For as long as I have memories, the pain of anxiety has been present. The first recollection I have was in third grade: I am in my childhood home trying to fall asleep in my daybed. It was a school night, so I would have had to wake up early the next day. I can still feel the breeze from my ceiling fan and the silky pink sheets I slept in. Before I could truly embrace comfort, I had to listen to the voice in my head telling me to complete the routine.
“What routine? Why am I doing this?”
All I knew was that I absolutely needed to complete the routine for me to get any sleep.
Step 1: Jump up and down 60 times.
Your ankles touched; you have to start over.
Step 2: Make sure both sides of the closet are closed. Touch them in the RIGHT spot.
You did it wrong, start over.
Step 3: Open the bedroom door all the way to the RIGHT spot.
Okay, good, that time was perfect.
Step 4: Push your homework chair into the desk.
“Please do this right, I’m tired, and I don’t want to start all over.”
Step 5: Fix the trashcan so that the butterfly is facing you correctly.
No! That’s not right, start over! That’s not RIGHT! That’s not RIGHT! That’s not RIGHT!
Step 6: Touch the RIGHT spot to make sure the window is closed.
“I’m never going to do it perfectly. I’m never going to sleep.”
If I made a mistake during any step, I would make myself start again from step one. I would spend close to an hour or two perfecting this every single night. I wouldn’t allow myself to sleep until it was perfect because it controlled me, the routine.
Eventually, I would put it to rest, but new anxieties surfaced in my head as time went by:
A drop of water touched your left hand, balance yourself, and put water on your right hand.
You can’t touch the bed or clean clothes without washing your hands first. Don’t be dirty. There are so many germs, everything around you must be cleaned.
Your relationship is failing, you have to fix it. We have to make it right.
You just have to be perfect for him.
You will fix everything yourself, even if he doesn’t want to.
“I can’t lose this relationship. I worked too hard to make it perfect…”
Without realizing it, I carried over this routine of pain into every aspect of my life. I had a dire need to control and make everything around me perfect.
I have now lost control.
But what did I really lose…
I lost the weight of this burden that has dragged me down for twenty years.
I lost you. I couldn’t control you, so I had to control something else in my life.
But I’m learning to let go, I’m slowly regaining back my freedom. I no longer have unnecessary routines or phobias crippling me. I no longer feel the agonizing pressure to be perfect for you, or for me.
I can finally rest.
Read Part II of my story here