Anxious, me? I didn’t think so

Start a sentence, reread, backspace to delete it. Start a thought, pause, backspace to delete it.  Start again, and again …and again.  The idea that getting the perfect first words to land the perfect first impression are tortuous for a perfectionist. (Reread and realize a word is missing and self-edit as you write.)

Does that sound familiar? If so, have you been hiding in my head?

To look at my house and my skills as a Donna Reed impersonator you would not think I was a perfectionist at all. Oh, but I am.  I so totally, completely am. Too bad it isn’t always about the things that matter, like personal appearance, laundry, decluttering and housekeeping.

I just finished reading a short list called 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder.  I didn’t go looking for me.  I was actually looking up natural anti-anxiety remedies with SugarBug in mind.  She’s flying to Seattle in a couple weeks to visit a friend she hasn’t seen in over 6 years. SugarBug deals with some anxiety, and she is on the tail end of recovery from a broken ankle and surgery, and after nearly 12 weeks is finally able to start walking again. She has been on a plane for only one other trip. This time she’s going alone,  and flying out of and into airports I’ve never been to so I have no experience to share on them. Anyhoo, I found a list; it was published by the same website. The “12 Signs …” article came up as the next one in the queue.  Clickbait.  I took it.

For several years I’ve known I am not a good full time employee.  After a while I start thinking my bosses are looking reasons (or excuses) to fire me. “What if they realize i have ____ and ____ flaws? What if I can’t keep this level of performance up?” Self doubt – check. 

The last job I did have I ended up quitting because I could not physically force myself to open my door to go inside one day.  I sat, frozen, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, in the parking lot for over 2 hours before I sheepishly restarted the motor and drove home. Panic – check.

I count the basement stairs every time I walk down them, and usually going back up. Strangely not the ones going upstairs though.  I find myself “air typing” the words of my thoughts as they run through my head. I don’t feel the need to wash my hands multiple times in a row, but I do several times a day because I hate the feeling of dirty hands. Compulsive behavior – check.

Then there are the bathroom/toilet needs: food in, not solid out.  Suffice to say IBS has not been officially diagnosed, but … Chronic-indigestion – check.

I’ve dealt with TMJ for years because of the way my upper jaw structure is.  But lately I’ve noticed my cheeks are sore. What’s up with that?  It seems I’ve been clenching my jaw and carrying all this tension in my face for no apparent reason.  Muscle tension – check.

Sleep problems – check. Perfectionism – check. Flashbacks ( focussing on past negative things, even minor ones) – check. Self-consciousness – oh man, check!  The other things on the list that I don’t really pertain to me: excessive worry, irrational fears, stage fright.

