I was watching the latest episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD tonight. It’s a particularly intense episode, a “base under siege” episode, like a lot of classic Doctor Who stories, like the amazing film by Howard Hawks, The Thing from Another World, and the also amazing remake by John Carpenter, The Thing. A place that’s supposed to be safe is suddenly closed off from the rest of the world. Monsters are all around you, lurking in the shadows, just on the other side of a closed door. You don’t know who you can trust. You’re not even sure if you can trust yourself. You’re wired on adrenaline and exhausted from running and fighting. You’re battered and bloody, inside and out. You want to run and you want to fight, but you can’t tell which is the right thing to do, so instead you want to curl up in a ball and do nothing.
That’s what anxiety feels like to me. Places I consider safe and fun suddenly feel threatening or vulnerable. People I consider friends seem distant, dismissive, unconcerned with how I am. I’m on edge, but I’m also tired, drained. I want to run and hide, but I also want to lash out, yell, break things. Mostly I want to collapse, curl up into a tight ball, and cry until whatever’s happening has stopped.
Anyway, this Agents of SHIELD episode. The scientist Jemma Simmons, bloody, bruised, heartbroken, afraid, begins to break down. Tears stream down her face as she says over and over that she can’t go on. And the one person she knows she can trust tells her, “It’s okay. I’ll do all the fighting. I won’t let them get you. We can do this.” Then the two of them get up, throw a loose plan together, and get on with the battle.
And it hit me: the next time I feel overwhelmed by everything around me, the next time I feel hurt and scared to the point of paralysis, the next time I feel like I can’t go on, I need to remind myself that I have friends who love me and will protect me, doing the fighting for me. I need to remember that even if I feel like it’s too much and I can’t go on, I can. And when I get through the anxiety–because even though it feels like the anxiety will never stop when I’m in the middle of an anxiety attack, the anxiety always goes away sooner or later–when I get through it and I need to rest, I can let myself rest. Because I damn well deserve a rest after that.