Can you Write Your way out of Anxiety?

On distracting the hands that could kill you and finding your way back to calm, one word after another

Does the act of writing document itself because so many of us are angsting it out of existence, torturing ourselves with the best way to birth words? Do we fear the disappearance of creative fertility should our fingers fall silent one moment too long?

The sound of the battered and tear-encrusted keys of my laptop soothes me, a symphony for the new dawn ahead, the one when I’m not dead anymore.

I’ve been not dead anymore for a while now, coming back to life in installments, under uncertain circumstances and undefined terms. It took two deaths plus one death threat to fully shock me alive — Anthony Bourdain died, my best friend died, my stepmom got stage 4 cancer — and shove depression onto the back burner where I hoped it would eventually consume itself.

Instead, it keeps tripping me up and spilling my joy onto the floor for no other reason than it is chronic and happiness isn’t something it knows how to deal with.

Going from darkness to light and back again like a psychic tournament ping pong ball tends to leave that weird woodpecker sound in your head. Only slower, and much more irregular. The constant change in luminosity is too fast for your eyes to adjust; you have to feel your way forward as you can’t see anything.

Blindness, you fear, may be permanent.

The squeaky whine of the fridge door brings me back to life, pulling me out of my arrhythmic reverie, a bagpipe-shaped heart with bombastic beats filled with food love procured.

The washer’s wet whirly gig is playing to an audience of none in the black and white tiled bathroom that looks like a checkers board. Anxiety pecks its way through the night while neighborhood cats have vocal intercourse in the shared enclosed yard at the back of my apartment building. I go stand by the open back door for a while as the night yowls; it sounds like a hungry baby with an impressive vocal range.

Today is already tomorrow, Monday was going to be mine after I lost it sometime last week because days disappear and weeks wander away. And then months melt and before you know it, you’re much older; you remember yesterday clearly but it happened five years ago.

Depression does that, anxiety is the toy surprise inside.

Today is whenever I utter its name, a modest utopia of untold stories unfolding one beat at a time. As soon as the heart whispers them, they’re secreted between mercy and grace for safekeeping.

Ispirit away anxiety with words, typing tiny textual snapshots of peace.

The plasticity of time espouses the shadows created by renegade thoughts as I take stock of the evidence around me. To travel back from darkness is an expedition that demands dedication and dexterity when it is your own hand threatening to kill you.

Fingers to the keyboard, eyes on the cursor, heart at the ready is how you save your life as long as you’re not after instant miracles. Some allege language is alchemy; to articulate that which defies definition is to transcend it a little. But all seeds take time to grow into trees woodpeckers can excavate at leisure, drumming their way to domesticity.

Language is the hollow I nested into so I could make my way to today, one word at a time; the laptop was the life raft I clang to when the tsunami hit. Although planned obsolescence renders today irrelevant the moment it arrives and drags it into the dark hole of oblivion, writing delivers you safely to the other side, albeit a little unsteady on your feet. It’s never smooth sailing and, in my case, yesterday tends to fall overboard almost every time.

As darkness dissipates and anxiety lessens, rain drops and church bells gently lull me to sleep and fade in the background again. If loving life is like loving a person, the heart already knows what to do.

Nevertheless, I write on, curious: What if our words inspired a new reality rather than the one that inspired them?

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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