or, you should get to work half an hour before/ fashionably late, what the hell is that?/ always be on time, but earlier/ what if my house burns down?/ am i asking too many questions?/ i don’t want to draw attention to myself, so i will wait to get up to pee until the three hour movie is over. etc.
my Anxiety and i have been acquainted since i was six. i was in catholic school and some girls were telling a scary story at recess. i wanted to stop listening, bc i had a sinking feeling that i didn’t want to hear it. i didn’t move until she stopped. that story was playing itself over and over in my mind, and i remember wondering if i looked in the mirror, i fi would see a knife. if my doll would murder my family. if blood would drip out of the faucet. i am six and already i am having trouble getting to sleep. i remember waking up in the middle of the night, crying bc my stomach felt like it was exploding. the story kept coming in waves, all i could see was the knife, the doll, the blood. my parents came into my bed. i remember being unable to tell them about it, maybe that was part of the tale; if you told, you’d be next. they asked over and over if i was okay, what had happened, what hurts. my parents knew that my stomach hurt bad enough that i couldn’t stop my crying, so they took me to the emergency room. of course, nothing was found but i spent the night. i remember apple juice and the hospital bed.
after that, my relationship w my Anxiety is a blur of my parents coming to hold me, asking “what’s the worst that could happen?” (it was always my family dying. worried about homework due dates? my family will die if it isn’t in on time. tell me your best Anxiety logic), cold compresses, sips of shaking glasses of water, juice, anything. i remember finding a book called “helping your anxious child” and thinking that i was causing them problems.
i remember being about ten, staying up really late, just crying to myself, wondering where i would go, what would happen to me when i died. i didn’t trust heaven. i wanted to know if i would know anyone there, if anything i did would be remembered or if it even mattered, and then it hit me that my parents would probably die before me and how awful that would be. i laid in bed like that, those carousleing thoughts making me dizzy and sick, until i wore myself out. i didn’t tell me parents, didn’t want them to worry about me or try to make it better. how could they? i asked to be medicated a few years later, and my mum told me that we could beat it without medicine, mind over matter and all that. it was always “we”, like it was solely a team effort. they were confused and tried their best despite that but it was agony. i was bullied for it, and eventually, homeschooled for mostly unrelated reasons bc what if when i told my parents, they would tell the school and the bullying would get worse?
my panic attacks have slowed in their frequency. i used to get them many times, but i think, surprisingly, that my parents were right when they assured me i would outgrow them. they still happen. there was one so bad during a pastry class practical ( i can never ever look at a charlotte russe torte again) that i had to leave class after receiving my less-than-perfect grade. the room spun and i hid in the bathroom until i could drive. or, there was last week, when i had been finding ants in my bedroom and needed to shower and scrub off the itching, crawling feeling when i thought i saw ants all over the bathroom ceiling. i slid into the corner and started hyperventilating. glamorous! i’m an adult, now w a crippling fear of ants. hopefully, it will lessen but i have ant traps everywhere until then.
my Anxiety likes to point out that maybe all my friends are just pretending to like me. that when they don’t text back within fifteen minutes it’s bc they actually hate me and have finally decided to end our relationship. it makes me worry every! time! that the amount of time i take to reply to texts is either too desperate or too long, therefore losing the interest whoever i’m texting probably didn’t have to begin w. if i am in any kind of meeting or event that requires sitting, i cannot bring myself to be excused for any reason. it would cause everyone to stare, to reveal that i’m trying to be the center of attention. and then a tornado would hit and my second grade teacher would yell at me and my parents would die and the only thing they would leave me in their will would be that stupid-ass “helping your anxious child” book. then somehow my boss would be there and tell me i was a pity hire. it all makes sense in the moment, and it’s terrifying. even more terrifying is that i know. i know it’s completely irrational. we could analyze it forever, write a thesis paper on how aliens are not a specific threat to me an yet, in the eye of the panic attack storm, i will obsess over nothing else. i will be so distressed over an alien abduction without knowing why. it’s like the dealers choice, the curse of the draw with my Anxiety. let’s become crippled w fear over the thought of a hurricane in Michigan, the first of its kind, just for you. date night for your mum and dad? yes, you’re fifteen, but sit by the window all night to make sure it’s their car you see coming home, not the police to tell you that they were killed in an accident.
when i can remember to, i like to practice “grounding” my anxiety attacks. i pick one of each senses; find something to see, smell, hear, touch, taste. i still play “what’s the worst” but with my own twist- the worst scenario after death/major health issue. slowing my breath is wonderful when i can manage to. sometimes, i will allow myself ten seconds if i can feel my stress getting high of letting my guard down to freak out; i feel my racing heart, and maybe sit and just let my mind flood while counting down. then i straighten, take a deep breath and carry on w getting my shit done. easy! these are little tips and tricks that tend to work out for me, let me know if you have any and if one of these weird things sound doable, give them a try! what’s the worst that could happen?