totally cool

I went to the doctor on Friday.

Mostly for headaches, but also because my wedding ring seems to be giving me poison ivy all of the sudden.

I've known my doctor since before Punk was born, but hadn't seen her in about a year.  After checking me out her official diagnosis was, "Holy $#!+."

Her second assessment was something like this:
"I've known you for almost two decades and you're more put together than ever. How is that possible? Like how can your life be in total shambles right now, and you're totally cool?"

"Totally cool" probably isn't the phrase I would've used. But still, I knew what she meant.

Anxiety is sort of a buzzword these days.

It's like my whole personality - how I've felt my entire life has become a millennial meme:

or two.

But I have never known any different.

Science is just now figuring out that early childhood trauma can set your biological being to overdrive.  When bad things happen to little kids they don't know the feeling of safety, so their body is constantly pumping out adrenaline. Biologically everything is life or death because your body doesn't know any different.

I don't know if that's what happened to me. I just know that I spent half of my life being scared of everything and the other half trying to cover it up. Ohhhh and I was good at covering it up. Like student council president good, state speech champion good, political campaign manager good. Everything was scary, with an extra thick veneer of awesome.

Why cover it up? Because being that person is humiliating. It's humilating and exhausting. It's especially humiliating if the people around you are the opposite of anxious. It's extra humiliating if you've been through enough therapy to "know better". It is is triple - maybe quadruple humiliating when people assume you don't like them or don't want to be around them.  Because that was never the truth.

OK - "never" is a stretch -  maybe sometimes that was true. But mostly it was this: my nervous system doesn't work like other people's. Mine is different.

It is not an exaggeration to say that if you ring my doorbell unexpectedly, my body will react in the exact same manner as if a pack of velociraptors had suddenly burst forth from behind the couch. It's not that I don't appreciate that plate of homemade cookies, I know you mean well, and I am actually happy to see you - but damn, I also sorta thought you were trying kill me.

Ice maker rattles at night? We're dead. Well, maybe not, because I do sleep with that three-foot steak kabob thing next to my bed just in case. That should give us a running start.

Kid has a fever? Don't even start with this one - especially now - every fever is huge.

Invite me to a potluck? WTH were you thinking? Might as well ask me to give an impromptu maid of honor toast. Don't invite me? Well that's awkward - because now you've just confirmed how weird I actually am, and the fact that the entire world is judging me for it.

You can't win.
Don't try.

But when Dr. M said I was more "together" than I had been since she'd known me. She was right.

In past three years I've delivered two eulogies for the two people who raised me. I've heard the ICU doctors say, "I wouldn't leave if I were you - not even for five minutes." I think the easy answer would be to say that I have a new outlook. That I've somehow seen the light. But I've seen a lot of light in my day. Too much damn light - approximately ten freaking gigantic lights that could burn out my retinas. SoI'm not sure that's it.

I think it might be simply - admitting it.

I have anxiety.
But I also have a great family who gets it most of the time.
I also have a ukelele that keeps my hands busy.
I have a jar of happiness to help me focus on good stuff.
I have a lot of kids who dance with me and use up all of my extra energy.
I have lots of books to read because sometimes I have to fill my brain with new thoughts.
I have a little flip flop necklace that reminds me of good things to come.
I have amitriptyline for when there is too much adrenaline and I can't get it out, but I still need to sleep.

But I have anxiety - and I'm cool with it now.

For today at least.


Treats said…
I know someone just like you. I think she's pretty cool. You do too.
j said…
Is it my entire family? Everyone I know? Because seriously - I feel there have to be a lot of us out there.
Lisa McDermott said…
Well, you just said an awesome mouthful, kid. I love it when people I know, but don't know well, help me to know myself better. You are wonderful - thanks for being so honest.
j said…
Thanks Lisa - I'm sorta loving getting to know you.