Monday, January 07, 2013

A New Year. Part One: No You Can't Catch It From a Toilet Seat

I remember being a little girl, in maybe 4th or 5th grade. There was a psychic on the television predicting a world invasion of aliens for the year 2000.  It was the Oprah Show, so I assumed it must be true.
This prediction scared me, scared me a lot.  I worried at home, and I vividly remember being worried at school.

One day, I was on the playground. One of my classmates' parents were getting a divorce. I don't know why I remember this, but a teacher who was on recess duty that day, was talking to the classmate and I, and teaching us how to spell the word "divorce".  D-I-V-O-R-C-E.
But, then, in what I can only imagined was a panic-fueled, less than  appropriate topic change,  I brought up the whole alien invasion of the year 2000 thing. The teacher gave a big laugh and "Oh pshawed" me all the way to lunch. Alas I was left to figure this out on my own.

I decided to do a little math, in hopes of elevating my extraterrestrial freak-out.  "If the invasion will take place in 2000.... and I was born in 1977.... I will be......I'll be TWENTY-TWO in 2000"!

Wow, I thought, I'll be twenty-two when the E.T.'s invade.  I'd be an ADULT!
That's it, that's the answer. I'll be an adult in 2000, and when the aliens take over,  I won't be afraid because when you're an adult, you aren't afraid of things. THIS was my plan.

That helped to dilute my worries about Y2K alien attacks.
Then one day in 2001, out of the blue it just hit me: Oh my god! We were never invaded!
To be totally honest, I was actually a little surprised that Oprah's psychic turned out to be wrong!

(This is my friend and college roommate Caroline and I on New Year's Eve 2000.
No alien invasion.

Fast forward, and today, it's not the year 2000, it's not even 2010 anymore, it's 2013! (Btw- PHEW! I was a little concerned about the whole world ending on December 21st thing. Were you?)

The fact that we're thirteen years into this century already, and that I still don't feel like a fearless makes me feel a tiny bit like a failure to my nine-year-old self. I'm sorry nine-year-old me! I'm still kind of a big chicken and an alien invasion would probably send me running!

This worry didn't start from out of the blue with the unfortunate alien episode. It began a long, long time ago........
My parents couldn't leave me with babysitters, or drop me off at school without a major tears. I remember crying so hard at drop-off in second grade, that I couldn't catch my breath. Do you  know how embarrassing that is? The good news is, by third grade, my teacher couldn't take the daily crying anymore, and she made a calendar with special stickers for each day that I didn't cry. The calendar, AND mostly just my anxiety quieting down for a while, did the trick to stop it.

But, I have always been a worrier.  I've been petrified of death since I started obsessing over it when I was six. Key word, "obsessing".  I couldn't sleep for a while. I'd have this reoccurring dream, that even now, as an adult, I can still remember.....

I'd see six-year-old me, lying on a beautiful, pleasant, green grassy hill, up against a nice, perfect looking tree. I'm just enjoying the sunny day. It's me, alone on the hill.
But soon, I start to feel the loneliness, and then, just like in movies or on Google Earth when you begin to pan out from above,  the image of myself would be come smaller and smaller and smaller, as the dark vastness of the lonely universe was getting bigger and bigger. I would feel tragically alone. My dream would speak the same message to me every time......"You are alone in it all. This is life and this is death. You are insignificant. You are a speck in a billion trillion.....floating in the vastness."

I think that an  EXISTENTIAL CRISIS is a difficult thing for even adults to deal with. This sent six-year-old me for a real loop. I still think of that dream today. I really do. Although, I like to hope  that the message was completely wrong. I think it was.

The way that I finally got out of that whole existential/death worry loop (at least when I was six), was that my Mom finally PROMISED, swearing up and down, that when she died, she would make a giant sign out of foam core board that said : "LAUREN, I'M OVER HERE"!  She promised I wouldn't be alone, and being that we were all desperate to just sleep again, I took her word and tried to move on.  I also figured, that if you make it to a ripe old age, maybe.....something in your 80's or 90's.....that then, you're such an adult, you've lived such a full life, you're so wise, that you know not to fear death. So it is my hope, that this scenario ends up being true. I don't want to be my 90 year-old self, writing a blog post saying: "I'm sorry thirty-five-your-old me! I'm still kind of a big chicken...I have let you down".

Before I get to my New Year's intention for 2013, which ties in with the whole anxiety thing, I want to share one more oh so fond memory cringe-worthy story of what it's like being a kid with an anxious mind.

So I was twelve and I was rollerblading in my neighborhood, and rollerbladed past the house of a boy that I knew. He's outside playing, we talk for a while, and seriously, don't ask, but this boy ends up giving me my first kiss. All I can remember thinking is ....."Eeeeew, lips are like escargot. sick"!!!!
And also, I thought his cassingle of "Bohemian Rhapsody"was kind of cool.

Anyway, eventually, I Rollerblade away, but quickly begin to PANIC! Because, days before, I had accidentally tripped and fallen and had bitten the inside of my cheek. And although it was probably healed by then, my twelve-year-old brain decided to panic because you know......HIV!

