My brain is the bone, anxiety is the dog.
Anxiety has been with me, my constant companion, since childhood. Kids aren’t generally diagnosed in childhood when it comes to known disorders like anxiety, depression, etc. and for good reason, it’s just not a safe idea. Children can and will “qualify” for a variety of disorders just as the laws of being a child and growing up dictate. But some children do legitimately experience real issues and from a young age too. I was one of them. Had I not been a child of the 80s, things might have been markedly different than growing up in today’s more knowledgeable and aware society.
Back then, I was just Christina, and “Christina’s wound up a little tight.” As I was often described by family and teachers. I never denied it, I knew what they meant because I was far from unaware. Anxiety allows that superpower, hyper-sensitivity. This sensitivity is often misunderstood to mean easily triggered feelings or spontaneously emotive and the like. Not for me and not for most anxiety-riddled individuals. We keep a strong grip on our feelings for fear of losing control, for it seems we can’t control much else. We cannot control the demanding pace of our thoughts, nor the amount of information that we are bombarded with. Hyper-sensitivity means being aware of all things at all times. I saw every facial expression, heard every tone of voice, saw every minute bodily movement when adults spoke of, but never actually addressed, me. Things didn’t change much as an adult.
I always heard more than was said. I always saw more than was visible. I was always thinking while never sharing. Teachers often suspected that I was a daydreamer simply because I gave that impression of having the ‘lights on but no one was home,’ look. Sometimes I did daydream, but not in the scribble-in-my-notebook kind of way. No. I took lessons and began to mentally apply them before the lecture was over. While in one lesson, I was often working out the homework from another subject. Everything seemed to have a natural course of thought, I simply followed it to its end, by which time, the instructor wasn’t actually needed. This process was the only way I could keep my always anxious mind occupied. If left to its own devices, my anxiety would be allowed to build until I worked myself into a sweat over things I could not control.
This blog is more for me than anyone else, I know that. What prompted it was a brief but telling visit to my daughter’s pediatrician. My kid is not an easy patient. When she’s overwhelmed, she screams. Shots do it every time. Her scream is brief but piercing. And I’m not at all phased when it happens. The thing about anxious people, we dwell on every possible outcome, every plausible horrid scenario until we are exhausted with our own thoughts. By the time some disaster comes along, or better still something just generally “uncomfortable” does happen, we aren’t phased. In fact, I would go so far as to say a person of anxiety might be one of the calmest people in the room. I know I am. I’ve seen whatever is happening already in my head, a hundred times or so, and a hundred times worse. In this, I have another superpower. I’m very rarely surprised. I find most movies, television shows, even novels to be predictable. I find most day-to-day interactions tedious as I know what someone is going to more or less say or do before they say or do it. I may sound like an asshole, but that doesn’t make what I said any less true. It’s just what I experience everyday.
When the nurses look like they might run from the room by my daughter’s ear shattering pitch, when the doctor is incapable of maintaining an impartial face, in fact, the doctor is looking at my kid in disgust, I take over. I know what to say, I know what to do, and my child is a willing participant once more. I make a mental note to research new pediatricians in my area. If I’m calmer and more capable than a pediatrician…I mean come on.
There’s a good chance my kid will grow up with her own anxious companion. Where I kept what alarmed and overwhelmed me to myself, she lets her discomfort be known. She’s wonderfully verbal like that. So that’s something. It is the responsibility of each new generation of parents to be better than those before. If that’s true – and it is – I’m much relieved. If my kid can express herself when she feels overwhelmed then she’s already doing better than me by miles. As a kid, my normal day started with someone telling me not to be weird, and just be like other kids. “Relax,” I was told. “Just have fun,” I heard a lot. “Just be normal.”
I suppose if my child is ever inclined to read these blogs when she’s older, I would want her to know that being yourself is the new normal. As you grow up, your need to scream when overwhelmed will lessen and eventually stop. You will develop your own tricks to divert your worrisome mind. You will have bad days, and you will have brilliant days – just like everyone else. You will see the advantages to anxiety where others can only see the obvious disadvantages. You will leave many behind who cannot understand you, or just won’t take the time to. I know I did, and those folks I’ve dropped along the path to growing up aren’t missed.
I’ve envisioned the scenarios as to what life might have been like had I not had anxiety disorder. I have to say I’m not impressed. Those lives – they all look predictable to me.