Living With Anxiety: The Adventures of "Wonder What Will Happen" Woman
I'd like to introduce myself.
I am Wonder What Will Happen Woman.
My superpower is powerful, albeit pretty lame: I am able to calculate, in graphic detail, every possible bad conclusion to any possible situation. I am able to leap to the worst case scenario in a single bound.
From the outside, I appear pretty normal. But get to know me and you'll see pretty quickly… this lady is nuts!
Let's take a peek inside the mind of someone who epitomizes the term GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER.
Yep, I am generally anxious about everything, probably even things you never imagined being anxious about.
Social situations? Let me hide in the corner over here. Better yet, I'm leaving. I've been known to go completely out of my way to avoid talking to someone.
Worry about life (bills, rent, what to make for supper?) Supper?? That's too big of a decision right now. I'm trying to figure out how I am going to pay rent next November or what I may need for my next inspection sticker in March.
I can't breathe. Pass the paper bag.
Health anxiety? Ha! I know for a fact I have fibromyalgia, cancer in pretty much every form, magnesium deficiency, some sort of gastrointestinal disease, kidney stones, and something is definitely wrong with my heart.
I know this because Wed MD told me. Come on, it's WEB M.D. Internet DOCTOR, right?
If I could only catch a good deep breathe, I would be fine. (Excuse me while I yawn a bunch of times in attempt to get one).
You should have seen me during the Ebola scare. I clean hotel rooms. I was wearing four layers of gloves and spraying antibacterial cleaner on the channel guides.
They are made of paper.
Death anxiety? Hoooo, boy. That's the big one.
Seriously, my mind is plays like a never ending episode of 1,000 Ways to Die.
No matter what I'm doing, chances are pretty high that I have envisioned how it can go wrong, leading to my death.
My chest will tighten, I am filled with dread, and my stomach begins doing flip flops.
Even when I am not worried about the present situation I am in, possibilities still just, flutter around in my head. I am constantly thinking about the future, and what could happen to me or my family.
- What if someone broke in tonight and murdered us in our sleep?
- What if tomorrow is the day that terrorists decide to drop THE BOMB.
- What if a solar flare lashes out at us next week and decimates our electrical society?
- What if a fire happened tonight and we couldn't get out?
- What if an asteroid plummeted to Earth?
- What if Yellowstone decides, it seems like a nice century to destroy the world?
- What if I get cancer from those years of smoking? What if, what if, what if…
Let's put it this way. If I was rich, I would blow every Doomsday Preppers episode out of the water. I knew what a bug out bag was before it was cool. I've had one since I was a kid, although the contents have changed drastically.
Sounds exhausting, right? It is.. It really is.
Anxiety is a BITCH.
The Backstory Of Wonder What Will Happen Woman
How did this happen to me? Well, like any other superhero, I do have a back story. I am the spawn of a mother who has no doubt, some undiagnosed mental issues. I was physically and mentally abused by the one person who you think would do everything to protect you and make you happy. She was like a ticking time bomb waiting for opportunities to unleash her fury.
This started me on my journey of nervousness and peeking over my shoulder.
Growing up in a bad part of California didn't help, either. When I was five, a man politely walked us home from the store and then proceeded to throw my mother down and wrestle her wallet away from her, right on our front lawn. You didn't have to teach me that strangers were dangerous. I knew.
Fill the next few years (those crucial brain development years, remember) with robberies, earthquakes, fires, thugs being held off at gunpoint by my father, bums banging on car windows, and just the general unease that comes from living in poverty stricken areas, and top it off with a movie, and TA DAAAAAA – Wonder What Will Happen Woman is born.
A movie? How can a movie have any impact on someone so much? Well, when you are nine years old and unaware of things like nuclear weapons, and then you watch a movie called “The Day After”, and you are already a bundle of nerves just waiting for a spark…. Well… kaboom.
Death and destruction aside, worry has always been a game that I excel at. For as long as I can remember, I have worried. You name it, I worried about it.
It got worse as I grew older.My childhood laid the ground work, and when I was tossed into adulthood, the first few years were nothing short of traumatic. I embarked on my twenties with a heart condition called super ventricular tachycardia, undiagnosed but obvious post traumatic stress from living with a suicidal, shotgun toting, crack smoking drug dealer (that's a WHOLE other hub), and the hell that is panic disorder.
But all of that was NOTHING compared to what happened to me in September 2011, when I was 25. This event would catapult me into depths of anxiety and worry that I never imagined could exit. This event would send me to the edge and back, pulling up fears I didn't know I held and bringing panic attacks from seemingly simple situations.
The event? I became a mom.
Now, I not only worrying about myself, but now I worry about an entire other human life form. I have to teach him everything and make sure he survives.
Talk about an AVALANCHE OF ANXIETY.
There were a few months there where I was basically agoraphobic. I didn't want to take my son outside. I didn't even open my curtains on many days. There was just too much… stuff out there.
Today, I guess I'm okay. I've gotten a lot better as my son has grown older, but it's still rough. I have my ups and downs. Anxiety is both a blessing and a curse. It has kept me from doing a lot of stupid things that I watched my friends do throughout my life. I've avoided major illness, injury, car accidents, arrests, and obviously, death.
I avoid them by playing them in my mind over and over. I have many escape plans for many situations. When I drive, I imagine what I would do if someone swerved into my lane, or if I crashed into water. When I walk to my car, I imagine someone attacking me, and how I would fight them off.
Don't laugh! I may be on to something. I read once that the Navy Seals use visualization techniques to practice for success in attacks.
Dr. Amen seems to know. Fear means survival!
Anxiety Is Important!!
That means I'm not paranoid, I'm prepared!
Wonder What Will Happen Woman, to the rescue! But I may be late, because I'm driving the speed limit, in the slow lane.
Just kidding, there is no way I'm driving on the highway. Back roads, all the way. See you in two hours.
How Do I Deal With It?
Try meds! Everyone tells me, all the damn time.
No thanks. Tried that. Again, that's a whole other hub. Hell, maybe two. Let's just leave it with two words: NEVER AGAIN.
I've done a LOT of learning in the last three or four years. And I've learned a few things that have helped me so much in my effort to control my anxiety and turn the volume down on my brain.
You know all those cliches you hear, all the time? Those things you roll your eyes at and snort in derision over?
- EAT REAL, HEALTHY FOOD!
- TAKE VITAMINS!
- GET SUNSHINE!
- DO YOGA AND MEDITATE!
- SET GOALS!
- PICK UP SOME HOBBIES!
- BE POSITIVE AND LAUGH!
You get the idea. The things most people like my bacon and Netflix loving self hear and hate.
But guess what! It's true! When I forced myself to do those things on the list, I was amazed at the changes that took place in my life. I went back to school, began to eat healthier, began to exercise, and FELL IN LOVE WITH YOGA AND MEDITATION.
Seriously, there is a reason people devote their entire lives to those things, and have done them for thousands of years.
I DO still eat bacon and I still love Netflix. I mean, one of the things on the list IS to laugh! And come on... bacon is amazing.
But seriously, do all those things listed above! They are cliché for a reason. I want to add a few things to that list, though. One: NEVER WATCH THE NEWS. Just... don't. And two: READ. Learn new things. Seriously, the mind works best when fed properly, whether it is nutrition or information. Feed it.
Christ Traeger from Parks and Recreation sums it up perfectly:
With that, I retire to my bunker. Stay safe, because I don't go out after dark. Or when it's raining. Or too hot...
You might be better off just calling the police. Good luck with your crisis! I'll be here imagining a million of my own.