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I think I need to change the title of these articles.

“Dueling with Happiness?”

That would be a welcome change, but no. I feel too panicked all the time.

“Parlaying with Panic”?

No. Anxiety is the new depression, apparently.

“Squabbling with Anxiety”?

If only those squabbles were actually effective.

Didn’t you write that depression hasn’t been knocking you around as much lately?

I once felt like I was living my life beneath a vast ocean. Almost everything I experienced was muffled, distant, and cold. But somehow, I broke through the surface off all that immersive darkness. Now I can breathe a bit. The sun warms my clammy, pale skin.

But your mind didn’t become a calm, tranquil pool on which you float effortlessly into a bright horizon.

I’m kicking my feet just to stay above the whirlpool of racing, fear-inducing thoughts. I’m often panic-stricken with simple tasks. I’ve torpedoed freelance jobs because the idea of the work involved was just too overwhelming.

Now you feel bad about dodging work and clients.

And I need the money, too. But I’d rather sidestep the paralyzing panic—falling head-first into a deep canyon, cringing to hear my bones break and shatter on the jagged rocks rushing towards me.

Wait, you’re falling now? As you draft this article?

Along with the accompanying, derisive voices in my mind yelling that I’m a sh*t writer.

What? You’ve been writing these articles for years.

I know!

So, it doesn’t make any sense that you’re anxious about drafting an article about anxiety.

I know!!

It all seems so irrational and ironic and disheartening.

I f*cking know!!!

Sounds like your mind is being an asshole. Too late to exchange for a new brain?

If I had a content brain, these articles would be titled “Dueling with Happiness.”

“Hopping with Happiness.”

No.

And I thought you were getting better.

I was. I am. I have a cavalcade of cognitive tools that keep me (mostly) above the surface of that depression. I pay close attention to how I react to the monsters that claw their way into my thoughts. I work at not reacting when it feels like I’m sinking.

But all that is replaced by the sensation of falling?

And I’m weary of always falling. My muscles are strained. I’m tired all the time, no matter how much I sleep. It’s almost like in a video game where you find all these cool, new powerful guns with exploding rounds to blow up the flesh-eating zombies hiding in the dark corners of a derelict spaceship.

But the zombies get stronger as you upgrade your weapons and gear.

Exactly! They’ve learned some new tricks I wasn’t ready for.

Like what?

Unearthing mistakes I’ve made out of fear. Once-in-a-lifetime moments I should have seized. No amount of mental gymnastics will free me from this cyclical thought process that seems determined to make me feel guilty about every misfortune.

Sounds like your brain has been conditioned to think that way. Did you grow up in a Protestant church?

Guilty as charged!

And you feel obligated to be panicking or depressed about something. A corrupt, default way of thinking.

If only I could find the reset button.

Maybe there is one.

I know the sensation of falling, the increased heart rate, and the sweaty palms are all physical reactions to mental mirages screaming out of my skull. But, knowing anxiety is an illusion doesn’t prevent the panic my body endures, constantly distorting my thinking.

So, now what?

I have no clue. Maybe I should take up knitting. At least I’m not suicidal anymore.

There you go! Just look at the bright side of—

I just want to kill the part of my brain that manufactures all these awful sensations. A self-induced lobotomy with a hammer and a nail.

Then YOU wouldn’t be YOU anymore.

Well, now you see the conundrum.

“The Conundrum of Anxiety!”

No!

Maybe it’s okay to just be lost for a while. Maybe we all need time to find ways to sit inside quaking uncertainty without reacting to fear. Fear is the mind-killer!

Being hopelessly adrift at sea with no land in sight in a constant state of illusion-based terror is a good thing?

Someone will relate. It’s certainly forcing you to redefine who you are without having to swim beneath that frigid ocean of depression. If you can do that . . .

So it stands to reason I can redefine who I am without being defined by fear.

Give yourself permission to work that out—while feeling hopelessly adrift.

Once more unto the breach.

Dear friends.