Anxiety Episode #1: My kids burn up in the car while I’m being held at gunpoint and/or having a heart attack

(much of this entry was taken from a journal I kept this past summer, in early August)

According to the dictionary of Google, anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. I have anxiety. I suspect I always have, but it has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. Maybe it’s because I am a parent now. I’ve experienced the fullness and the joy that comes with having and loving children beyond all reason. I’ve become more vulnerable, susceptible to dark thoughts that creep in from time to time, suggesting that something awful could at some point, on any given day, happen to the little ones I love and cherish.

Anxiety is such a heavy word. It makes me sigh just thinking about it. I prefer, in more light terms, to think of my anxiety as thought preparedness. You know, like worst-case scenario planning. It’s like these bad thoughts come into my head, I dwell on them for a little, either dismiss them straightaway or see them through to their terrible end, and then maybe shed a tear or two, or shake my head at the irrationality of it, or perhaps even take some action to help prevent that which I hope so strongly to avoid.

Take, for example, the following episode: Last week I was out running errands with my girls. They had both fallen asleep in the car before I got to the fish market and the local organic grocery. Thankfully, both places were small and had parking lots that backed up right to the storefront windows. I knew it would be OK to lock the doors and leave the girls dreaming in the car while I ran in to get the three things I needed, all while being able to keep an eye on the car.

Of course, not being a mellow mama and all, I couldn’t just leave it at that and run in and do my business. It was a very hot day and some last-minute thoughts crept into my head: What if, while I’m in the store, a bad guy comes in to rob the joint and I can’t get back out to the car in a timely manner? Or, what if I have a heart attack, or a bad fall, or develop amnesia and can’t get back out to the car in a timely manner? Hmmm…Guess I’d better roll down the windows, all four, just to be safe. That way, the girls won’t burn up in the 90 degree heat, and someone will be able to hear them if I can’t get to them and they wake up and start crying. And, maybe I should make it so someone could reach his or her arm in to unlock the door, just in case. Not to kidnap the girls, of course, because I will be able to see them from the window should that happen. But wait, I’m passed out, or dead, right? Hmm…well, better to just leave them only cracked, I think. Because surely everything will be fine. OK. Done.

See? Thought preparedness. Just in case. I got the fish, bacon and milk without incident and the girls never had to know all that went on in my head trying to keep them safe. My husband, on the other hand, did get an earful later. I like to share my little episodes with him. I do this because most times he tells me my bad thoughts are normal. That all parents worry about the what-ifs that could happen to their children. I find this comforting. On the other hand, I often hide the depths to which my thoughts go, and rarely reveal the nitty-gritty, grimmest details of which they’re made to him or to anyone else for that matter. Because sometimes my thoughts go to really freaking dark places, where no thoughts should ever have to go. And, I suppose I keep some details all to myself because there is a fine line between being “normal” in your husband’s eyes and being bat shit crazy. I find I walk that line all the time.

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