So, this is me:
Except for the evening gown. No one with anxieties would ever wear a dress like that. Am I overdressed? I’m probably overdressed. I wonder if I’ll be able to make it through the evening in these shoes. That slit is really high. What if it rips? What if I go to sit down and I flash my crotch at some people? Do I look fat in this? Are my boobs saggy? I really think I’m overdressed. I’d better go change. Maybe I’ll just stay home.
I’ve always had anxieties – even before I can remember, my mother tells me I worried excessively over things that didn’t need to be worried about. As I got older, I worried about schoolwork left undone, about things I said to someone weeks before that in retrospect sounded not right, about big problems and little problems in equal measure.
When I was eleven I had the chance to travel to Ottawa on a school trip. Having never even left Nova Scotia before, this was a big deal (and I know my grandparents pitched in to help pay for it). I worried and fretted, and then in December of that year Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. I spent the next five months convinced that my Halifax-to-Ottawa flight was going to be attacked. Not in an idle “huh, that could happen, I guess” kind of way. I obsessed about it. I laid awake at night thinking about it. I wrote out my will and tucked it inside my diary. Make no mistake, people – I was going to die, probably somewhere over Montreal, and the only reason I got on the fucking airplane was because I knew that if I didn’t, I’d have wasted $400 of my family’s money that we could ill-afford.
When I was a teenager I started worrying about Big Stuff. The environment. Animal rights. Nuclear disarmament. Homophobia. Poverty at home. Poverty in the developing world. I spent so much time fretting. I decided I would never have children because I couldn’t handle the thought of bringing more people into an overstressed world.
As I got older my constant worrying turned into depression – or that’s my theory, anyway. I couldn’t get up the energy to worry. I had worried myself into a state where everything seemed hopeless, so worrying didn’t happen. (I’ve noticed that all of my worrying happens before the event; Blissdom really underlined that for me, because I worried about it for a solid five months and then once it actually started I was fine for the whole two days.)
I went to therapists. I tried different medications. I made some changes and worked hard and managed to get my depression under control. I’ve had my ups and downs, but on that front anyway I think I’m basically OK.
My anxieties are starting to be a problem again.
I worry while I’m driving down the road. What if I get stopped? What if I get in an accident? What if an accident happens in front of me and I’m the first person on the scene and I have a bunch of little kids in the car?
I worry when I’m grocery shopping. What if I don’t have enough money in the account? What if that fish spoils before I get a chance to eat it? What if I forgot my wallet? *frantic check for wallet*
I worry when I lie in bed at night. What if I can’t lose the weight and I get sick? What if the doctor can’t fix my plantar fasciitis and I get bone spurs and need surgery? What if something happens to me? What if something happens to one of the kids?
I worry all the time, about everything and nothing at all.
It’s exhausting. I’m always tired, and I shouldn’t be, because except for the odd night here and there George sleeps all night. The dayhome kids are older and less physically-draining than they were this time last year (yes, even Louis, most days). The housework is pretty much caught up most of the time and since I’m totally neglecting both the fall yard work and exercising (because of my feet, what if I go for a walk and my feet start to hurt really bad and I can’t walk home again and I’m stranded by the side of the road with four kids and a dog?) that can’t be wearing me out, either.
I think I’m depleting my internal resources with worrying. I think maintaining my constant level of worry is at least partly to blame for my exhaustion. But then I worry about worrying, because there is a lot of mental illness in my family, all anxiety disorders. My great-grandmother was an agoraphobic. My grandmother and her sisters had a tradition of “bad nerves”.
Then I think I’m overreacting, and that if I go seek help I’ll be laughed at.
I end up doing nothing. I’ve been hobbling around with aching feet for FIVE MONTHS because I’m scared of what the doctor is going to say. Something finally snapped, and I called yesterday to make an appointment.
It’s one tiny step. But at least it’s a start.