My jaws feel tight. There is an invisible band that stretches ear to ear wrapping around the base of my skull. I massage my jaw. I open and close my mouth like a fish hoping it will loosen that tightness I feel. I walk around coaxing blood flow to my neck.
Most days I feel run down and worn by the time the day is over. Children take top priority. The kitchen comes next. Work follows right behind. The rest of my time is consumed by the news that breaks all through the day each contradicting the other. Everything is sensational. Most headlines are meant to provoke outrage. The outrage I do, the words forming and unforming themselves in my head. Sometimes, I write them down. Sometimes I delete the drafts. Mostly I let them sit and stew in my head.
I am sitting on the edge of the bench in the examination room of my primary care doctor. We go over blood work results. We chart the course of action for the next few months. We finally get to the point where he transitions from a doctor to a therapist. He asks needling questions. He makes me reflect on the wellness of the mind.
I spill everything that I hold in my head. I tell him about the stress bands, the constant headaches, the feeling at the pit of my stomach that feels like impending doom. I half expect him to laugh away my symptoms. Instead, he nods sympathetically.
“You have anxiety”
His words are simple. They give me the kind of clarity that I did not realize I was seeking. Of course, I am anxious. I am anxious about everything from getting the kids out of the door on time, getting the fixings for each meal ready, catching up on hundreds of emails and to-do lists at work and then on top of it, worrying about the nation and humanity in its entirety.
He prescribes a solid eight hours of sleep and tuning out of nonessential worries. Prioritize he says.
My drive home feels short. I take his words to heart. I unfollow news channels on Twitter. I stop checking news websites. I mute opinions that cause me to react. This is work in progress. I set alarms on my phone urging me to go to bed with the kids and wake up after a full eight hours. The sleep part is getting better. I am not there yet.
My jaws feel less tight. The bands don’t press on my neck the way they did. I realize any news is unlikely to change my views on the world and the politics that dominate my life. The path forward seems clear.
Disengage. Disconnect. Disavow.
One day, I will wake up hopefully to a world that feels infinitely better than the one I am leaving.