The Metaphor I Use to Help Me Cope With Anxiety #rwanda #RwOT #BEselcaDay

Being a creative person who loves to write, I’ve always had a tendency to make everything into metaphors. I find it easier to come to terms with and understand things when I fit them into the parameters of my creative mind. This is why I created Bart.

Bartholomew is the name of my anxiety. He’s a small red dragon that lives in my brain. He may seem scary, but he’s a little dragon, cute and looks like he belongs in a cartoon. He’s always lived in my mind, always existed up there, even if I didn’t notice him until high school. But, he made himself known.

While I was adjusting to high school, Bart was in his terrible twos. For a dragon, teething is a lot more extreme and a lot more painful than it is for humans. He was growing all of his sharp incisors, more than humans have, and it made him volatile.

In addition to his teething, Bart was learning how to breathe fire. This means he had no control over his flame-breathing and set fire to things before I had a chance to stop him. That’s what I call anxiety attacks: Bart setting fires in my brain that I then have to put out. During his terrible twos, Bart set fires constantly. And since I wasn’t practiced in putting them out, they caused me a lot of pain while I tried to stop them.

Bart mellowed out as I continued high school, although he still had his bad days. I learned how to keep him relatively calm so he’d be less likely to start fires. I also built him a little cage where I put him when he was misbehaving and making my brain work extra hard. He hated going to therapy because he knew it meant he’d have to listen to me and work on getting himself under control.

Once I came to college, Bart was just hitting puberty. For a dragon, puberty means the same mood swings we as humans experience, only more severe. It also meant his wings came in, which, as you can imagine, is not the most comfortable experience. So, while I was getting used to life on my own, Bart was turning into a moody pre-teen dragon.

When he would get moody, he’d be much harder to control. Imagine having a teenager that can breathe fire. Sometimes I just let him misbehave because it was easier than trying to calm him down and talk him out of setting fires. I had a lot more anxiety attacks my freshman year of college than I’d like to admit, but Bart couldn’t care less.

Once his wings came in, he would fly around my brain, although not gracefully whatsoever. He was still learning how to control his little wings, and he would crash constantly. And of course, crashing made him angry, meaning he’d start some fires just to get his anger out. I had to help him learn how to fly and, more importantly, how to work through his anger instead of simply setting things on fire.

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Recognizing that Bart is simultaneously part of me, while also being his own entity, made it much easier for me to cope with my anxiety. Bart exists, and he always will, but he isn’t the only part of me. I don’t mind Bart so much anymore, even if he occasionally starts an accidental fire or two.

I’ve learned how to fight his fires much more successfully. I’ve learned how to keep him from starting fires in the first place. I’ve learned that tough love is sometimes the best solution, even though Bart is a cute little dragon whose puppy dog eyes are hard to resist. I think this metaphor I have for my anxiety is the reason I’ve been able to grow so much and become stronger. I wouldn’t get rid of Bart for anything, even though he can be a little brat sometimes. He’s taught me so much in my life, and that’s something to be grateful for.


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