The Dream Stealer
What does anxiety feel like?
It’s a daily battle with the Dream Stealer.
It rears its head like one of the ugly, mean giants sprawled across The BFG’s hillside.
It’s a cat pawing at a cornered mouse; a bully taunting the vulnerable kid at school. It’s always there, lurking in the background, ready to rouse and pounce, paw and taunt. You just don’t know when.
It laughs and says, “You can’t!” when otherwise, you might have – just possibly – dared to consider that you could.
It prepares you for the worst, even when the worst is unfeasible.
It paints a picture of a scary, doomed outcome on even the brightest and sunniest of days.
It makes you fear the outcome, kiboshing the journey to even get there.
It’s your heart suddenly beginning to race in a supermarket aisle; your chest pounding when sitting motionless, that nobody sees.
It’s fight or flight that won’t switch off – on constant repeat. Only there is no one to fight, and no need to take flight.
It’s teetering on the edge of a cliff, about to jump off. But jump where? Into some invisible, non-existent place where only fear lives.
It’s standing, sword drawn, opposite an invisible opponent. A permanency of ‘en garde‘.
It’s all these things, and a million more. And it can never, EVER win.
Here’s why it never will.
The silent, daily battles; the mini-victories.
Pushing yourself out the front door when it would be so much easier not to.
Refusing to allow the world to shrink, whilst the Dream Stealer feeds on the remnants of your joy.
Smiling, and faking confidence when you’re terrified inside.
Starting a conversation with the quiet Mum in the school playground.
Saying ‘Yes‘, when every ounce of you wishes it were a ‘No‘; saying ‘No, thank you‘ when compulsion and obligation try and steer you to go.
Standing on the start line with a dry mouth, wishing it were the finish.
Entering ‘Destination: Unknown’ into your internal satnav, and revving up the engine.
Pressing that ‘send’ button, and risking rejection.
Clicking ‘submit’ because there’s ever such a small chance that you might win.
Taking part when you doubt you have much to contribute;
Walking into a room when it feels infinitely safer to stay outside.
Picking up the phone when you’d rather switch it to silent.
Asking the question you’ve tried hard to swallow;
Not listening to the small talk, or the ones who just gossip. Or to those who are jealous because their dreams have already curled up and died.
Walking past the crowd, with your head held high.
Meeting up for a coffee, regardless of the panic rising inside.
Asking for help when you can’t face it alone, despite the only comfortable place being inside, on your own.
All these are what will keep the Dream Stealer away from your door.
I know, because I’ve done them all many, many times before.*
*including today, when I had my arse kicked at the Bingley Show Trail Fell Race. But victory was mine, for all of the above reasons.