self preservation from anxietySome days, living with anxiety and depression consumes all of our energy. To the outside world, we might appear lazy on these days. But in many cases, we’re waging a battle with ourselves to find some peace. Facing the world can be a daunting experience when we’re suffering. This story is about what one of those days feels like.


Laying on the couch, my bed, the time had come to make the day’s decision: get up and face the world or stay put and stay safe. Really, there was no decision to be made. I knew what I was going to do. I couldn’t do anything else, not today. Didn’t feel strong enough. Maybe I’d have better luck tomorrow.


Next to the couch an old cedar chest held one version of the world I didn’t want to face. A yellow legal pad. Black ink listed out what I wasn’t going to do today, “Pay bills; Grocery store; Dishes; Oil Change; Cut grass; Call doctor; Laundry.” A pen rested on the pad, ready to add another worry when it sprang to mind.


Curtains ran in front of the windows behind the couch, blocking out the other side of my world. Most days they stayed closed all day. I didn’t want to know what was going on out there. I certainly didn’t want anyone looking in, seeing me there, unshaven, unshowered and wrinkled, not worthy of a public appearance.  Didn’t want to see the neighbors, didn’t want to see a strange salesperson, didn’t want to see the kids coming home from school. I didn’t feel prepared for any of them. It was just best if I hid.


My iPod and headphones also waited for me on the chest. For when the kids did come home. Or my wife. Or if the phone started to ring. Or if the walls started closing in. Or if the ceiling would fall. This was my cocoon, this was where I felt safe.


Discomfort was the plague. Procrastination was my preservation. I liked to live as though I had a paper bag over my head. Vaguely aware of outside sensations, but secure enough to let me feel the warmth of my own breath in the stale air. If I didn’t think about it, it wasn’t there. Alive in my own suffocating bubble.


I self-medicated with the news. Caffeine. Junk food. My music. My pillow. My blanket. The cat understood. The cat didn’t judge.


Some days, rare days, an urge would hit me. A glimmer of confidence. An edge of daring. A glimpse of light. Today, I would declare, I would be productive. I would open the curtains. I would look at the list. I would go to the grocery store. I would even consider taking a shower.


I’d stay in bed for a while these days, psyching myself up for conquering what was ahead. I would have to mentally steel myself to take on the outside world. As I did this, I could feel the excitement building in the pit of my stomach. Kind of like butterflies before a performance, but more intense. My legs would shake, feet tapped the floor, the nervous energy spreading through my extremities. I’d wring my hands, twist my fingers to crack my knuckles, chew my fingernails.


I’d rehearse what I wanted to do in my head. A visualization of scoring the winning touchdown for my favorite team, so to speak. Over and over, I’d repeat it to myself, successfully scratching off my list in my mind. I’d practice for potential downfalls. What would I do if I ran into someone I knew at the grocery store? How would I handle it if the checkbook didn’t balance when I wanted to pay bills? What if the kids were cranky when they came home from school? Was I braced for their reactions? Was I strong enough to say no?


Could I call the doctor to make an appointment? Could I say out loud that I wasn’t doing well? That I might need more medication? Or therapy more often? What if they told me I would have to wait for a month? The nervous sensation was now throbbing throughout my body. I could feel it pulsing through me, pressure slowly but steadily building. I was twitching now.


What if they asked me questions about my condition? What if they wanted to see me today? Could I get myself ready to go see a doctor today? What if they told me there was nothing wrong at all? What if they told me to suck it up and get on with my life? What would my wife think? What about my parents? How was I going to ever get a job if I was like this?


I put my head between my knees, rubbing my fingers through my hair while I rocked back and forth. But there was too much energy flowing through me, too much anxiety, too many fears. Too many things that could go wrong today. Too much to put at risk. Too much to be able to count on myself. I started sobbing and went into a panic attack.


Later, after popping a couple of pills and crying it out, I started to feel the meds pulling me back down to earth. Exhausted. But I wanted to make sure I got my mind pointed the right direction.


“No matter what happens, if I do nothing, I am still ok, I am enough.”

“No matter what happens, if I do nothing, I am still ok, I am enough.”

“No matter what happens, if I do nothing, I am still ok, I am enough.”

“I’m ok. I’m enough.”

“I’m ok. I’m enough.”

“Ok. Enough.”

“Ok. Enough.”



I drifted off to a black sleep.

Waking awhile later in a medicated haze, I pulled my blanket up tight around myself and rolled back over into my pillow. Maybe tomorrow I would be brave.

Jason Large,

Daily Zen.

Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He can be contacted at:

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