Geez, I do have an anxiety problem.

~~~

Our previous health insurance was a self-funded HMO.  It employed its own doctors, nurses, PACs, and had its own radiology, MSWs, dieticians.  Every six months I had to be reevaluated for a “med check” being on an anti-depressant. I would get a brief two-sided questionnaire.  One side was for the depression, suicidal thoughts and such.  The other side asked about anxiety.  It focused primarily on the level of worry one has, and on quality of sleep.  I never associated sleep quality with anxiety, and since I’m not a chronic worrier I ignored it. It seems their parameters and criteria were a bit lacking, and I should have paid more attention.

Now I need to find a mental health professional to help navigate my new self diagnosis (because self-diagnoses are always accurate, right?).   Except I don’t have a primary care doctor because I lost that when the hubs changed jobs what with him being exclusive to that HMO. And we don’t have new insurance coverage — yet. And SugarBug needs more insulin; without insurance it is hundreds of dollars — per refill.

But I’m not going to worry. I’m not. Really. God’s got this.  And that’s why I don’t worry.  But I might suffer from some mild insomnia whilst clenching my teeth tonight. Deep breath, 2, 3, 4. Hold, 2, 3, 4. Exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8. Repeat.

It is Well, and yet Not

I held a sobbing child in my arms last night for the first time in a very long time.  I held her close and just let the tears go, with salty bitterness and nose running all down my shoulder.   There were no soothing words to comfort, no back patting to help calm.  Hold her.  That’s all I could do.  I held her until she loosed her grip and let go.  I held her hands in mine, and kissed them.  I took her face close to mine and kissed it.  I whispered “I love you” in her ear.

The beautiful, distraught child was mine.  She will be 18 exactly 13  days from now. She stands an inch-and-a-half taller than me, but in her Doc Martens it is near to 3 inches.  And last night she was my little girl who needed her Momma all over again.  I sat next to her as she, as we, her Dad and I too, attended a funeral.

This was an unexpected funeral, and a tragic one at that, as many tend to be. The service was for a 17 year-old high school Junior who died by her own hand.  Vivi was a friend of SugarBug’s from church.  Being close in age they went through many of the same church programs together starting in the nursery as infants. They have known each other their whole lives but didn’t develop a friendship until both were in high school youth group together.  It was there they bonded over similar music tastes, distaste for conventional trendy fashion and a love for Jesus.

I’ve known Vivi and her parents just as long.  I worked in the church nursery as a Supervisor in charge of one of the rooms when she was born.  Her dad was SonnyBoy’s guitar teacher for a short time.  Her mother and I connected through women’s ministry, and various other ways we had volunteered over the years.

Our girls had another connection: depression.

There are few things in this world I truly hate, and by “hate” I mean I wish it never existed anywhere, anytime in this world.   And I HATE depression.  It is a sinister quiet little devil of a thing.  People who suffer with it look like nothing is wrong with them, at least most of the time.  And those fighting it aren’t always immediately aware when it is getting worse.  Outsiders don’t always realize that something has changed with the person caught in its grip. Sometimes the depressed don’t see it right away either — and they are the ones living with it.  It moves slowly, so slowly that it can be weeks or months before it is recognized as having taken hold.

And sometimes it moves at lightning speed.

Maybe that’s what happened with Vivi, that lightning speed onslaught of darkness.  Only she knows, and she isn’t here to tell us.

I can’t blame her — at least I don’t want to blame her — for taking her own life.  The whispers of self-loathing telling me the world would be a better place, that I would be in a better place, that no one would really miss me all that much, to ‘go ahead, do it’ have been all too familiar. LIES!  Those are all lies.

I want to scream at the top of my lungs. Cursing won’t do any good, and it won’t change anything, and it won’t make me feel any better.  It never does.  Blaming her parents is the absolute wrong thing to do.  Vivi’s dad made sure to have Pastor tell the attendees of the service that no one loved his girl as much or as fiercely as her mother did.

I love my girl fiercely, too.  I am afraid that she has heard those terrible whispered lies in the quiet recesses of her mind.  I am afraid.  And I hate being afraid.  I don’t think she is in any real danger of self-harm. But …I know this age and stage in life makes her extremely vulnerable.  I am  certain she struggles to see beyond being 19 or 20 years old. Anything much past that is just.so.old.

I want her to not just grow up, but grow old.  At Vivi’s funeral our Youth Ministry director said she always thought Vivi would grow up to be one of the coolest adults: independent, artistic, poetic, unfettered by the norms that keep adults so ‘adult.’  I could see that.  And sadly we none of us will get a chance to actually see that.

The night before the funeral during the visitation time Vivi’s mom took my girl in her arms, remembered her by name, and held her tight.  They clung to each other — my daughter in grief, the grieving mother in relief that her child was remembered by a friend. She told my girl how much hers had loved her, how she looked forward to seeing her at youth group, how she loved and admired SugarBug for being SugarBug, and doing it so boldly.

So my sweet girl, continue to go boldly into adulthood.  No matter how old you get you will always have my shoulder to cry on. And make Vivi proud by being one of the coolest adults on the planet, and love Jesus the whole while.

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is Well with My Soul, Horatio G Spafford, 1873

Just a Little Nudge

