I have days where my anxiety will flare up for no apparent reason. I’ll be cruising along, job is going well, the kids are great, I’m eating well, working out, things are good with Chris, and then… boom. Suddenly my brain is spinning and I feel like I can’t catch my breath.
When this happens, and I tell Chris that my anxiety level has gone up to 11, he’ll very patiently say, “Ok, babe. And what does your phone have to say about that?”
That’s his gentle way of telling me to check my iPeriod app (because, yes, of course there’s an app for that). Nine times out of ten, my anxiety is related to my hormones (seems to happen both when I ovulate and when I have PMS, so I get hit twice a month – fun!). Knowing the source makes it a little easier to take. I can’t fix it, but at least I can remind myself that it’s temporary and that I’ll feel better in a couple of days.
Right now, though, I do have a justification in feeling anxious. I don’t feel like I have the freedom to tell this whole story, but there are about to be some major changes happening with Chris and the amount of time he has his kids. And it’s a good thing – he loves his kids and I know he’s missed them a lot over the past few months. But it also means a major shift in our little routine that we’ve fallen into, and it means we’ll be seeing each other less (or at least having a lot fewer sleepovers).
It’s ok. It will be ok. It’s just that I don’t know exactly what changes are going to occur. And although I’ll know more soon, I don’t deal well with uncertainty. I want to know what to expect in advance, and this isn’t something that I can predict in any way. And really, whatever happens, I know we’ll work through it and make it manageable. It’s just scary for me to not know.
To use sort of a clunky metaphor: the horizon is blurry and I don’t like it. But there’s nothing I can do about it except wait for it to get closer so I can see it more clearly.
Last night I realized that Catie may have inherited some anxiety from me. Although I wasn’t very anxious as a kid, so who knows. But she was in this worry spiral and I couldn’t pull her out of it.
It started with the carbon monoxide detector. Its battery ran low and it beeped, so I put new batteries in it. Catie asked what the carbon monoxide detector does. I explained that there’s a kind of gas that can get in the air sometimes that’s very bad for people to breathe, and you can’t smell it, so if it’s in the air, the CO detector will beep so we know to get out of the house.
Catie: Can the gas kill you?
Me: (thinking: well technically, yeah…) Most likely it’d just make you really sick.
Catie: And you’d have to go to the hospital?
Me: Right. But that’s why we have the detector, so we know to get out of the house before it makes us sick.
Catie: But where do we go?
Me: Just to the driveway. And then I’ll call the fire department and they’ll fix it and make us safe.
Catie: What about Beaumont? Can the gas make cats sick too?
Me: We’d take him with us when we leave the house.
Catie: You mean you’d put him in his cat carrier?
Me: I’d probably just carry him.
Catie: But what if he scratched you, and you dropped him, and he ran away because he was scared, and then he got hit by a car, AND THEN HE DIED?
Oh. My. God.
When I was repeating this conversation to Chris later, he started to laugh, and said, “Yeah, that whole ‘coming up with the most extreme worst case scenario’ thing doesn’t sound like anybody I know.”
Ok, fine. So maybe I do the exact same thing to him on a semi-regular basis.
Later, when I was putting her in bed and I’d finally gotten her off the damn carbon monoxide kick, she went in a different direction.
Catie: When is Tracy’s wedding?
Me: In November.
Catie: How many days is that?
Me: Ummm… about 40 days, I guess.
Catie: Is that a long time?
Me: I don’t know, Catie. You know how long a day is. Think of 40 of those. Is that a long time to you?
Catie: But… but… I have to get a flu shot before then and I don’t want to get a shot! (starts to cry)
I tried to talk her down for a while, and finally I just said, “Baby, you are determined to find something to worry about tonight, and it’s going to give you bad dreams. So let’s just stop, and think about nice things so you can have good dreams when you go to sleep, ok? Let’s think about unicorns and rainbows and kittens and cute little baby bunnies that poop cupcakes.”
Catie stopped and looked at me with big eyes and said, “bunnies that… poop?… cupcakes?!!” The fit of giggles that ensued pretty much killed the Worry Spiral. And ok, maybe it wasn’t my best joke, but if you say the word “poop” in front of a 6 year-old, it’s pretty much guaranteed to get a laugh. So, mission accomplished there.
I should tell Chris to try that on me sometime, except I don’t find poop jokes nearly as hilarious, so I’m not sure that it would work. Ah well.