The Anxiety Puzzle

The Anxiety Puzzle

Research suggests that mental illness is on the rise. Our lives are bound tightly in the clutches of stress and recognition of having the most well presented life. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, we must have each round corner smoothly fitted into the next. There must be no pieces missing, no frayed edges. And if there is, we have to gloss over it and make whatever we have left create the final picture. It has to make sense to whoever is looking at it, it has to reflect the picture on the box. Because the box is never going to change. Even if the pieces inside do.


I don’t think I’ve ever achieved the picture on the box. I think it stares at me and mocks me no matter how I try to ascertain it. I’ve seen people who open theirs, their pieces shiny and new and pre-assembled to always fit perfectly and have the sort of life that is so rarely given.

They find love in their youth and keep a hold on it, growing over the years so that no other can compete to their solid history. They have enough wealth to provide a home with beautiful interiors, because they have job security in air-conditioned buildings with colleagues they invite to Barbecues. There is no world for them which does not open doors, one open door after another. Their jigsaw remains complete, so it does not diminish over time.

I may be forgiven for the bitterness in my tone. For any who has fought for just a tiny fragment to fit into place, or forced a piece that was not meant to be there into the wrong place just to try to feel normal for one moment, I do not speak to the pre-assemblers. I know you exist. I know there is a world where mortgages are attainable, and slim figures are maintained. And your children play with toys that have not been tarnished. I stand at your picket fences and clutch my puzzle pieces with glorious envy. Your story is not mine.

Perhaps I have always read the instructions wrong. For as long as I can remember a piece of me has been missing. A piece of me has frayed edges. A piece of me tries to fit where it does not belong. A piece of me does not match the picture on the box. I’m gathering dust on a shelf, I’m too complicated, I’m not worth starting with because you’ll never finish. Put me down. Walk away. Try something much simpler to bring you joy and contentment.

Anxiety is the box. It’s the one thing telling you the way things should be, and somehow they inexplicably aren’t. The box says you must not be in debt. But you are, and your bank account reflects that. The box says you must be married and have children, but you’ve tried that and somehow ended up marrying the wrong man and having two children to different fathers. The box says you must own your own house, but rising house prices are making bricks as valuable as diamonds.

The box says you must have friends who share your interests who you socialise with on regular occasions, but they’ve betrayed you and now you don’t know who to trust. The box says you must have a good job, but once you find one you love they close it down. I wish my box was empty. I wish there was no way of knowing how things are supposed to be. I’m exhausted, I want to stop playing.

Drop the box. Let it fall by the wayside. And all the pieces with it. If this life is nothing but a selection of well crafted curves and edges, I do not want them. Let me dwell outside the box. Let me be imperfect in this world that strives so hard for perfection. Let me worry about money, or lack thereof.

Let me be lonely even when I am surrounded by faces. Let me be judged for what I did not achieve when I was younger. Let me be a failure, even as I hate to defy the order of things. My anxiety does not reflect yours, our boxes will never match. Your edges and my edges, perhaps while they may be parallel, never the two will meet. One can not define the other. But there is a no mans land, where all the missing pieces come together.

Some of them fear the unknown. Some of them fear what others may think of them. Some of them fear a catastrophe that may not come to pass. Some fear betrayal. Some fear the loss of something dear to them. But there is one thing we all share, no matter the contents of our boxes, we are all afraid. And dropping the box is the biggest fear of all.

Me personally? I wake up each morning and for a few blissful seconds all that exists is the sound of my alarm and that adjustment to the light. And then I remember that I must wake up. I must perform basic functions. I must feed my children, I must make myself presentable and get into my car and go to work. I must speak to people, maintain conversation and smile. I must keep all my tasks in mind, and make sure the tank is full.

I go to sleep each night exhausted from keeping the boat on course. Perhaps the picture on my box is a vessel in stormy waters, and yet the crew on board seem oblivious to the dangers and continue to navigate with effortless ease. Sometimes the waves are high, and they crash over me and threaten to drown me. Sometimes they are like ripples on still water, and quite beautiful in moments of reflection. All that I am, all that I have ever been is in that box. The finished article will never resemble what it was meant to. But nothing in life that is easy will ever make for good advice or nostalgic stories. For the pre-assemblers who have their pieces intact, the way they should be. The way they were meant to be, I hope the sky remains blue above you. Because nobody can complete a puzzle in the darkness.

Post from Anxiety Girl

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