How To Fight Anxiety

Have tea with a hardcore neurotic.


Photo courtesy of Shyamanta Baruah

Ever wring your mind over answerless questions until it’s dry and numb? Ever toss and turn until being asleep and being awake are equally excruciating? Ever feel trapped in your own body like a hostage, forced to binge watch your own hypothetical future like ten seasons of a terrible show, until you feel exhausted and physically sick?

Have tea with a hardcore neurotic.

I don’t believe these people are very hard to find. Ideally, yours is a brilliant, beloved friend. Someone you care deeply about, but who is always, despite everything they have going for them, in a state of crisis. A sinking boat even on solid land. A beached whale even in deep water.

I’m making tea, you text your cherished whale-boat. Come over!

When she arrives she’s cheerful at first, smiles and hugs and how-are-yous. But when she sits down to tea, her frustrations and fears sit with her. So you must send your own away. There’s only so much room at this little kitchen table.

As she begins to open up, you may want to shake her violently. You may want to shout into her face, “What is all this foolish nonsense? You’re young, you’re beautiful, you’re ALIVE for Pete’s sake!” You may want to slap her. Restrain yourself.

Breathe. Take up your tea. Ask questions calmly, between sips. She will talk and make distressed noises. You will nod and make sympathetic noises.

Something is happening. Maybe it’s a scientific rearrangement of molecules — or perhaps it’s more of a hippie thing, like where your “energies” change shape? Essentially: when she grows dark and heavy, you must become light by necessity. You have no choice. You become buoyant. You are floating. Worries have never seemed so far away.

Soon, you hear kind, reassuring words spoken with unwavering conviction. It’s your own voice you hear but it’s unfamiliar. Stronger, more confident. You never hear this voice in your own head.

You’re brilliant, it says.
You’ve got nothing to lose, it says.
You just haven’t found the right person yet, it says.
Your bangs are fine, it says!

Huh? Who knew you could be so positive? So level-headed? So wise? Is this really you, the biggest scaredy cat of them all, stating boldly,

To be willing to fail is necessary,
To face our fears is why we’re here,
To do anything but charge them head on is an atrocity!
Tally ho, motherfucker!

The words seem to come from somewhere between you, up here, and her, down there. She called for the rope and you lowered it, but where did you get the rope?

It doesn’t matter. You both hang on. She is safe now. And so are you.

Go a few generations back in Hallie Bateman’s family tree and there are just claw marks left by a family of bears. She sometimes drinks paint water by accident and once drew a series of portraits of her friends as potatoes, which can be seen on her blog. She is the art director of The Bygone Bureau and also tweets.