All the grown ups always said I was very mature, was I five going on on fifty? In school too, I craved and believed this attention. I thought these were compliments and a good thing. Note: my parents did not say things like this but also did not know how to acclimate me to the world at large. I was quiet and kept to myself nothing seemed wrong. In reality I was terrified buried in TV and books as my model for how to behave, things I wanted, what the world was like.
So my anxiety started in earnest very young. I did not know what was going on, my analysis of my personal journey is again from the perspective of hindsight but I have strong recollections of my thoughts and feelings at the time.
I was a good student, book smart but socially, street smart extremely immature, years behind. I had the belief for a long time that you just needed to “grow up” and then you would have answers and not be scared anymore. The hamster wheel I was on was the belief that if I stayed in place and waited, just let years pass I would not be afraid, embarrassed, be able to date, kiss, fall in love, go to work, figure out a career, be happy. Not be anxious and scared ever again, that was what being an adult was.
The part I was missing; you need to have experiences, go out into the world, talk to people, stretch, grow as a person, get scared, be brave. Live. I played, had friends but I was always on the outside looking in at my own life. I felt that way for decades. I hid very well so my parents did not see any signs. The one tick I had at a young age was I would pull into daydreams so deep I would flap my arm involuntarily. I remember my parents telling me just to stop it and I know they assumed I would outgrow it.
There was no conversation at the time (seventies, eighties) for what was going on with me. I did start therapy after a breakdown at sixteen, new school, immature sexually, socially, school not being as easy. My parents were not against therapy but I know the fact I had “problems” frightened them and they were guilty, what did they do wrong? I don’t think that ever went away.
My focus in this post is anxiety I will drill down about my depressive and dissociative episodes at other times. My twenties and thirties I was more out there but my default was the safety cocoon of my apartment and lots and lots of TV it was a coping mechanism before I was taking any medications. I was high functioning, never missed work, had two boyfriends, other friends, outwardly fine. Another blogger reposted a tweet by someone who said they deserve an academy award for their outward “performance” covering the chaos inside. I love that, very relatable for me.
Once I was an adult and I did not have it together I fell apart several times. Where were the answers? Why was I still scared? I was running in place again because I think subconsciously I thought if I stayed still and inside I would be safe and those I loved would be safe. Freeze time, everything will be okay. I knew this was a false assumption but it was my default and not something you can decide to stop with a finger snap. I also was lonely and did not know how to begin my life, I truly believed I would be alone forever.
So more thoughts about running in place. My dad was Hungarian and a Holocaust survivor. He lost his mother when he was nineteen and I know he never got over it, or at least never made peace with it. When I was small he told me war stories. My dad wanted to keep her memory alive and I suppose open me up to knowing how scary and dangerous the world was so I would be strong and prepared. My darling father tried so hard but what happened? The world was scary and dangerous, I will stay inside thank you.
I also harbored the belief that he would die when I was nineteen. I would lose him like he lost her. I thought about it all the time and worried. I had a friend in college who had lost her father and it terrified me, it really happens, it happened to her, it will happen to me. I knew on some level I was being irrational but that does nothing for your guts, subconscious, and anxiety.
So my dad did not die when I was nineteen. He died when I was thirty-nine, cancer. It was relatively quick five months. As devastating as it was and still is it was a wake up call for me. All my effort hiding and staying still could not save my father or keep me safe. The universe is random. You don’t have much control so get out there and play.
I still have anxiety, sometimes I feel like my brain short circuits, I drift get sad and angry but I fight back. I love, I talk more (god can I talk) I can push myself to do scary things (like driving not jumping out of an airplane baby steps) sometimes my problems can be funny. I also found love, I am not alone. Thank you Sam.
Many things I feel and talk about are just business as usual problems everyone has but the coldness always lurks in the background, the bravest thing I can do is face it. I can bury myself in the fur of a polar bear or laugh at the cuteness of a penguin depending on which pole I find myself each day.
Until next time