There are so many people silently battling anxiety every day. You may never even know they are hurting because they are moving through it quietly. Mental illness is a long and arduous journey to well-being. It can feel extremely isolating and lonely when you are in the thick of it. That is why it is so important to talk about it.
Having struggled with anxiety for most of my adult life, I know that sometimes it can feel insurmountable. It can even get to the point where you are ashamed to talk about it or feel as though you are a burden. But I want you to know something. So many of us are hurting in our own way. The more we talk about it and face it together, the more we will realize that we were never alone. We are meant to lean on each other, and we don’t have to have it all together.
Healing takes on many forms, one of which is poetry. Alicia Cook is an incredible poet who writes about anxiety and mental health with such vulnerability and honesty. Her writing helps open up bigger conversations about mental illness and its impact on our lives. We aren’t nearly as alone as our thoughts would have us believe, and we can see common themes and struggles in her poetry.
Anxiety is a struggle that so many of us share, and I hope that we can also share in the relatability of Alicia’s words as she writes about hardships and the hope we find to keep moving forward.
“Most of what enters my mind
arrives uninvited. Chaos swarms
the perimeter of my calm.
(Inevitability has a noise. Only I
hear the hum.) It’s not creative
or clean. It’s MANIC and MESSY.
It’s not slow and controlled.
It’s SUDDEN and OUT OF MY
HANDS. Like waking up sick
because someone else left the
window open on the coldest
night of the year.”
“My voice is tired.
Vocal cords are strained
from screaming over
My heart is tired.
each tick takes effort,
forced and erratic,
much like my smile
My mind is tired.
Words arrive slowly,
steering through the fog
of my murky brain.
My eyes are tired.
Each blink is heavy,
dreaming to sleep
some time away.
I trust the process.
I let them all rest.
“They all can see
that I carry
what no one will address.
The guilt, the shame,
I’ve had enough.
I want to catch my breath.
here in this room
is sitting on my chest.
she’s crushing me to death.
Alicia Cook has so many incredible poems that address the internal dialogue with anxiety and the battle with guilt and shame. Thoughts often swirl out of control, flooding over us like a tidal wave, and it can be so hard to keep our head above water. Our mental exhaustion translates to physical exhaustion, and before we know it, we are fighting soul fatigue. It makes us feel guilty and ashamed, as though anxiety has become the defining factor of our lives.
But anxiety does not define any of us. It is something we struggle with but not something that we are. And although the road can get bumpy and healing is not always linear, it does get better. We can hold onto the glimmers of hope in each day, in each step, in each breath.
“…You cannot understand my scars by the nicks on
my knees and elbows. You cannot grasp my
metamorphosis by the skin I’ve shed or the
baby teeth I’ve lost. It cannot be determined
in anything I’ve misplaced or in what has
marred me. It can only be quantified in what
remains, in what withstood every storm, and
every disruption of my heart. You can see my
growth simply by the fact that I am still
standing here, believing that this world is still
an inherently good place to laugh, to hurt, to
love, to lose, to exist.”
I hope these poems on anxiety have reminded you of a few things: You are seen. You are understood. You are not alone. Give yourself time and grace. It’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to catch your breath. Just keep moving. You will be okay.