The last time I saw a therapist in person, I filled out what seemed like reams of paper questionnaires. When we spoke, it was clear she thought I had an anxiety disorder. It kind of surprised me though because I never figured I had any issues. I knew what anxiety looked like, my son has suffered with it mightily since he was a small boy. I had never before considered it was an issue in my life because I never had Evan’s problems. Nothing I dealt with looked anything like what Evan dealt with.
Evan has suffered with anxiety for as long as I can remember. It was actually diagnosed at around seven, but I was on the front lines dealing with it, in all its forms, when he was tiny as well. We had a brief and disastrous medication trial but decided to create an environment where he could thrive and his anxiety could be managed without it. I often thought to myself “it shouldn’t be so hard to be eight” – or nine, or ten. Of course we went to many, many professionals of all ilks and stripes. I don’t remember exactly when it was that we found Steve – but he was the one. Even now when things get tough, “I need to talk to Steve” will prompt a call for an appointment. As a teenager, things have leveled off a bit. But every once in a while something will happen to set him off and it will hit me in the face, “Oh yeah, this doesn’t really go away, does it?” My old skills kick in and try to help him rebalance. But sometimes I no longer have the patience to deal with an almost grown boy when my own stuff is looming over my head. And believe me, I’ve got stuff. When he was little, I didn’t allow myself to have “stuff” (again, a topic for another time.)
I remember the first time I actually considered whether or not I had an issue with anxiety, I was reading this article about having an outgoing personality but an anxious mind. All the points in the article hit home surprisingly hard for me. While I probably suspected that some of those things were iffy, I truly did not understand that they were not the norm for most people. Think about it, if you aren’t someone who is comfortable sharing stuff like this in the first place, how can you possibly know that what you are feeling is not the common, universal experience? The one that that really got me was #8 – you mean other people don’t worry that someone has actually died if you don’t hear back from them. That’s real for me. I don’t even know why.
One of my significant issues is that I have a hard time opening up enough to share my problems with people. I don’t know if it is because I have trouble trusting people, or it’s because I inherently don’t believe people want to hear about me. I also worry incessantly over things I have already said and done. I understand the futility in that, and still it literally keeps me awake at night. Oddly enough, “anxiety” would also explain my absolute abhorrence of calling people on the phone. I have a repeated pattern of closing myself off, going into myself, shutting down, when things get tough. I even know it’s happening. What I don’t know is when to come out, when it might be appropriate to prevent it, or how to reverse it. Guess I still have work to do.
My son definitely has an anxiety disorder; but maybe I do, too. It’s hard to say whether or not what I deal with would rise to the level of “disorder” or not, but I have come to realize that there is something going on. After all, did I really think Evan’s issues came out of nowhere? (For the record, yes. Yes I did think they came out of nowhere.)
This was harder to write than I thought. I’m going to have to try again later and say more.