Monday, June 18, 2012

The Thread of Anxiety... Part 2

[This is the second post in a series having to do with anxiety.  You can check out the first post here.]

You would think that becoming a Christian would have helped with the anxiety and OCD but it actually had the opposite effect.  It only made it worse.  I should give a little bit of my faith background here, as it is so critical in how my anxiety has played out over the years.

The churches my family attended when I was a kid were of the Fundamental, Baptisty, Born Again type.  It was the 80’s and the ‘Turn or Burn’ preaching was prevalent.  God loved me and I needed to accept Jesus or I was going to hell.  That was my introduction to God.  To Jesus.  The thought of going to hell terrified me.  And so began my relationship with God.  One mixed with love and lots fear.

As a young adult, I become more serious about my faith.  I went to church regularly, read my Bible and attended Bible study.  I really wanted God to be in every part of my life. I felt that my life finally had purpose, direction, hope.  But as often happens, I fell into the performance trap with God.  If I am doing the right things then God is happy with me and if I am doing the wrong thing then He is angry with me. He loves me…He loves me not.  This type of thinking permeated my life and my faith.  And as a result  caused me a great deal of anxiety.

I was so afraid of making the wrong decision.  Of God being angry with me.  At times, it could be so overwhelming and debilitating.  A great example of this was Nate.  When I was 19, I fell in love.  Hard.  He was the love of my life (or so I thought… I was 19 for goodness sake and most 19 year olds are idiots). I was going to marry this guy and live happily ever after.  Then the fears came.  What if this was not the person God had for me?  What if it was not ‘His Will’ for my life?  What if I am going to make a huge mistake and ruin both our lives?  Do I love Nate more than God? (THAT is a BIG no no and a sure sign that God doesn’t want you with that person).  The questions would go round and round in my head and I had no way to know what God really wanted.  Some days, I thought Nate was exactly what God wanted for me and other days I felt the exact opposite.  So, the questions continued.  Obsessive thoughts that I could not control.  They would wear me down.  Some days it was hard to function normally.  And I would cry….a lot.  I was so afraid that God was angry with me for being in this relationship.

Eventually, the relationship with Nate ended and I leveled out emotionally.  This leveling out was NOT because my (undiagnosed) anxiety disorder had gotten any better (at this point, I had no clue that their something was wrong with me) but rather because I no longer had to wrestle with the question of whether or not Nate and I should be together.  I would continue to struggle with the anxiety and OCD throughout college and well into my late 20’s.  It was then that everything changed.  It was then that the ‘crazies’ came to town….

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Thread of Anxiety

[Anxiety has been part of my life for as far back as I can remember.  It is like a piece of thread woven into the tapestry that is my life.  Good or bad, it is a part of me.  It has shaped me.  It has refined me.  It has almost killed me.  This might take a few posts, so bear with me as I attempt to share this part of me and the impact it has had on my life….]
I was a pretty fun loving, outgoing kid.  I was very chatty too.  I had the nick name ‘motor mouth’.  Surprising huh? I was also an anxious kid.  I have a feeling I came out of the womb with a low grade anxiety level that only grew as I experienced my world.  And I was a worrier for sure.  And a serious worrier at that.  I mean, if I got distracted from I was worrying about and forgot what was bugging me, I would keep thinking about it until I remembered.  Now, that is commitment. I was also a sensitive kid. I was that kid that couldn’t kill the insects for the 6th grade bug collection science project; I drew pictures of them instead.  I was also sensitive to people’s emotions and moods as well. I would pick up on all kinds of relational nuances and subtleties that could be overwhelming to a child.  Honestly, I think it was my sensitivity to all that was going on around me that made me anxious and worried.  

