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Life is all madness and unknowing and wishing there were some way to leave my body. I dislike how I inhabit my body so much, dislike how itchy my body is. How loud my brain sounds. The only way I know to temper the madness of an itchy body and a loud mind is to scream, or run, hard, until my brain feels numb and my body feels calm and I can breathe again. My therapist says this is something like anxiety, or maybe, just anxiety. And she tells me I’ve created a body that needs to move to feel calm and a mind that won’t ever feel calm unless or until my body is tired. It is exhausting to live in this brain. To feel like I must always be doing, creating, moving. To always be agile and tactile and loving and raging and hurting and laughing and cracking apart at each joint until I am nothing but a soft pile of hard bones, with a brain perched on top that is buzzing like a hive of yellow jackets coming for me, I am coming for myself.
This is what it is like to live with anxiety. To live with ADD. To live with an eating disorder. To live with so many labels, sticky notes super-imposed onto my forehead, my forearms, my belly, so the world knows exactly what it’s dealing with when it meets me each morning. So much of life depends on myself, and that is a terrifying realization; a terrifying thing to wake up to each morning. That is why life is either a wild and wonderful adventure, or nothing.
I’m not sure therapy helps, but it surely doesn’t hurt, which is something I tell anyone who admits to considering therapy. Find a good therapist, I say. One who will listen but also speak, one who will let you dip your toe into self-pity but not jump in fully. One who will lead you gently away from the edge of your cliff and sit with you. Maybe talk, maybe not. Not all therapists are good, just like not all cops are good and not all dentists are good and not all soldiers are good. Striving toward “goodness” is a losing game anyway, because who decides what’s good? If there were some concrete, tangible, widely accepted goodness we could all cling to and agree upon then maybe there would be a better way to measure “good.”
My therapist is “good” because she is not an asshole, and she does not allow me to be an asshole, either. She also doesn’t care that I sometimes say “fuck” or blame other people for my own shortcomings or show up late to our sessions out of avoidance or fear or both. She doesn’t judge me for crying, but she also doesn’t show empathy, which is a difficult balance to strike. She has likely seen so many tears that they don’t tug at her heartstrings, which also makes her good.
Living with a loud brain and an itchy body is especially exhausting when other humans seem to live with quiet brains and smooth bodies, when so many people around me seem calm as seals basking in sun. “But Sarah,” says my loud brain “comparison is the thief of joy,” a fact I know to be true, but that doesn’t make comparison any less appealing. What nobody ever says about comparison is that sometimes it feels good, whether or not that’s “healthy” is just as debatable as whether or not it is “good,” but sometimes I feel better when I compare myself to others. I feel like I have at least half of my shit figured out. Half of my “ducks in a row,” never mind what happened to the rest of the ducks.
There’s always a runt in every litter, and from what I can gather, being the runt seems like a pretty sweet gig since we all love an underdog. If I were a puppy runt I would bet all my money (which is, assuredly, not much) that some kind lady would adopt me and bring me to her suburban home fully of her husband’s socks and kid’s artwork and worn couch cushions and bright green lawn. A puppy runt is the best kind of runt, probably. This is something I tell my therapist one day, to which she responds, “Sarah, do you ever feel like a runt?” by that time, the word “runt” had been used so often in our conversation that it did that thing words do and stopped meaning anything. “I don’t think so,” I said. “I’m too big to be a runt. And I’m relatively healthy, despite my loud brain and itchy body.” “Maybe you’re an underdog, then?” she says, “or maybe you like the idea of you being an underdog.” I hated her for saying that. If I were a a boat I'd be one of those tiny dinghy boats with just enough room for myself and my cat. I can’t rely on people, or at least, I can’t rely on many of them, which doesn’t make me an underdog, but does put a nice chip on my shoulder. I’ll prove them all wrong, everyone who has hurt me. And maybe, I’ll prove myself wrong, too. If I did fashion myself an underdog, I’d have to be part of a litter, and if the humans of the world are one big litter, I definitely did not draw a short straw. I have people who love me (and, necessarily, people who hate me). I have a healthy body and a somewhat healthy brain, and the resources to make them both healthier, if I wish. I have a job and a cat and modest furniture that does not match. I have too many shoes and not enough time to wear them or places to wear them to. I have a loud brain that I know how to make less loud and an itchy body that at the very least, let’s me know that it exists. I exist, and that’s really the healthiest, goodest thing there is. My therapist says goodest isn’t a word, but I like how awful it feels to my ears, so I say it again. “I’m the goodest I can be today,” and that’s really all that matters.