotion. I’m pleased with any attempts I make. They remind me I’m here another day.
Some might see a painting on a wall, but I see survival. Between the layers of paint, water, and paper, the questions that swirl around my head have found their rest. If only for a moment, my feelings surrendered themselves to the beauty in this art form; I am not its’ prisoner, but it is mine. I will not be held victim in this moment.
Although these ruminating thoughts and feelings will have their day when they ravage me and seem to be my undoing, there will always be the fight you don’t see–the days where I pick up my brush or my pen and create. Anxiety never truly leaves me, but it doesn’t always win. Sometimes I make it bleed across a canvas and call it “art”. Written in the spaces is a secret code that only survivors know and it says: The darkness doesn’t own me. I fought today and won.
Can you see it too?