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  • Writer's pictureAshlyn

mondays with phil.

Updated: Aug 6, 2018

Like Tuesdays with Morrie: Anxiety Edition.

"Cloud Column" - otherwise known as, the Houston Bean

A very sweet friend reminded me in the past week that, while I often allow y’all into the meanest and ugliest parts of my struggle with my anxiety—the shame, the fear, the brokenness—I forget to invite you to experience the daily vagaries of a life lived with mental illness. The devil is in the details, and I’ve been lax in the honest inclusion of mine. For that, I apologize. Because despite how it may seem, I actually do get dressed every day. In fact, that up there is a picture of me, in my real people clothes, not my hobo clothes. #Humblebrag. I pay my bills. I leave my house. I laugh with (or occasionally, at) my husband.

It is important to acknowledge that there are many different types of disfunction. I’ve survived with poor mental health for a long time. There were months of my life where I cried every. single. day. Often more than once. On weekends, I spent all my time in bed, too exhausted to move. I drank too much and slept too much and ate too much. And yet my makeup was always flawless. My weight barely wavered. I was an iceberg, with only the smallest parts of myself peeking above the frigid waters.

Strangely, my life has not unfolded even remotely how I had planned. Weird how that happens, isn’t it? Almost like life does not give two shits about my intentions. And yet I continue living. Even when I don’t want to. Even when it’s hard. My existence is tangential. I am tangential. And most of the time, I hate it. But not today. Because Mondays are for Phil. Well, every other Monday. Despite appearances, as a barely employed weirdo with two anxiety disorders who actually pays money to write on the Internet, I’m not a millionaire, and therapy is expensive AF, as the youths say.

I’d like to be honest. In fact, I believe that’s what I’ve promised you. There are many days where, frankly, I have no interest in attending my sessions. To so thoroughly explore such deeply hidden parts of myself is rough. It hurts. The monotony of life easily enables me to push away the uncomfortable realities of my contribution to my current circumstances. But believe it or not, I’m not entirely blameless. I know, right? Bumming hard, guys. Bumming hard. And during sessions, Phil won’t allow me to be. He provides a mirror that I so desperately need, even if I crave a shroud.

Y’all. It is AWESOME. Because you know what? A shroud means death. Death of accountability, death of gratitude, death of growth. And as previously established, I’m not ready to die. All my favorite things are right here on Earth. Ice cream. Doggos. Rollercoasters. Grilled cheese. Hamilton. Why would I want to substitute nightly cuddle puddles with my husband and pups for a formaldehyde cocktail and a satin pillow? I’ll pickle my liver with extra dirty vodka martinis like a normal, thankyouverymuch.

Truly though, in many ways, it feels almost like I’ve just begun living. Because you know what? It’s impossible to soar on the wings of joy without first diving to the depths of sorrow. It’s impossible to fully appreciate success without first knowing the weight of failure. Therapy has allowed me to be wholly myself, no masks, no shields, no judgment. I can talk piles of shit about my friends and my family and my husband and myself, and Phil can’t tattle on me. Legally. It is a newfound freedom that I am loathe to surrender.

I’d like to share what I learn with you, to talk openly about the added value of an unbiased ear. Per the inimitable Bard, misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows. To that, I say, “Hi, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Because before therapy, I was miserable. I felt listless and crazy and unmoored. But help is a scary word, and I felt weak asking for it. I’m (technically) an adult. I should know. Shouldn’t I?

But life is a liar, and I don’t. So Phil knows for me, even when he doesn’t. Like the looking glass he is, my fears are reflected back at me, aggressive for resolution. Today, we dug deep. No punches were pulled. Not even a one. I am afraid of myself, afraid that my limited emotional resources will someday run dry. Life’s ambiguity taunts me. In the fleeting moments I find my bearings, it immediately tilts my axis, a grating reminder that I will never truly have my bearings. Kate Spade committed suicide, and I could too. I don’t feel that way now and never have, but I understand how I one day *could.* Do you know how gut wrenchingly, pants shittingly bone chilling that is? Because Phil does. And simply the recognition of my fears reflected in another’s face is enough to fill my tank for two more weeks.

Immediately, after wiping tears away as they dripped off my chin, staining my charcoal gray tee, I went to Target for just one thing. But oddly enough, I didn’t realize that I also needed two accent rugs, a curtain panel, and some new shoes. Weird how that happens? Because life goes on, and it doesn’t stop merely because I’m not ready for it. There will always be another just one thing.

Still, I am anchored to him, every other Monday. In doing so, I become more anchored to myself. I can feel the tether pull tight inside my heart, preventing me from drifting too far off course. Because left to my own devices, I will. I have the tools for self actualization but lack the manual. Therapy is my manual. I am still in the glossary, just now defining the terms and counting the pieces of my life. Someday, I’ll be fully assembled, until the next time I fall apart.

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