It’s quite late on evening of our Presidential Election and the polls in Michigan closed more than seven hours ago, and yet I find myself still seated, staring at a computer monitor and enjoying an unexpected conversation with a friend on Facebook.  This night has brought several events I wasn’t expecting.

Michigan had a state constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot concerning loosening state control over embryonic stem cell research. We spent some time discussing just what this amendment would actually mean– for science and for the sought-after-embryos. I’ll save my opinion on that issue for a later date, and I do have a strong opinion on it, by the way.

Our talk drifted into other things as well.  Artistic endeavors, Spiritual gifts, a little of this, a little of that.  It’s been delightful, and stimulating.  My friend has encouraged me to continue writing– he thinks I have a little talent for it! At least that’s the impression I got.  I don’t know how one gauges such things, but I’m a little biased about my own writings.

So I’ve gotten  a little nudge with some wonderful encouragement and an invitation to join  Creative Community, though no formal invitation was ever required.  With that little bit of sweet contentment I’ll be on my way to curl up under my covers, which we both said we needed to do about two hours ago– and save my commentary on politics, ballot proposals or any other potential hot button issue for another day.

Taking a Break to Make Decisions

I’ve just gotten off the phone with a friend who was asking if I’d be using or be interested in selling a science text book we have. She wanted to know if we’d be using it for Sugar Bug when she gets old enough.  I told I was still thinking about sending Sweet Pea to the co-op class that’s starting in a couple of weeks, which would use the book.  Problem: no money to sign her up, or pay the class fees.  She’s a good friend, and would probably let me make installments over the semester, all I’d have to do is prob’ly ask.

There’s a history/Lit/Bible class also offered.  It would be worth 3 high school credits, which Sweet Pea needs to have.  She wants to go to MSU and go through their Veterinary Medicine program and, well.. be a vet.  She loves animals, but thinks she wants to take care of large ones– horses, hippos, elephants, giraffe.  I think she’d cry just as much as any family to have to put a sick or injured animal down.

Sonny Boy has been tolerant of his parents of late.  He’s convinced we’ve screwed up his life, which isn’t entirely true.  We (read: I, me) have made some mistrakes with parenting and schooling decisions, and they can’t be undone.  I need to sit with him, have a long talk and ask for his forgiveness.

I was trying to work hard at getting caught up on a lot of housework that’s been pushed aside for a very long time when I got that call. I decided to take a break, grab some lunch and write. Only I haven’t eaten yet.  I think I’m actually making progress– with the housework, but I’m not nearly done.  I’ve decided to save laundry folding for later tonight, after sunset, so I can do it and listen/watch some TV. I’ve got stacks of books that need to be sorted and re-organized into subjects.  That may be a good job for tomorrow, after my walk.

Tomorrow is my next long (group) training day.  We have 14 miles on the agenda, but I may do 16.  Last week was supposed to be 16, but I didn’t see that until after I was home, showered and ready to devour a side of beef.  I wasn’t going to go back out to finish those last 2 miles.  I’ve realized the marathon is just 7 weeks away now! I have fundraising to do still– almost $1500. Any takers!?!  No? well, how about $30 or $50? As much as I’d love for an anonymous stranger to just 15 Benjamin’s into my lap, I know that’s not realistic– well, as realistic as winning tonight’s Mega Millions $134 Million jackpot.

So, to recap, I’ve decided: A) Sweet Pea should take the co-op classes.  I’ll have to find the money from somewhere. B) I need to talk to my son, really talk to him and apologize for not being the parent he needed. C)  Fold laundry during Numb3rs tonight D) Go eat some lunch, then scrub the kitchen floor.  E) Resist the urge to spend $1 on the voluntary tax that is the Michigan lottery.

Must dash off now, hunger beckons, and the cookies are screaming Eat me! so I better find something healthier than that.

Un-ordinary People

I went for a walk with Sugar Bug a couple of hours ago. We went up the main street past the city cemetery. After I told her I love cemeteries, she wanted to know why.

“There’s so much history buried in there. People who have lived their lives, gone places, done things. You know, just ordinary people who went about their business.”

“What kind of people?” she asked.
“Well, some were parents raising their families, dads who went to work. Some were in the military and fought in wars.”

“I don’t think they would be ordinary. I think that makes them un-ordinary”

“Which ones are ‘un-ordinary’?” (I knew she meant extra-ordinary, but I didn’t want to correct her; grammar lessons could wait. I wanted to hear what she said.)

“The ones in the military. That makes them special, because they were there ready to give up their life so someone else could be free. That makes them un-ordinary.”

“I suppose that does, then, doesn’t it. There are a lot of people who don’t think the same way today.”

“Why don’t they?” (She has no idea how loaded that question is in a post-modern 21st Century USA.)

“Well, back when those people were alive, they –and the culture and society — used to think it was a privilege and a duty to serve their country. It was an honor for them to be in the military. They did it out of respect and honor for their country.”

“O, that definitely makes them un-ordinary.”

[ I thought of telling her that back then they didn’t think about whether it was the nations business to be there, if the military action could be politically and socially justified, or if it was ‘the right thing to do’. They left that to politicians and government to sort through; they joined because they wanted to serve, not earn a free college education. That’s what I wanted to add, but I didn’t. I’ll let her 10 year old innocence stay intact for as long as it can. I’ll let her patriotism stay strong, so she can still think people today serve their country in the military because of love of country– nothing more, nothing less. ]

