I am cleaning out my room and I come across a box. There is a thin layer of dust veiling the contents from me. I blow, scattering it everywhere, and open the lid. Inside is a batman mask, a journal, a painting and an assortment of other seemingly meaningless objects. Junk, as my mother would say. I root through it, carefully pulling out every item and examining it, running my fingers over them, and smiling. The batman mask I had gotten in a happy meal on my first date with a girl, when I was fifteen, nearly three years ago now. I remembered being so nervous and jittering, shaking from head to toe, agreeing to go to McDonald’s although the food made me nauseous. The journal was from when I was ten, writing about all the drama a ten-year-old had to endure. The painting was of a boy I had gone on another date with, oblivious to the fact that perhaps painting him was coming on a little too strong. Finished on my trip through memory lane, I closed the box again and placed it back in the wardrobe.
There were around twenty boxes of this sort.
Anxiety can make you shake. It can also make you hyperventilate. But one strange, yet understandable, symptom I seem to have is nostalgia. I yearn for the times gone past. I incessantly keep everything; from flyers, to birthday cards, to notes, to clothes. Cleaning out my room used to be excruciating. It was like tearing a hole in myself when I threw something out that my anxiety deemed valuable. One of my greatest fears is going senile or developing Alzheimer’s when I am older. I am terrified of forgetting. Names, places and memories. To combat this fear, I hoard. Even clothes that do not fit me anymore that I have fond memories of wearing go in the memory pile (yes, I have a memory pile, and it is ever growing). This may not be as bizarre as you think, however.
Anxiety makes you focus on the past and future, instead of living in the present. It makes you mull over every mistake you have ever made and plan ahead, so you don not make them again. I have another fear that I will never get better. That the best times of my life have already past and it is all down-hill from here. Pessimistic, I know. Realistic? No. But they are the lies anxiety whispers in my ear in the dead of night. To relive the good times, I keep things to remind me of the good times.
It is only in recent years, with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication, that I have been able to let go. I have moved on from my past, from most traumas and, even, from the good times. Now, I seek to make better times. I am still anxious about g=forgetting, however, but I combat that by religiously printing out forty photographs every month and scrapbooking them. This satiates me enough to clean out my room, throw out the junk and begin anew. And that is exactly what my anxiety needs. Open spaces, fresh air and new beginnings. I refuse to live in the past, metaphorically or physically. That box is now gone, but the memories remain, for as long as hold onto them.