By Rehan Ansari

It’s back. Around my heart. That small, clawing demon. All gray and smoky with little glinting dagger teeth. The anxiety that has been my companion since ever I can remember.

This demon panic can rule my life. It has kept me terrified of people, of jobs, of driving, of change, of grocery stores, of broken plans, of myself. It greets me as soon as I wake up, ready to face the day, full of terror. “What will you do wrong today?” it hisses. My neck goes cold. Good morning.

I have been medicated for this before. I was thrilled. A pill! A tiny pill and I will be normal! That’s all! For two weeks I felt fuzzy. And nice. For two weeks I felt kind of high. But then the sleepless nights began. And the gritty mornings. And my demon won against the pill. So I gave up on that.

It took me three decades of life to realize something very simple. Very simple and also completely impossible: the demon loves me. It is trying to protect me. It tries to provide me with reasons to find comfort and it will do anything to keep me from being hurt. It won’t let anything come between us. Forever a part of me, to remove it would be to end a piece of myself.

This anxiety, this fear, this looming monster, I had to make friends with this thing. I mean, can you even imagine? But there it was. Accept the things I cannot change.

There. It. Was.

I ask it now “what are you telling me?” I ask it what I need. I allow the pain to surface. I allow the fear to float on up. Which feels temporarily awful, by the way. But it’s all looking for resolution. It’s looking for what we all search for: love.

I am not anxiety-free. My little demon is still with me. It can start scratching at me for anything. My deepest fears being triggered, maybe just because I’m driving somewhere I’ve never driven before.

This demon, though, is perhaps not the evil force of pain I have so long believed it to be. Perhaps, there is a chance, it could be a force of light and power. A feeling of painful fear, which I can use as fuel to propel me into life. Perhaps that is the most absolute definition of courage.

And, possibly, it’s not a demon at all. But my own personal guard dog growling in protection.

And all this time I’ve just been afraid of the noise.

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