Anxiety manifests itself in many ways. Physically and or psychologically, fears and phobias. My version is generally centred around health and an intense fear of those close to me getting sick. Really sick. It’s not something that consumes me, it surfaces when everything is going well and then someone (usually MM or Charlie) complains of feeling unwell. Headaches become tumours, that kind of thinking. I fear the worse.
I have this tendency to catastrophise things in my life and what’s even more ridiculous is that I tend to do this when my world is spinning nicely. When I am balanced and I feel a sense of emotional equilibrium is also when I start to hold my breath. Like waiting for something bad to happened because everything is so good. In my mind “bad” reads as “someone is going to get sick.” It’s a mad notion but nonetheless one that is part of my reality.
Quite vividly I recall one Friday afternoon, just home from work, it had been a good, normal, happy week and the weekend ahead promised blue skies, metaphorically and literally. Though peace is subjective when there is a four-year old in the house, I recall feeling peaceful. Then Charlie got a blood nose. A regular, ordinary blood nose. My first thought was to go into first aid mode but my next thought was leukemia.
There is real shame and a dreadful, awful guilt in thinking like this because I am acutely aware of the parents who have very sick children and would probably do anything to just have to deal with the mundane that is a nose bleed and that my anxiety is almost an insult to their real worries. Trust me, I feel bad for thinking like this. My only explanation, if you can call it that, is that this isn’t a thought process I choose, it’s just the way my anxiety works.
Anxiety is complex and it comes in many forms.
The thing is, my intrinsic state is one of natural optimism and I have always been one to look for all that is good in most situations but when I’m anxious I am powerless and I do anxiety well and I do it by the text book. Anxiety hurts like a physical pain, my stomach is heavy in knots and my mind detaches. It’s an uneasy feeling and it’s bloody unsettling. It is also exhausting. I try to negate it only to end up with a big mess of weird over thinking and that is when I catastrophise. In fact, catastrophising is one of my super powers.
Did I mention I’m an optimist?
It’s hard to understand someone else’s crazy so I rarely (if ever) share these moments of irrational thinking. MM recently had a routine medical procedure as a result of some routine medical tests. Routine routine blah routine blah blah. I didn’t hear much of it because I was too busy googling. My level of worry was disproportionate to what I actually had to worry about. It’s just as well MM wasn’t looking for any emotional support because clearly I wasn’t up for the task. Fortunately he knows this is a thing that I do. Logically I know that this thinking is irrational but it’s like logic and unreasonable co-exist at the exact same time and I falter between the two.
In direct contrast to my ability to catastrophise is that I am also very instinctive. A girlfriend of mine went through a pretty scary and confusing health crisis just recently but I knew, unequivocally that she and everything would be absolutely fine. I wasn’t dismissing her fears and concerns, they were understandable, real and valid and it wasn’t a case of me just “thinking positive.” There was no question in my mind, it would all be okay and it was. I felt this intuitively and whilst she was clinging on to some watery faith I just had complete trust in all that was happening. I wish I could always tap into this intuitive but I’m a sensitive soul and not always that level headed.
This anxiety mostly only relates to those closest to me and I’m not sure how, when or why it started and that it happens when everything is going so well makes it all the more annoying. I do think it escalated when I became a parent. There’s real vulnerability in motherhood and the love I have for my child and for my family transcends everything. I will protect it fiercely so a threat to is terrifying. I’m sure there some kind of psychology behind it. That there is so much awfulness in the world and so when everything is going well in your own piece of this world then surely there is a price to pay for this and that price is something to go bad to balance out the good. That there is some messed up thinking but it’s not uncommon and I know I’m not alone. Is subconsciously holding our breath and waiting for something bad to happen a form of protection? Is it a societal thing that we think everything is too good to be true and so we have the “what if?” conversations with ourselves. When we, or those around us have experienced profound loss or grief you think anything is possible and surely awful stuff has to get shared around? Why can’t we just accept that good things happen and those things don’t have to come with conditions?
Anxiety is like going down a rabbit hole, the unknown is scary and we have no idea where we might land. I don’t always like to give my anxiety oxygen and though it doesn’t define me, it’s a part of my story and instead of wasting energy doing the “what if” dance I try to embrace it because if nothing else it sure as heck makes me appreciate all that is good. My way through it is to read books, watch Offspring, listen to podcasts, wake up at stupid o’clock in the morning to go to Pilates, eat well, stay connected with my friends, not watch the news and to break up with Dr Google.