Unpacking Anxiety


The slow maple syrup days of Summer have officially taken hold of almost every part of my life. This morning, I awoke when my alarm when off. Not hours before, as is customary, but after it started singing it’s annoying electronic diddy of a song.

And somehow, this sent me into a small panic.

I totally Chicken Little’d that shit.


The sky was falling because I had slept until 9 am.


I threw on some clothes, used the restroom, and then quickly sprinted down the hall, certain the kids were up and that the world was being unraveled at the seams. The cats probably had knocked over every glass of water that had somehow been left out during my time in bed and the dog, OMG THE DOG!!!, he probably needed to go out so badly he was using the bathroom right that instant at the front door.


All these thoughts happened in the span of three seconds as my brain and heart went from halfway alert to all systems go.

And then, reality set in.


As I passed the open door of the kids’ room, I saw them still in their beds. They were not out and about getting into the sort of trouble that only two kids called “The Wonder Twins” could. They were still innocent faces with arms and legs dangling off beds. They weren’t in danger, they weren’t in destruction, they just were.


The scene in the living room was much the same. There were no mysterious puddles of water poured out by sassy cat’s paws. In fact, there were no unaccounted for glasses of water anywhere to be seen. Nothing was wet or even damp. There was nothing broken, no glass glistened on the floor waiting for a foot to bite into. The cats, while eager for my arrival and their morning serving of nourishment, were none different than the night before.


The dog hadn’t made a giant mess. He, in fact, wasn’t even aware of my arrival ( and maybe even my departure hours before). He was on the couch, on his back, snoring away. All of his bodily functions were still contained.


All of my fears had been for naught. The sky wasn’t falling. It was still where it had been the night before. My sleeping in, even by a little bit, hadn’t caused the Universe to undo itself. Things didn’t go up in flames because I didn’t adhere to some preset schedule that I made up. Everything turned out to be fine.

It makes me wonder: Why am I like this? Why is anxiety such a bitch? Why is it that when something goes just a little bit different, I jump to the worst case scenario?

The day started and I did the things I do everyday. At the slow Summer pace, there’s less slightly less stress and a lot less struggle. Slowly, the adrenaline of the morning’s freak out was forgotten. But as I sat down to write this, something else replaced it.


Part of me feels guilty. It reads to me like I’m so self-centered that I think that without me, the world is going to fall apart. Out of all the things I could be in this life, self-centered is the last thing I want to be. The idea leaves a bad taste in my mouth and a heavy weight on my shoulders. It’s a hand me down coat that smells like cigarettes and my mother’s perfume.


I know there’s a link between anxiety and control. And I think I can unpack this. I don’t want to control everything because I’m some God-like figure. I want to control things because when I was young (and let’s not shit ourselves, not-so-young, too) I often felt like I was not in control. I was put in situations where my life was dictated by the wants of another. Was I going to be hanging out for hours in an ER waiting room while my mother tried to score or was I going to be at home asleep? Was I going to be repeating a list of symptoms to a doctor or was I going to be telling the truth? Was I going to get yelled at for hours or told I was one of the smartest people alive? Was I going to be included in some mindless Myspace drama or was I going to post duck lip selfies like everyone else? Was the BIG BAD thing going to happen? Was I going to be in the middle of madness I didn’t want or create or was I going to get stew in my own boredom?


Now I’m stewing in my own boredom and I like it. But part of it is anxiety wanting to make sure that it stays that way. I don’t want my kids dealing with the shit I did, so I have to keep things “better” for them. Even if they don’t care. Anxiety knows this. That’s why it was kicking my ass this morning because I slept in.

Anxiety thinks that its job is to ensure that everything sticks within its parameters. And when it doesn’t it’s there to sound the alarm. It should let me know when things are off so I can fix things. But it misfires. It misfires a lot. Those misfires have caused my anxiety to switch from saving my kids from the bullshit of my youth to making me tap dancing through the DMZ .

Something about that is inherently wrong. Even functional worry, the kind that strikes before a big event or the kind that happens when you’re in the middle of driving, has a purpose. This? This really doesn’t. What would have been solved by all those thoughts coursing through my head? What could have I have done to undo all the disasters I was sure had occurred? All those horrible things I’m sure are going to happen, what exactly is my obsessing over them going to do to stop them?


I don’t know what the answer is. I do know I’m trying. I’ve realized the problem and the absurdity of it all. Sleeping in shouldn’t cause fear. It shouldn’t cause the printing press of bad things to start rolling in your head. But for me it does. At least I realize it and am starting to unpack it.


This bag is pretty heavy and plenty deep friends. There’s a lot in here. It might take a while to get through all it. Until it’s empty, I’m going to try to be a bit more forgiving of myself. And maybe stick a few extra posts (figuratively and actively) to hold the sky in place.

6 thoughts on “Unpacking Anxiety

  1. I am much older than you, and still feel this way. I agree it’s a lot about control and when I didn’t have it, plus caretaking and picking up the pieces after others’ messes. I am trying to let it go, too, so good on you! Fine line between being responsible and ruining your life with worry.

  2. This is a tough way to be. I hope you have found helpers that suit your needs, because this is too much to bulldoze through alone. But how splendidly you write about it! I really appreciate your eloquence because I have relatives with anxiety and I’m not free of it myself. But does this brilliant analysis and expression always help you, or is there a limit? (Genuine question.) Best wishes.

    1. First, thank you so much Rachel. Your comment was wonderful to read. To answer your question, writing does help. Mostly by being an outlet where I can acknowledge the fact and give it a name. And when it has a name, it’s easier to handle. But sometimes, it makes me feel like I’m being a whiny baby and playing things up for attention. I know those feelings are usually not my own and I shouldn’t listen to them, but what can I do. It’s a complex battle. Thank you again, so much, for reading!

      1. I am so glad to hear from you. That’s a dilemma and I have been there myself at one painful stage of life: writing can heal or exacerbate. One person who illuminated the issue for me was Pennebaker and his Expressive Writing experiments. Do you know his work?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.