Anxiety is like plastic wrap.
Like when you’re tearing the plastic off of something really awesome and you don’t get it off in one piece and there’s a little piece that sticks to you. By the weird magic of static electricity, the piece sticks to your hand. You try to pull it off and it sticks to your other hand. You can’t get rid of it. You understand why it’s called cling wrap. The fun thing that was inside the plastic is forgotten because there can only be one: you or the piece of plastic. And the plastic is winning.
Every time you try and free yourself, it sticks somewhere else. You get frustrated and resign yourself to having this stupid piece of plastic stuck to you for the rest of your life, clear and invisible to everyone else. But to you, it’s impossible not to think about it. You can’t help but stare at it. Dwell on it. Think about it all day. Dream about that stupid cling wrap.
One day you’ve had enough and shake yourself silly and you look all over and the plastic seems to be gone. You take deep breaths and relief washes over you.
And then you realize that damn piece of plastic is stuck to your back instead.
So now you’ve got this plastic in a place you can’t reach and it’s driving you batty. You stay home, because the thought of going out with that mark of shame is too much. People will see you trying in vain to pick at it. People will judge you. People will stare at you freaking out in public over such a small thing.
Of course, the obvious answer is to ask for help. But that’s too embarrassing. Who could you possibly trust to let in on your dirty plastic secret?
No, you are resigned to this being your new normal forever. There is no getting rid of the cling wrap.
Deep breaths. Maybe some sobs. More breaths, because breathing is good.
Eventually, you realize that maybe such a small piece of plastic isn’t as consequential as you think it is. You think that maybe people were only noticing it because you were bringing attention to it. You shove it to the back of your mind as far as it will go, and you can still feel it there, nagging you, but it’s no longer quite as awful as it was before.
The plastic slips, just far enough that you can grab it. You throw the thing in the garbage, and by some miracle it no longer sticks to your fingers. You stare at the pathetic thing lying on top of the banana peels and granola bar wrappers, tiny now that you have some distance. And then the triumph bubbles up in your chest.
You’ve won! You beat that asshole plastic wrap! You never have to deal with it again!
But you just got a new fun thing in the mail, and it’s sitting there, ready for you to enjoy.
Once you get through the plastic.