An Old, Ugly Suitcase

suitcaseI’m fighting the anxiety this week. Fighting it like a nemesis that showed back up after years of peaceful living without the battle of its control. I felt it immediately upon opening my eyes and I knew it was war.

This anxiety has waged war on my thoughts, my relationships, and my appetite. It showed up and demanded control of me, despite my resistance. As I walk the trails of my park, my refuge, I realize that I need to seek help again. I need to get a grip on this inner turmoil and I can’t do it alone.

I think about that therapist I just heard about. I think about scheduling an appointment and then immediately travel down the road of reasons why I shouldn’t bother. I might not like her. She might not take my insurance. My insurance might drop me if I don’t get my shit together.

Then I question, what would I tell a friend in this situation? If I saw a friend struggling in the way that I have over the years, what would I suggest to them? I’d say schedule the damn appointment. If you don’t like her, schedule another. And another. Until you find someone that can help ease the turmoil you feel. No one is supposed to live in misery. We all deserve to be free and happy and it’s time to do something about what’s been holding you back.

I entered into a new relationship and I brought years of hurt and fear with me. It’s like an old, tattered suitcase, full of years of disappointment and insecurity. It’s bursting at the seams it seems, like that suitcase that’s just a little too full. Like that suitcase that you sit on top of, squishing its contents as tightly as you can, just hoping to get it mostly zipped. You zip it and pull it behind you, secretly trying not to think about its potential to literally bust open at any moment. Hoping, praying even, that it’ll just stay together. That you’ll make it through the busy airport without anyone seeing your dirty undergarments scattered about on the floor.

That’s the suitcase I’m bringing with me. It’s stuffed full of dirty little insecurities. Times I’ve been hurt or felt inferior. Times I’ve worried about being left behind and harsh memories of when I was. It’s full of images of the things I hate about myself, including my tendency to think this way. If you were to unzip that bag, its first layers are neatly folded. It’s sorted into neat stacks and crisply pressed. You can tell that hours were spent folding things just right and smoothing out the wrinkled edges. It’s underneath that top layer that you begin to see the case’s real contents.

It’s disheveled and confusing. It’s as if you stuck your hand inside and swirled it about violently, looking for something frantically. Not the top layer though. It’s much more put together. I don’t want to carry this suitcase anymore. I’d like to sit it on the trail I’ve hiked for miles and bid it farewell. My arms are tired of hauling it and it’s really not serving me very well. I’d like a new wardrobe that’s not stained with shame from the past. I’d like a new suitcase, one that’s empty and begging to be filled with new experiences. I’d like to open and close this new suitcase without fear of its contents bursting from any exposed nook or cranny.

Truth being told though, I don’t know how to sit this suitcase down. It’s chained to me in some way and I feel obligated to carry it the rest of the way. It feels reckless to sit it down and I’d feel empty and exposed. When I encounter a new trial or obstacle, how will I face it without the arsenal of experiences stored in that bag?

As I think about it, I leave literal suitcases and bags scattered on the floor, delaying the task of unpacking them and putting them away. I loathe the process of pulling out the contents, refolding, and putting things away nicely. I’d much rather trip over that bulky suitcase for weeks than sit down and handle it today. That’s what I’ve been doing. Avoiding the suitcase, knowing fully that I’ll just continue to trip over it until I sort through what’s left there. Both the literal and figurative suitcases are holding me back. I can’t travel to the next oasis without first unpacking from the last trip. I can’t experience the absolute joy that’s waiting in this new chapter, no matter how badly I want it, without setting down my old baggage first. There’s a train for me to catch, a journey waiting on me to fully embark upon it but I have to empty that suitcase first. Empty it, put the items away, and open that new bag, that’s ready to be filled for the next trip.

I wrote this several months ago during a time when my anxiety and fear were running wild. I wrote it, never really intending to share it with anyone and it’s kept coming to mind the last few days. As I read it again, the feelings that prompted those words felt so real and I realized that there are many of you who know them all to well. Your triggers might not be the same as mine, though if you struggle with anxiety, you know how it feels to be overcome for seemingly no reason. I felt pressured to share, these words I intended to keep private, because something told me that someone out there needs a little nudge to seek help, just as I still do. Someone needs to not feel alone and to feel encouraged to reach out. I scheduled that appointment and while it took me several more months to do so, I’m back to working on the things that keep me up at night. If you, too, feel overcome with emotion at times, find a professional to help you navigate that inner dialog. Seeking help does not make you weak. As a matter of fact, only the strongest people have the courage to face those darker corners.

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