My husband and I live in that ambivalent time of life when you’re old enough to do what every other adult does, but young enough to be too poor, and generally forgotten about to do most of it. We live in a college town, which makes it even worse, because not only do all the college students eat up the jobs like the piranhas they are, but any friends we make move away once they graduate. And, of course, to add salt to this wound of self-pity, the older members of both our families tend to be watching us with the expectation that we’re going to fail in some heinous manner, either by going out and buying a sports car (because apparently we’re stupid like that?), have way too many kids, or haven’t pick the right major.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Life is pretty good in comparison. We got lucky that we can stay in the apartment in my father-in-law’s basement (blow one to the pride of being independent), we have a used Honda civic that’s as reliable as gasoline to catch a fire (blow two to our pride of being independent that, used or not, we’re still making payments on it), and that our baby is strong and adorable. The government makes health insurance too expensive in the name of making it affordable, but that’s okay, because at least I and the baby qualify for medicaid (blow three to our pride, and screw us if my husband ever needs a doctor). And I’m lucky to be able to be a stay at home mom and housewife (to a world that’s continuing to demean the very need for one when I’m working my butt off), and I get to write!
…okay, yeah, I’m complaining. I’m lonely, poor, stressed beyond belief, and just about ready to tell the world to F-off and live in that stupid little run down trailer down by the river like I’m suppose to.
But that’s not really what I came here to talk about.
This weekend, I caught a cold. I love colds. I almost never get them, because when I do get sick, it’s always the big whammy (bronchitis, 7-day-long stomach flu, etc). Colds are the best though. You get to take all the fun drugs that make you loopy, high, and sleepy and then lay around and play Mario 64.
But also, of the past few months, it’s like my body snapped. I started getting panic attacks out of the blue, for no reason, almost every day. So, like a good RESPONSIBLE adult that I keep trying to be, I went to the doc, went to the shrink, did my meds, and I thought I was doing pretty good. Wasn’t getting panic attacks every day, I was functioning, and anyone who hears that I have anxiety at all can’t believe the outgoing, talkitive, bouncy person that is me could ever be anxious. I’m doing pretty good. No crazy, attention-craving weakling here.
But…got a cold, and suddenly I’m getting panic attacks that won’t go away. Heart thumping, confusion, nausea, hot and cold, sense of overwhelming doom—oh yeah. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I have emetophobia (fear of vomit), which doesn’t help the fact that I store all my anxiety and stress in my gut so I get pukey when I have a panic attack, but , come on, it’s a cold! I love colds! NyQuil all the way?
God…what is wrong with me?
It’s like all a sudden my body has just given up on handling any stress at all, even though I’m emotionally and mentally just fine with it. Despite my whining previous to this, my life is pretty darn good. My marriage is so healthy and happy, I don’t even believe it. My son is cute and perfect, I get to stay home and write stories for a living, I have Zelda games galor,–you get the idea.
But what is wrong with me? Why am I suddenly so weak? When did I become so pathetic? I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to be that girl everyone walks on eggshells around because they’re needy and emotional. I don’t want to be the girl everyone calls a hypochondriac because I get panic attacks at something like a stupid little cold. I’m strong! I want to be strong. I can handle anything. Please believe me. I’m not a weakling.
But then say that when I’m hyperventilating, panicking, and puking over nothing at all, really.
Since I felt overwhelmed with all this, I asked for what we Mormons refer to as ‘a blessing of healing for the sick and the afflicted.’ It’s when two brethren with the priesthood come, lay their hands on your head, and give you a blessing of comfort. I didn’t need healing from my cold. I needed healing from my senseless panic that refused to cough up the reason why it was there.
When the brother came over (a friend of our family’s), I was surprised to see he brought his 9 month pregnant wife as well. She just smiled at me and then handed me a Tupperware full of Frog-Eyed salad. The day before she had been telling me how she didn’t look forward to making the salad she didn’t even know how to make, and I remembered us gushing together about how much we loved Frog-Eyed salad anyways.
I got my blessing, got told I was loved, got some talking to by some of the first sincerely earnest friends we’d had in a while, and then they left.
It wasn’t till I opened up and started to eat that Frog-Eyed salad that I started bawling.
Because…someone had noticed I was hurting and didn’t make me feel less for it, like I did to myself all the time. She knew bout my anxiety, and yet she didn’t make me feel pathetic for it. She didn’t even say anything about it. She didn’t look at me funny, tell me to get over it, tell me stupid senseless things that I already darn freaking knew but that my body just wouldn’t listen too. She just remembered that I liked Frog-Eyed salad, heard I was having a hard time, and brought some over to me.
It tasted good.
And…maybe it’s okay to…to have a hard time. Maybe it’s okay that…anxiety is hard for me, even though it’s so obtuse to who I really am. Maybe God really is looking out for me and has more compassion on me than I do for myself. And maybe, just maybe, I’m not pathetic for having panic attacks.
I hope that, one day, through my writing or anything else, really, I can help someone like she did for me. I want to understand anxiety more and be able to help others like myself not feel like they’re weak and pathetic, but that they’re strong and wonderful. I want to be the friend or just the voice that let’s someone like me know that I’m paying attention to them, that I’ve noticed them, and I’ve noticed they’re just going through a rough time like everyone who has ever been born does.
And let them know…let me know…that it’s okay.