Jae Nichelle has a special relationship with her anxiety — one the spoken word poet describes as "a friends-with-benefits relationship" in a performance now going viral on Twitter.
"So, my anxiety and I have what some people might call a friends-with-benefits relationship," she said at the 2017 Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival. "We have no love for each other, but she still just like fucks with me sometimes."
What she describes in the rest of the poem, though, doesn't sound like a supportive or healthy FWB situation, but instead a toxic relationship. Her anxiety keeps Nichelle from talking to people, from believing that she is wanted, and from feeling her Black Girl Magic.
"She's possessive, she doesn't like me talking to other people. She's irrational," Nichelle said in a video posted to YouTube.
Powerful lines like "I constantly wonder, what happens to a Black girl who was too anxious to ever feel like magic?" and "I have been fighting her for control of our house for years," have resonated on Twitter among people who also feel that their anxiety is an unwanted partner who just won't go away.
For many of these people, personifying anxiety is the best way to help other people understand. Because then, anxiety isn't just a nebulous feeling those of us who don't experience it can't grasp, but a controlling and toxic partner who we can imagine standing in the room.
"I know how hard it is to live with both of us," Nichelle said. "When we don't like feeling out of control. When we don't handle conflict well. When we don't handle being yelled at well."
Words like these not only help people with anxiety find community and feel less alone, but remind those who don't have it to be compassionate towards their friends who do.
"If I am silent for a while, it is because I have to fight with her before I can fight with you," Nichelle says. "My anxiety and I have just learned to live together. She is the longest relationship I have ever had."
Refinery29 has reached out to Nichelle and will update this story when we receive a response.
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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