Anxiety has nearly always been silent suffering for me. Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” captures the essence of anxiety for me.

The painting’s “protagonist” is doing exactly what I have done when anxiety has stricken me in a social or public setting. His expression and body language belie that his terror is palpable and intense. Despite his placid surroundings that pose no threat to a person in a rational state of mind, he screams silently and with a potent intensity.

Anxiety is insidious. Sprouting from a seed of rational fear, nourished by catastrophic thinking, and watered by biological propensities, it grows into a noxious vine. Penetrating deeper and deeper into the brain, it winds its ways through any and all cracks and crevices until it has attained a strangle-hold on its victim’s psyche.

It paralyzes by hijacking rational thought and evoking fight or flight mode in the most pedestrian situations. It tricks the brain into preparing for do or die when the best approach would probably be, “don’t just do something, sit there.”

It evokes racing thoughts, sweating palms, high blood pressure, shallow breathing, cold hands, tense muscles, and fight or flight for prolonged periods of time that exceed our psychological and biological capacities. Going way beyond its intended evolutionary purpose.

Anxiety was once my constant companion and it still worms its way back into my life despite the tools and means I have found to stay spiritually fit and stable.

As I passed through my dark night of the soul with my Bipolar Disorder, I was often attacked by a wicked social anxiety so powerful that I could only function in society at a fairly rudimentary level. And that was only made possible by self-medicating.

In the confines of my mind, no one can hear you scream.

I did a lot of silent screaming in those days.

Thank God I have been blessed with healthy ways to silence those screams.

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