Suddenly, I was inspired. A thought crossed my mind and I was compelled to write about it. I don't have pictures this week, just my words. Lots of words...which I generally try not to do, because I worry people get bored. But that's not what it's about...because it is the essence of why I feel mine is a Life Well Lived.
I am a life-long Anxiety sufferer. Not like "most" people, where I would feel butterflies before a test or a date. Mine started when I was about 4-years-old. Yes, four. I don't have a ton of memories from this age, but the ones I have REALLY stand out. Like being at a birthday party and looking around, not seeing either of my parents, and going into an absolute panic. They were at the party, and once I found them, I was fine...but I was glued to their side the rest of the day. I also remember the first psychiatrist I ever saw. Her name was Dr. Shaw and I can still see her standing in front of me. Silver hair, soft voice, dark, fragrant wood in her office. We did a lot of play therapy as she tried to figure out what had made this little 4-year-old so afraid. No one had done anything to me, she decided, a huge relief to my parents. I "just" had an extreme case of separation anxiety.
As the years went on, nothing changed. I was afraid of pretty much anyone that I wasn't related to. I didn't spend the night at friend's houses. I didn't go to birthday parties unless one of my parents stayed the whole time. My parents rarely got a date night, because there was only one babysitter that I was okay with...and she was in high demand. When I entered the 4th grade, something did change - but not for the better. Suddenly, my anxiety was the worst it had ever been. I was afraid of EVERYTHING. I am not exaggerating. With the exception of my Dad and Frankie, I was afraid of all men, my precious Grandfather's included. (I can only imagine how much this broke my Mother's heart. There was never a more gentle man than her Dad.) And then...school started. And Things. Got. Worse. I was completely terrified of school. I had the nicest teacher on the planet, and a principal who took a special interest in making me feel safe at school. But nothing helped.
I can't tell you what happened, or why things so suddenly got worse, but they did. I was in a constant state of fear. And at 10 years old, that is really hard to understand. Lucky for me, I had the World's Most Understanding Parents. (Yes, that should be an actual title awarded to my parents.) My Mom took me to all the best doctors, let me stay home from school when it got so bad that I couldn't leave my bedroom and was ALWAYS there for me. My Dad walked me to school almost every day that year. But not just TO the school. He walked me into the school, down the 4th grade hallway, and into my classroom, where he would stand at the back of the class room until I got distracted and stopped looking back to make sure he was still there. I even left in the middle of the day once - all by myself - and ran home. Thank God my Mom was home.
Let's fast forward a few years; 5th and 6th grades were better. I was still scared of a lot, and still didn't do a lot of normal pre-teen things because of my anxiety, but I was more manageable. Then, suddenly, I had another unexplained set back in 7th grade. I had the best friends I'd had in years. I had some of the most amazing teachers I'd ever had. Yet, I was paralyzed by fear. Literally. I would FREEZE. I can recall a handful of days when I would just melt down during class. All of my teachers knew about my "condition" and could spot my anxiety attacks a mile away. They would rush me off to the counselor's office (God bless Mrs. Campbell) where - things are about to get real - I would hide behind her filing cabinet, knees held tight againt my chest, crying, until my Mom would walk in the take me home. Thirteen years old. It was SO embarrassing and I hated myself because of it. This quickly spiraled into a deep depression. I know, many will roll their eyes at the thought of a 13-year-old being depressed. Ask my parents. Or my brother. I would fake sick as often as I could to stay home, where I wouldn't leave my room. I'd write in my journal all day long, trying to understand why I felt this way. Meanwhile, my amazing Mother was still taking me to numerous doctors. An amazing team of doctors at Children's Medical Center finally seemed to get a handle on things. I had (here's another title for you) the World's Most Amazing Neurologist, Dr. Weinberg, on my side as well as an amazing psychiatrist who taught me the "art" of biofeedback. Between the two of them, medication, the patience of my teachers and the unconditional love of my family, we fought this beast HARD. It was a long, exhausting battle. One that went on, and slowly improved, for the next 7 years.
Now, this post isn't about how hard it was (and it WAS), or to evoke sympathy. I don't want sympathy. I want to CELEBRATE...because as I type this today, I can proudly say that I am anxiety-FREE 95% of the time. That is no small feat, my friends. That is WORK, and LOVE, and PATIENCE from the people around me...and from myself.It makes me PROUD. And GRATEFUL. And, oh my goodness, SO HAPPY.
And honestly, nothing, makes my life more well lived than that. :)