*STOP* Just so you know, I have always taken HIV and other diseases very seriously. I'm not joking around about any of this. It's a serious disease, it's just ME who was acting ridiculous.

This is what happens to you when you're born with an anxiety disorder and you grow up in the 1980's.
There's no way around it, you have to panic about AIDS.

ENTER! The National AIDS Hotline!  Cue the angels and the harp music. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

I just might be, the only twelve-year-old in American history, to form an addiction to calling the National Aids Hotline.

I came up with THE best HIV questions and THE BEST transmission scenarios. AND, I have to say, those hotline employees were pros! I love them. I love you! I love you so much. Thank you, I owe you so much. They were all great, all amazing and patient. Seriously, I couldn't have survived the summer after fifth grade without you.

An ounce of education is worth an hour of not worrying! (That is, start worrying about it again..)

As a side-note, the other coping mechanism for the summer of the bloodborne diseases was VHS tapes of Anne of Green Gables.
Luckily, my parents gave me a small television and a VCR for my bedroom. And even more luckily for me,  the library had a million copies of several seasons of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea because you know,  THERE WAS NO HIV IN TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY PRICE EDWARD ISLAND! Duh!
Did you know, if you become obsessed with  watching Anne of Green Gables videos, you can almost imagine that you are living back then, at a time when there was NO HIV to worry about!?

So what does being an anxious kid have to do with anything? Well, a lot , because that anxious kid unsurprisingly turned into an anxious adult.  An anxious adult who is ready to really get her "what-if" thinking and her worry-worry-worry-stress-stress-stressing finally into check this year.

There have been times in my life when the anxiety wasn't SO bad, but really, the past nine years have been a never-ending battle with worry.  I'm exhausted, I haven't felt like the REAL me in such a long, long time. The real me is super silly and happy and creative and free! I can pinpoint the exact moment that the anxiety came whirling back in 2004. I can tell you about that another time, but it begins with the doctor's words at one of my prenatal appointments: "Just a harmless heart arrhythmia".  Which, he was totally right, it was nothing! But...sometimes when you're told you are having a heart arrhythmia, and you're there alone and you go home to all of your pregnancy books and you start googling and you find out all of the things that COULD go wrong....sometimes you start to worry, and it all snowballs.

I think that day, getting the ball rolling, followed by a mishap with anesthesia on the operating table at Noah's birth, and my changing hormones and brain chemistry, and all of the HUGE changes in just 18 months (a move across country TWICE, a marriage, a baby, a house)..... it was just the perfect storm for creating anxiety again.

Things were out of my control. Things were new, things were stressful. Most of all, I went from a healthy, vibrant  20-something, to a person who had faced a dangerous, potentially life-threatening moment in surgery, who was already feeling anxious as it was. Before, I used to feel strong and young, like nothing could hurt me. Heck! When we lived in California, I literally had a THREE MONTH headache and never once did I think brain tumor. (It turned out to be sinus/allergy stuff.)
Sadly, after becoming a parent, not only did I suddenly feel my mortality, and the true fleetingness of life , but l  I felt desperately responsible for staying safe and healthy and here for my family.

There are more stories about a long and interesting adventure, trying to fix the worry. That's for another day. All I know is that this is a new year! This is MY year! This is the year that I figure out how to give my buddy anxiety some time off! WOO HOO! LET'S DO THIS!

I have been planning like crazy. I have intentions, steps to take, resources, motivation! That'll be a part -two of this New Years post.  Let's just say that I am RE-INVENTING my life, and how I live day to day! This is going to be fun guys!

But, I'm looking for my gang of gals (and guys) who might also be experiencing anxiety also. I think one of the very best things about the human experience is connecting and sharing in ways that can help each other grow. If you have experienced anxiety in the past, of have anxiety now and would like to help each other build new, less-worried lives, please feel free to join in! Sometimes just having a hand to hold, makes it feel so much easier. :)

Well, it's time for me to go refill my humidifier and a have little saline mist!

What? I didn't tell  you?

Oh. Weeeeeell, so last night my nose bled a tiny bit. And since I'm always worried and hyper-vigilant about excessive bleeding and bruising as signs of a disorder or disease, I naturally freaked out.
I called Jon and asked him what the humidifier on our furnace was set at, and he was like "NOTHING".
And I was like...."What"!?
Yeah, it's Michigan, it's been freezing cold for a long time, the heats been full-blast for months and nobody turned the humidifier back on.
I'm hoping dry air is the cause of said nose blood.

I went out this morning and proudly marched into the hardware store for a new humidifier filter thing-y, so now we can get it back on!  I also stopped on the way home for some moisturizing saline mist, AND a personal humidifier thank you very much!

See that?  That's a very flattering self portrait of me and my humidifier and my new saline mist. WOOT! Awesome, right? Are you as excited as I am!?

Here's to new friends,  moist nasal passages and a FANTASTIC, worry-free 2013!!!!!!

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