“Stay with me. Stay with me. Stay with me,” seethes my anxiety.

It’s so damn tender how she never leaves me. Does she love or hate me? Hope I’ll die as she strangles my throat with rose stems. My anxiety tells me not to write this prose. She tells me to shut the fuck up, locks my hands in handcuffs, throws a bag over my head, and laughs as I suffocate.

Some days I manage to get out the door quicker than my anxiety snatches me back to bed. I bolt lock it without turning back. But that’s not everyday. Most days my anxiety keeps me tucked under my bed covers in isolation. My hair is damp from waves of panic attacks. Chest tight. My anxiety squeezes my heart so it pumps harder, and my stomach screams for nourishment. I won’t eat. “You don’t deserve food,” my anxiety lashes out. But I’m so hungry.

And there’s this part of me that is screaming for help. Reaching for a hand. Reaching for someone to rescue me from my enemy. But anxiety cuffs my hands and positions them straight in front of me; ready to fire pistols at anyone who approaches. She doesn’t surrender there. She twists my tongue, slices those I love with vicious words.

By night I’m exhausted from battling my anxiety, so I curl up into her gripping arms. I let her smother me so tightly I can barely breathe. She pricks me with thorny rose stems to remind me how her love feels. “Stay with me. Stay with me. Stay with me,” she breathes into my ear.

My anxiety doesn’t want me to get too close to anyone because they’ll leave me. At least that’s what she tells me. She confesses, “You don’t deserve to be loved or comforted. They’ll leave you in the dark and go to work or to live their lives or to simply exist. They’ll all leave you, but I won’t.” That’s my malicious affair with anxiety.

I hate it most when my anxiety tells me to give up. When I try to fly away she threatens to push me off a roof. She promises to spend eternity with me. Meanwhile, she’s eternally fighting a war for my love; bruising my heart when I battle back. And the worst part: I feel obligated to tell my family about her because what if I let her win? What if someone isn’t aware of my war? After all, my anxiety is a puppeteer, pulling the corners of my lips upward. But my family’s response repulses me at times. They don’t hear my cries behind cutting words and they don’t see me reaching for help behind cuffed hands that are shoving them away. How can I blame them though?

Sometimes I think everyone is just sick of it. Sick of my mood swings and grieving days. So I strike a match to light a candle and say a prayer, but my anxiety pours gasoline all over my heart and sets me into a raging forest fire, burning everyone in my path.

It’s too painful to suffer in silence. But do others really understand? Can they really understand? They see me celebrating one day and grieving the next. Sure, my dad tells me to “tweak my attitude.” But I can’t just tweak my attitude, Dad. Not alone. Not alone with my anxiety locking me away. It isn’t that easy. Damn it. Why does he think it’s so easy? And my mom thinks I have control over this mess. I tell her I’m uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and paralyzed. She tells me to choose my words. But I don’t feel I have a choice sometimes. There are days that my anxiety blazes too high and I can’t get control back. My brain becomes a dark hole that I can’t stop spiraling in.

From my malicious affair, I’ve come to understand that some days we need others to sit with us as we battle our demons. To sit alone is like having rose petals strangling our throats while we suffocate. It’s the boldest act to stand by someone’s side, even if they aren’t able to be vulnerable about their malicious emotional affair. People are fighting demons inside their heads and we can’t even see them.

Try to reach out to someone who might be suffering in silence. Otherwise, will you leave them alone in their malicious affair with anxiety?