I woke up this morning anxious. I searched my brain for something I'd forgotten to do, but nothing came to mind. I struggled with the fear for a few minutes, not wanting to let it pin me down. The more I fought, the worse it got until it finally dawned on me: my old friend generalized anxiety was paying me a visit (strains of The Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel softly play in the background – “Hello, darkness, my old friend. . .”). As I Keurig'd my first cup of coffee this morning, I reprimanded myself for letting it get to me. I knew better. I've been working on this for years - this fear of nothing and everything that haunts me some days. It used to haunt me every day, and at one very dark time in my life, all day
The fear waits for me under the bed or in the closet all night. And just when I'm barely conscious, it strikes. I haven't even registered what day it is and I'm suddenly in the fight of my life. I'm throwing punches left and right, and all I seem to be doing is getting deeper into the fear. What if something happens to my kids? Did I pay that speeding ticket and did the tax man find something wrong with my return? Is that weird mole skin cancer? Or worse, what if I never stop feeling this way? My chest is fluttering, making it hard to breath. A thin film of sweat slicks across my palms and upper lip.
POW! Get off me!
Kablam! What if you never get that damn book finished?
Then it dawns on me that I'm shadow boxing, again, and just like that, the fear monster poofs! into a puff of nothingness. The after effects of adrenalin and cortisol do not, however, magically disappear, and I’m left with the metallic aftertaste of coppery fear, and the messy clean up. Once again. *sigh* Why do I let this happen to me? And why did it come back again today? I have been fear-monster-free for several weeks, so what changed? I'm not sure - maybe I haven't exercised enough this week or maybe it was the glass of wine last night or carbs before bedtime, but something triggered the adrenalin and cortisol. Maybe it’s nothing specific, just every day stress catching up with me. One thing I've figured out over the years, tho', is that while hormones may play a central role in my anxiety, ultimately, I'm the director. It’s up to me to decide what needs to happen so that this movie plays well.
And regardless of what fear pops into my mind, I can't let it take control. Let me say that again: I cannot let it take control. Fear has its purpose, but it shouldn't be in charge. Too often, I have let it lead, because it felt good to be "safe." IF I could build the wall a little higher or add just one more steel bar, then the scary nasties wouldn’t get me. And while I was putting most of my energy into building up and maintaining my fortress, I wasn't writing, or playing with my kids or even just allowing my overworked brain time to do nothing (are you out there Tapeworm?) And when I wake up to what I’m really doing - building a prison - I realize I haven’t prevented anything I was afraid of. My son got hurt on his ATV this winter anyways, and my daughter broke her wrist last Mother's Day riding her bike. And my grandmother died, all the same.
As I sip my coffee between deep breaths, I’m practicing letting go. I do what I can to stay on top of my life, and well, the rest I have to let go of. Control was an illusion, anyways. There’s no mental wall big enough to keep all the scary nasties out, whatever they may be. But, what the wall can do is lock me up inside, unable to venture out or take a risk. And THAT is something to be afraid of.