I’ve always been anxious. I never wanted to be, I don’t enjoy it, it’s definitely not something I wake up in the morning and think “gosh, I hope I’m anxious today!” about. But I am. But, am I? I mean, is it ME, who I am, how I am defined? Or is it just chemicals in my body that are too much or not enough combined with learned behaviors? ‘Cause I can about guaran-damn-tee you that growing up in an alcoholic home taught me to be anxious. I know a lot of other Adult Children of Alcoholics and while the boats we were in as children may be different shapes and sizes, one thing we all have in common is learning to navigate those anxious waters.
Also, long time readers will remember that time I found out I only have one kidney, and one adrenal gland. So not only is Lefty out there doing her best, but her little adrenal gland (Lefty Junior?) is doing the best SHE can. They are both overachievers, the little dears, but because of that many things in my body are just off – like my food allergies, like high blood pressure, like high cholesterol, like high anxiety. Blood pressure, high cholesterol, and anxiety can cause kidney damage. But, hilariously, only having one kidney? Can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and anxiety. HAHAHAH GOOD TIMES, YO
I’ve always been forgetful, had a hard time concentrating, had a hard time starting on things if I thought I might not be able to do them perfectly, yet at the same time starting about a dozen different things but flitting between them like a butterfly in an all-you-can-pollinate flower garden. And losing things? NOTORIOUS for losing things. Yes, keys/wallet/phone… but also losing my coffee in the microwave because I put it there to reheat because I forgot about it, but then wondering what that beeping noise was every minute for about an hour until I remembered it was the microwave trying to remind me that it had reheated my coffee? I’m terrible with remembering when things are due, how long it takes me to get places, how to budget my time so I’m not always late, how long it will take me to do a thing, if I paid a bill, if I forgot to pay a bill, if I did pay a bill but forgot I paid it and paid it again…. This is why my bill due dates are all in my Google calendar now, and are also repeating tasks in my online to-do list.
Anyway. When growing up, I learned real fast how to compensate for those issues (see: growing up in an alcoholic home). When I moved out when I was 16, my friends who were still in “regular” school would ask me how I did it. How I made myself get up and go to class, how I remembered to do laundry, how I fed myself. I would just stare at them. I got my first alarm clock when I was in the … third grade? Fourth? I’d been getting myself up to go to school, making myself do homework when I got home, doing my own laundry and making most of my own meals since I was… eight years old? Nine? So I couldn’t really be a flake, right? Because I had all these ways of making sure that I did what I was supposed to do. I had ways of being my own supervisor.
Oh… or I guess you could say, more accurately, I found ways to compensate for a lot of the things I didn’t like about myself. But I couldn’t…. just not be that person. Even though I didn’t want to be. So I couldn’t change myself, but I could change things around me to cover for myself. Leaving the first two pages in my school subject notebooks for lists of assignments and when things were due. Wall calendars with pens attached to them. Hooks by the doors for my keys. Always putting my wallet in one of three places. Notes on the fridge. Dayplanners. To-do lists. Scheduled days to do things like water the plants and clean the cat boxes.
Some time in… oh, lord, I’m a terrible friend, I can’t even remember when now; early 2017? Early 2018? One of my oldest, dearest friends, Heath, was diagnosed with breast cancer. I would go down to bring food, to help out when he was feeling overwhelmed, or just needed a friend, or was getting chemo and radiation and a mastectomy and needed help. That was a slow grinding journey that kind of hit a pause button in… October of 2019, I think? In February of 2020, my Evil StepMonster died. I had more to work through when that happened than I thought I would, but it wasn’t as rough as I thought it would. Then March of 2020, Covid, and the world changed. In… April? May of 2020? Heath took a turn for the worse, and pandemic or no, I started going down there every couple of weeks for a few days at a time, to do what I could for he and his girls. He died at the end of October in 2020. In… August? September? of 2021, my Good StepMother from the North, Barbara, was diagnosed with cancer. I helped out as best I could, taking her to chemo or thoracentesis. That is, until December of 2021, when Tim had a stroke, which turned into a three month fight with Endocarditis, open heart surgery, pneumonia, and septic shock. He died in March of 2022. Barbara took a turn for the worse soon after that; she died in… late June? Early July? of 2022. I’m sorry, Barbara, that I can’t remember, everything those first few months was a blur.
At the same time that all of that was going on from 2018-2021, Tim’s aunt and uncle who had already been living with us for a few years were … I don’t even know how to describe it. I’ve talked a little bit about it before, and while I’d love to go on for a few thousand words about it now, let’s just say… It was … difficult. And it started to have an effect on Tim and I, because he just couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel safe in my own home. To him, “safe” meant “like, nobody is going to shoot me.” To me, “safe” means I can trust the person or people I live with to not continually act irrationally, to not be emotionally manipulative. I never wanted to be the person who gave someone an ultimatum, “choose me or choose that other thing” because I think if it’s at that point, just… go. The person has clearly already made their choice if you feel you have to call their bluff, and you know it. I didn’t want to tell him “me or them” but I did want him to support where I was coming from, even if he didn’t understand it, and that just wasn’t in his abilities. Which made things even more stressful for me, added anxiety to anxiety.
The last few years have been…. rough.
Is it any wonder that the anxiety and stress and outright TRAUMA of the last three years has screwed up my ability to manage?
So if I step outside of myself and look back, I see someone who’s really struggling. Someone who needs to get some new weapons in her arsenal. Someone who needs some more tools in her emergency pack. Something more effective than calming incense and breathing techniques and guided meditations. Because I’m doing those, and … well, I was going to say they’re not helping, but maybe they are helping… although if they are, I’d hate to see what I’d be like WITHOUT the help. And technically, I guess, I did reach out for help – I had a LOT of friends suggest therapy when Tim was dying, and the only reason I didn’t look into it while he was still in the hospital was that I didn’t want anything that took time away from being with him during the day, even if it was something to help me cope. I thought… I’d have plenty of time, after. However it plays out. Well, I certainly do have time now.
So I found a therapist a little over a year ago, but it was a complicated process involving (a) choosing someone whom I do not already know through my social circles and (b) do they take my ACA insurance and (c) are they currently accepting new patients and (d) are they well-versed in grief and trauma and anxiety. Well, I found three out of four in a psychiatrist, and I don’t NOT like her, but her mode is pretty much to put me on a higher dose of Prozac and see me for thirty minutes every three months. That was fine at first, those first few months after Tim died, when I was still numb. But now? I don’t want to just be medicated and get through my day. I want to cope. I wouldn’t mind being medicated but I’d like it to be with the idea that the space the meds will carve out for me will give me the ability to work through some shit. I want to examine things and work on them, not just stuff them down and power through. Yes; I have grief podcasts and workbooks and non-fiction books and those are GREAT but they are not enough.
So, I’ve started to reach out, and started to get some different help. This is the second post in a series that I’ll be doing over the next couple of weeks, that are about the last eight or nine weeks (it was going to be the first post, but I decided to write a letter to Tim and make that the first post instead). Believe me, I thought about trying to do it all in one post, but it would be like 20,000 words long and ain’t nobody want to sit and read THAT first thing in the morning. So Imma break that shit up into smaller bites.
Part 2 of ….? Stay tuned for the next part.