High Anxiety Day

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Here is something you may not know. Since my early teens, I have battled anxiety and OCD. Maybe, before that, there were symptoms — signs I coped with the world in a different way. I was little, and I was good at playing pretend, so I can’t be certain. It was a different time, and diagnoses wasn’t easy to come by.

The battle began in earnest, though, when my family moved away from Texas when I was thirteen. It felt as if the bottom was falling out of my life. In one fell swoop, I had lost my best friend, my support system, and the only place I’d ever called home. It would take years for me to get a grip on what was happening to me. Even longer to own my recovery.

But that’s a long story, and today is not a good day to tread back over it. Why bring this up now? I woke up this morning and knew: today is a high anxiety day.

This is what that can look like:

When I got out of bed, I felt heavy. My chest was tight, my skin hurt. The sound of my son’s voice seemed far away. I couldn’t close my eyes again because my thoughts were racing, wouldn’t settle on any one thing.

When I drove my son to school, the world was too bright. Cars were changing lanes too close me. Pedestrians were too near the curb. My adrenaline kept spiking, and my hands were shaking.

When I dropped my son off, I thought of how many parents drop their children at school and never see them again. How horrific a thought, and how shitty I was for allowing myself to feel the way I was when so much bad was everywhere, so nearby. I hugged my son, held his hand. He humored me because he’s intuitive, and maybe he needed it a little, too. I told myself that.

When I got home, I was in a fog. I knew what was happening and I felt powerless to stop it.

I cleaned the living room. Put on laundry. Made the bed. Cleaned the kitchen. Stay moving, stay ahead of it, that’s my mantra. I cried when the floor got some soapy water on it.

I started making dinner that was supposed to go in a crock pot. I had gotten the wrong potatoes, and one of them had roots on it. I had to cut that off. I mused over how no matter how hard I scrubbed, I couldn’t seem to remove all the dirt.

I questioned the recipe, mistrusted the portions, wondered why the author had used different forms of measurement for the same kinds of root vegetables. Pounds, Milliliters, Grams. PICK ONE. I was agitated, for a second, that was better.

I pulled out the crock pot and loaded the now cut, rootless, and stupidly measured ingredients in. I worried they wouldn’t fit. They did. I couldn’t celebrate the victory like I’d like.

I plugged in the crock pot, put on the lid, and realized this was not a crock pot, but a rice cooker. That would not work. Dammit. Why had I thought this was a crock pot? It’s not even the right shape. My throat felt like it was going to close.

I began frantically searching for the crock pot. Through the depths, a memory emerged. Me, cleaning out the kitchen before we moved from Texas, claiming I did not need to bring the crock pot at all.

I began to cry. It was easy. Every nerve had already frayed somewhere between waking up and that moment. It wasn’t hard to believe that my sudden lack of crock pot would be my eventual undoing.

I realized, through my tears, that my tea had gotten cold. I guess I had made tea somewhere in there, probably as part of my OCD attack plan, and forgotten. For a second, that felt like a tragedy and then —

I could heat it back up. I could pour it out. I could choose a different tea bag. The world of that cup of tea felt limitless. Slowly, my ribs stopped trying to squeeze out all my other organs. I could breathe again.

My adrenaline slid back to neutral. I turned on the kettle, pulled out a fresh tea bag, and decided to cook dinner on the stove and fuck that recipe it was shit anyway. I DID NOT need a crock pot.

Anxiety and OCD do not look the same on everyone. For me, they look like a roller coaster, full of hills and loops, rocketing motion and sudden stops. Most of the time I’m not on the ride. Not now, not after years learning to cope and facing my fears. That doesn’t mean I am not still occasionally in the line, or like today, buckled precariously in and imagining all the ways the coaster could kill me. Like today, I know I will be on the coaster for a while. I am past the worst part, but not in the clear yet. That’s okay.

Some days are harder than others. Pretending they aren’t won’t help. There isn’t any one way of coping, but coping and caring for yourself in the midst of it all, is a must. Reach out, whether to a friend, by writing a strongly worded critique of a recipe (which you don’t send but feel vindicated by nonetheless), or crying in the kitchen while your husband stands nearby knowing that’s better than touching you right now.

Remember: This does not make you weak, or wrong, or less.

Remember: You are not alone.

Remember: Eventually, this too shall pass.

 

 

 

 

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For Matthew Crawley

matthewThis post contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

*****

I get really attached to characters. It is a sickness. When I read The Hunger Games the first time through, I nearly had a mental breakdown during Mockingjay. Harry Potter is an old friend. I’d have gone with the Darkling even if it did mean selling my soul. I stopped reading The Sweet Far Thing when Kartik died. I attended the Bennett/Darcy wedding and threw rice.

The list goes on and on. So, with this evidence, my attachment to the characters on the Masterpiece Classic show Downton Abbey should come as no surprise to anyone. I watched the first two seasons in the span of a week. The highs and lows of Matthew and Mary’s romance was enough to make me sick with worry.

Then, at the moment when all things had finally come together, tragedy struck. Sybil’s death was bad enough, but I had no idea what was to come later. The rest of the season we wrapped up some lingering threads. We saw Bates freed, Thomas redeemed, O’Brien set in her place. And then came Christmas and Lady Mary ripe with pregnancy.

I did a search for gifs of Matthew and Mary for another blog post and inadvertently discovered the news that Matthew Crawley dies in the Christmas special. I searched again and again and again, trying to find information to contradict the news. Alas, there was none.

So, I bought a TV pass on Amazon and watched the episodes that hadn’t already aired on PBS. It took me a couple days to get through the Christmas Special.

My sense of dread was distracting, and was made no easier by the foreshadowing throughout the episode. From the previous episode ending with a slow shot on Matthew, Tom and Robert happily winning cricket, to the touching scene between Mary and Matthew as they held their new heir, to Roberts speech about the incomprehensible blessings being reigned down on the family.

My heart was beating like a mad drum in my head until the very end. Then it was over, and I was drained. I was a hollow shell. I realize this is dramatic. I know it is television. Bite me.

Dan Stevens, the actor who has portrayed Matthew Crawley for three season, was my favorite on the show. His subtly and presence was grounding in a show that is, at times, hard to relate to. I understand the actor wanted to move on, and the grueling schedule was hard on his family life. He explains, here, his many reasons and why we should try to forgive him.

I am inclined to be sour for a few more days though. If you are struggling, like me, to let go, here is a suggestion of how to cope.

When you have reached acceptance, at which point I assume you realize we can’t change the outcome, but rather are thankful for the time we had with Matthew, I’ll applaud you. I’m not quite there yet.

However, Julian Fellowes has yet to fail us, even if she did kill Matthew in a head on collision. And we have the Crawley heir to support now.

We’ll be up and about in no time.

With little shame, a glass of wine looms in my future as part of my coping mechanism. I didn’t put together the tribute to Matthew below, but I support it.

RIP Matthew Crawley.  You husky eyed thing.