Un-ordinary indeed! To her, they are heroes, and that’s the kind we need to look up to more often.

Seen on the Street

Introduction

Every once in a while something grabs my eye, and it leaves an impression. It’s one of those things that just make you stop to think, not good, not bad, just “Hhhhmmmm” and wonder what they must have been thinking when they said/wrote/went/did whatever, and I was a witness to it.

Seen on the Street #1

Homemade car window *thing*, hanging in the rear window for all the world to see. At first I thought it was one kind of societal dig; turns out it was another:

War in Irag: 4,000 dead in 5 years

9/11: 3,000 dead in one day

Abortion: 3,000 dead per day, for the past 35 years

Abortion is killing America!

I just did a quick calculation, and that comes to ever 38 MILLION babies in the United States since 1973. I guess when it comes to making a life and death decision, one female and one child it, it becomes my own decision, and no one can stop me. When it becomes one President, one Dictator and peace and stability for a nation oppressed, it must be stopped.

Milestones

Yesterday was Sonny Boy’s 16th birthday.  He was very excited.  I am handling this birthday/milestone much better than when he turned 10– much, much better.  When he turned 10 I didn’t feel old enough to have to a kid hit “double digits”. I’ve got three of the “double digit”-ers now, it got easier with each one.

We didn’t have big plans, but did plan to take his driver’s road test, and if he passed we would go get his drivers license.  To his great joy, we got there on time.  He passed the basic skills part pretty easily.  ( “I don’t know why everyone freaks out about parallel parking.  It’s no big deal, you just go do it”, says he.)  I was glad that didn’t take very long; it was a little chilly with a breeze and the parking lot still had massive snow piles trying to melt, which I happened to be standing next to.  If you’re not sure what that feels like, just think walking into a walk-in beverage cooler with the fans blowing and waiting there for 10 minutes, not moving.  At least it’s not the middle of February.

We hit the road.  The instructor deliberately practices using monotone commands at home, I’m sure of now.  “At the next light, turn left…After you make the stop, turn right…When attempting to avoid a head-on collision, what must you do?..” Imagine Ben Stein in the Visine commercials.  Sonny Boy did just fine getting onto the highway, making his turns (not swinging too far over/near the other lanes), but he was nervous.  Boy! could I tell he was nervous.  As he progressed through the road test I started to notice all the things he was doing wrong– things I knew he knew how to do properly, but just wasn’t.  “He’s going to choke! He’s going to fail!! His bad mood will totally ruin MY day–crap!”  I almost thought of sending a text message to my husband: “He’s choking; start praying”, but decided not to, in case Sonny Boy would hear the buttons clicking on my phone.  I didn’t want to make him any more tense than he already was.

I’m not sure how many points are on a driver’s road test, but the driver is only allowed 25 negative points (mistakes) and still be allowed to pass.  At 26 and beyond, you fail.  I told him earlier that we would pay for this one, but if he failed he would have to pay for any and all re-tests.  Toward the end I could see that he knew he was on thin ice.  For a kid whose tendency leans toward perfectionism, and self-defeatism it was hard to guess what he would do.  Would he try harder to prove he was actually a good driver, or throw in the towel, and just scrap the whole thing?  If we had been on the road much longer I think the self-defeatist would have won out.  He did pass– but barely– with 25 points off.  I was advised to reconsider letting him get his driver’s license that day so he could get more road time in to practice.  I thought about it for about 5 seconds.  I also think that ‘near miss’ to failure knocked the over-confidence out of him.

He’s a good driver. If you know my Sonny Boy personally, you know he’s a young man of good character, a little impetuous, and loads of energy, but all-in-all, a pretty good kid.  I’m not saying this just to sound like Rain Man (“He’s a really good driver”.) His girlfriend’s father won’t let her get into a car with him just for the sake of joy-riding.  They have to be going somewhere, with a purpose to it.

I hit a parenting milestone today, too. I let him take the car to go run an errand to use a gift card he got over the holidays before it expired.  He said he wouldn’t be gone long.  After an hour, I was starting to think:  ‘Okay, it’s been an hour, he should be home soon. I’m glad he has his cell phone so I can call if I need to.’ Then  good sense prevailed.  I reminded myself he was headed to Best Buy and had to drive up one of the busiest retail streets in town, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, get his stuff in a store he loves to wander in and then come back home on the same busy street. Mentally, I decided to give him another half an hour, then I’d call.  If he answered while he was driving, I’d have to yell at him for talking while driving.  He was in the driveway about two minutes after this whole thing ran through my head.

Later, I gave him the keys and sent him to the grocery store to go get some stuff we needed for dinner.  I didn’t panic, hyperventilate, and worry the whole time.  But after dinner I was ready to work up a really good *mad* because he was gone and so was the car and he didn’t clear it with me.  Turns out he talked to his dad about that one, and had to run his girlfriend home for some reason or other.  Good thing she lives less than half a mile away.

He moved toward the next phase of independence, that first, faraway step to adulthood.  I let him go and didn’t even cry;  milestones indeed.