Gathering Fragments: My Struggles with Anxiety

It’s never pretty
you know,
when it hits you
full force, no mercy,
wringing you dry,
even as you’re drowning;
as if someone has pried open
the rusted floodgates
and everything you’ve held back,
just rushes forth, unabated.

When something inside you
from the pit of your stomach
expands and swells,
becomes hard to bear;
this giant balloon
full to the brim
with toxic air
that just swells,
and swells,
and swells
against your chest;
you can’t catch a breath
and it swells,
and swells,
growing into this black abyss,
like a bottomless
pit of hopelessness.

When invisible hands build
walls, brick by brick
against your will.
Inhale, but the lungs don’t listen,
try to focus, to think,
but the mind’s off the bend,
sending rapid, confused signals
fight or flight,
break down or clam up and hide,
but you can’t keep up,
just can’t seem to comprehend.

It feels strangely familiar,
I know I’ve been here before,
have sensed it and felt it
in every pore;
it’s crept up on me
with sledgehammer subtlety;
this gloom, that crawls
over my skin,
blurring my vision;

I can’t see any light
at the end of this tunnel,
there just seems to be
no redemption.
When all I remember and see
are the mistakes I’ve made
everything that ever failed
and all the things I couldn’t be.

It’s these moments
that tell me things
about myself I never knew,
that teach me things
no one else ever could;

That I’m allowed to stumble,
to fall and learn to get back
firm on my feet,
to try gather
and slowly piece together
the shattered fragments,
of my self-esteem.

They remind me
that I’m allowed to ache and hurt
and to simply feel;
that I’m allowed to dial back
and lay low,
that I must make peace
with the ebb and flow;
that I need this time
to curl up, reflect and heal.

It might take a while,
there are things I need
to reconcile;

But for now what I need
is to be alone,
I have to start slow,
deflate, exhale, let go,
and breathe.

Amaal Akhtar is an MPhil Modern History research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, as well as an occasional poetry scribbler who can be found on Instagram as @amster91mullins and under the hashtag #akhtarisms