It didn’t help that I grew up in the 80’s when the cold war tensions were high and the AIDS epidemic was beginning.  There also seemed to be an endless number of children being abducted by creepy guys in windowless vans. And, I knew that I was next.  I could see the news headlines, “Girl Disappears on Route to Friends House… Authorities not Hopeful.”  On top of all that, my Dad was a bit paranoid of Governmental Conspiracies and had me convinced that the movie “RED DAWN” was going to happen, it was just a matter of time. (For you young whippersnappers, “Red Dawn” was a movie about the US being invaded by Russia, or Cuba, or some other scary country and it scared the shit out of me).  This is NOT something to tell you highly sensitive, anxious child.  It shouldn’t have surprised me really, my Dad never showed a lot of discernment when it came to what was appropriate to share with his children.  This is the same man that took my brother and I to see the movie, “Porky’s” when I was 11 years old.  

When I hit the 6th grade, my anxiety hit a new level and began to manifest itself in a very  apparent way.  At the time, Obessive Complusive Disorder (OCD) was not recognized or understood as it is today.  OCD is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by intrusive, unwanted thoughts that create stress, fear, worry, etc.  It is generally accompanied by some sort of compulsive behavior in hopes of relieving the stress, fear, worry, etc.  Mine was of the classic nature.  Hand washing.  I would wash my hands constantly.  Now, this was in 1982 and I was in school for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week.  Do you remember the hand soap they had back then?  It was like powdered Tide but pink. Needless to say, It didn’t take long for my hands to become a bloody mess. Literally.

My parents were obviously concerned and wanted to know why I was washing my hand in incessantly but I wouldn’t tell them.  I pretended I didn’t know.  But I knew why.  You see, there was a man who owned the local bowling alley who was arrested for child molestation.  I knew this man.  It was very upsetting and anxiety producing for me.  Every time I thought of it, I felt dirty and NEEDED to wash my hands.  I know what you’re thinking, “Did this man molest you?”  No.  If he did, I have buried it down deep and have no memory of it.  And as far as I know, I was never molested by anyone as a child .

So, my parents tried to figure out what was going on but I was of no help. They did take me to the doctor and I was given a prescription hand cream that would help my hands heal. It actually would have worked quite well but I was unable to stop the compulsive hand washing.  This was when my Dad took it up a notch (I think out of desperation).  He pulled me aside and told me that if I didn’t stop washing my hands, they would get infected, I would get gangrene and they would have to cut them off.  It worked. I stopped.  And life went on as normal….sort of.   

I wish I could say that my hand washing was an isolated incident and that my OCD never reared its’ ugly again but that is not the case…..

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rocket Pants...

Okay, this past week has had its’ fair share of stress.  Not only for me but for friends as well (flying rocks & broken windows). So, I thought everyone could use a laugh….at my expense.  That’s right, I am willing to take one for the team.

It was September of 2005 and I was 8 months pregnant with Ethan.  My mother-in-law took Nick for the day and I was free to do WHATEVER I wanted.  Being pregnant and always hungry, my first stop was the Bagelry.  Oh how I love their veggie spread! 

My next stop was Walmart.  Being able to shop without a 2 year old feels like someone gave you a day at the spa.  As I was heading into the store, I had a few stomach cramps.  I made a mental note that I might need to find a bathroom at some point but no hurry, so I grabbed cart and headed to the baby section.  Well, by the time I got there, the cramps were so bad that I realized I needed to find that bathroom STAT!  Of course the bathroom was like on the other side of the store and I am trying to walk as normal and as fast as I could.  This was a difficult task.  People must have been curious as to why a pregnant woman was speed-walking through Walmart with a panicked look on her face.  But hey, people have seen stranger things in Walmart, right?  I finally make it to the bathroom and head straight for the handicapped stall.  I prefer the bigger stall, more roomy.  When I opened the door, my eyes saw the toilet, and a signal was sent to my brain.  It was all over.  No turning back.  My brain didn’t care that my pants were still on or that I was 5 feet from the toilet. I hurried as fast as I could but to no avail.  So, there I am, a 34 year old woman who just crapped on the floor in Walmart. It was a sight to behold.  Did I mention that as I am sitting on the toilet, shitting my brains out, I was trying to wipe up the floor with 1 ply toilet paper before someone walks in?  Good times…good times.

So, the next time you are in a public bathroom and see crap on the floor or splattered around the toilet, don’t be judgey like me and think, ‘Who just shits on the floor or all over the toilet like that…seriously, what is this world coming to?’ because you NEVER know the whole story.