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overflow - Anya McMurrer

When I was 9,

my teacher’s name

was Mrs. Catalano. She was tiny (short, slender).

I would marvel

at her body.

How it could contain

intestines, a stomach, two lungs, a heart.

(I was also jealous; 9 is not too young

to be aware

of your body. But that is for another time).

I am now 24.

I am still aware

of my body (fuller, taller),

but I am also aware

of my mind (fuller, overflowing).

I marvel

at my body.

How it can contain

intestines, a stomach, two lungs, a heart, and,

in the same skeleton,

the excruciating pain

of having

a mind:

trains of thought,

and planes of feeling. Broken engines

of anxiety, turning

over and

over and

over and

they make this body (full, tall)

feel so small.

I don’t think I can hold it all.


"This was written after having an anxiety attack while falling asleep one night. I called a friend, and as I was talking I realized how little I was able to communicate the details of my current state of mind.

I have OCD, general anxiety disorder and panic disorder (or at least that’s what the DSM says). I have had both ‘anxiety attacks’ and ‘panic attacks’ for years. For me, a panic attack is very viscerally physical: heart pounding, difficulty breathing, chest tightness and dizziness.

I identify my anxiety attacks as different and more difficult to capture; it’s when I either get caught on specific obsessive thoughts and can’t seem to escape the thought loop, or when I have an onrush of a lot of different thoughts at once. Even trying to externalize it now is difficult for me - essentially, this poem is about grappling with all of the distressing thoughts I have, and just being shocked most of the time that I, as one person, can have them all at once."

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