High Anxiety

For further confirmation of the fact that I am, indeed, an anxious person, please refer to any previous entry on this here blog. Thank you.

I’ve been seeing posts and articles all over the internet about anxiety, and I’m loving that anxiety is becoming a part of the conversational canon. Fellow anxious people are probably feeling less alone, and since anxious people are often anxious about whether or not they are alone in their anxiety, this is one thing to cross off the list.

Anxiety is a very natural thing. Anxiety is the reason your bloodlines are still running. The cavemen who didn’t worry about getting eaten were probably the ones who got eaten first. But now that we have evolved and we no longer have to worry about getting eaten (most of the time), our trusty human brains have found a myriad of other things to worry about, some of them reasonable, some of them not so much.

If I write about my own more reasonable anxieties, it will sadden and frighten me, so here are some of my not-so-much-es:

Most of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the Stop! Don’t Touch Me There videos that were shown to kids across the country every year, until we were old enough for the puberty video and then I guess they figured we had enough to worry about. The Stop! Don’t Touch Me There series was educational storytelling in its prime, alerting children of stranger danger and of the proper course of action if an adult touches you inappropriately.

I’ve always been a rule follower. My parents told me to stay away from fire, and so I did. A cop told my 5th grade class not to do drugs, and so I didn’t. I got no rise out of questioning authority and wasn’t overly interested in anything other than reading books and being left alone. So when I was told not to talk to strangers, well, I really took it seriously.

The problem was that the Stop! Don’t Touch Me There videos were not merely about stranger safety. They also highlighted how anyone in your life could hurt you. And thus I entered that incredibly awkward stage of youth where one assumes every adult one meets is a pedophile.

I wish I was kidding.

Suddenly, being left anywhere without one of my parents would put me in the full-on throes of a panic attack. One time, when I was 10, my friend’s mom left us in her minivan with the door cracked open (had I truly known about hot car deaths yet, this situation could have been way more complicated). I was extremely uncomfortable being left so accessible, so vulnerable to all the malicious, potential pedophiles that were nearby, but I was trying not to show it because, even at 10-years-old, a part of me knew I was crazy.

But then this man was coming toward us. He looked quite ordinary, but the videos taught me that didn’t mean shit. I screamed bloody murder as I slammed the door of the minivan shut. Of course, the man simply got into the car next to the one I was in and drove off on his merry way, but there is no way to prove that he didn’t have other malicious intentions and that my screams hadn’t saved us. My friend, of course, had never thought about these possibilities before. I wonder how she’s doing.

Incase you were wondering, yes, I am aware that this is the root of all of my trust issues and why I approach every relationship in my life with a grain of skepticism. Yes, I’m aware of that.

Later in life, I went to gym class one day. We had a substitute teacher who had a very specific style: aka scare the pleasant thoughts away forever. His lectures featured a broad range of topics, from carbon monoxide poisoning to your imminent death.

But there was one that had a particularly scarring effect on me. After all, I could always have electric appliances and keep the windows cracked. This lecture started with, “People are going back to their hotel rooms…and DYING!” And as he proceeded to terrify us with information about Deep Vein Thrombosis, the silent killer, I knew I had another Stop! Don’t Touch Me There crisis on my hands.

Enter the phase of my life when I was afraid to sit still.

I sat in the backs of movie theatres so I could pace, I would purposely shake my legs and feet to ensure blood was flowing. It got to the point where a boyfriend would have to turn to me after sitting for along while and say, “You don’t have a blood clot.” And I knew I didn’t…right? I knew that. I didn’t check myself into the hospital once because I was convinced I had one. No, that wasn’t me.

I can now confidently say I have sat on a 7-hour flight and only got up once. This was mostly due to the fact that I had a window seat and my fear of inconveniencing anyone for the sake of my anxiety trumps my actual anxieties these days…but still, what a triumph!

Can I confidently say that I can walk down the street, unafraid of getting touched or kidnapped by some dude? Well, unfortunately, I am a woman.

I think that a lot of this behavior is behind me, actually. While I still have anxiety about tons of things, I can combat it with rationality. Of course, last week, my boyfriend said we should go to Harry Potter World. And instead of my immediate thought being, “Yes! Yes! Whee! Squee!” My first thought was, “We can’t go to Orlando. We will be mauled by alligators.” And then I stayed up all night thinking about being mauled by alligators.

But the important thing is I will still go to Orlando, because it’s freaking Harry Potter World! I will just panic a little bit every time I see an alligator, or think about an alligator, or walk anywhere because snakes, or swim anywhere because eels, or fly anywhere because terrorists. I will still go, friends, and that is 50 points for Gryffindor!

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