Sometimes I get so sick of living inside my own head. I’ve worked hard over the last few years to dispel the self loathing and accept who I am — and yet, sometimes I don’t.
Anxiety Disorder is a cruel and unforgiving illness. I never say illness. Never. But I’m sitting here thinking it tonight. Today I let it define me. And I hate that.
Yesterday afternoon A- and I set out for the state technology fair that she was participating in today. Roughly three hours away from home, we decided to go up and stay the night instead of having to leave home at 3:00 a.m. Once we were on our way, she told me that the mother of her friend suggested the four of us have dinner together when we got there. I know her friend. I do not know her friend’s mother. I could think of nothing more awkward than having dinner with a woman I had never actually spoken to. I felt sick. Now my daughter has only nice things to say about her friend’s mother. I am actually pretty sure that I would like her. A lot. But that is not the point. I can’t do the getting to know you small talk. I can’t cope with the unknown situations. It was hard enough bringing A- to the tech fair, knowing I’d be in a huge mass of people, and possibly having to interact with parents of the other kids who were going. Dinner with a stranger seemed an impossible request.
And sure enough, the headache that ensued guaranteed my safety from dinner. But I felt bad. It was such a silly thing, meeting them for dinner, and yet it had paralyzed me. When we got to the hotel her friend came and visited with A- in our room.
So this morning started the chaos that was the tech fair. People everywhere, noisy kids, parents noisier than kids- all crammed into an auditorium. The kids were given numbers and approximate interview times for their projects – but the schedule didn’t really mean all that much as it seemed kids were being called in no particular order, some well ahead of their appointed times. So we sat. And waited. And waited. I’m not bad at waiting. I don’t mind it actually. I know some people with ADHD have a hard time with it, but I’ve never had a problem with waiting. But there were people. And sometimes they talked to me. Luckily for me, they don’t actually talk too much to me. The other parents all know each other and can sit and chat. Me, I’m kind of like a weird lurker, sitting in the back, head down, face set to stay-away -or-die mode.
And then her friend’s mom comes in. And sits down next to me. I try to smile – it’s probably a grimace – and I manage what I think was hello, but for all I know I could have blurted a random word like potato. Who knows? I sit there, feeling my insecurity and anxiety grow. It starts looming larger than life. This woman might not even be expecting me to chat with her. She may be completely uninterested in me. But what if she does expect me to chat? What do I say? My insides churn as I sit, silently, waiting for my daughter’s number to be called so I can flee. The urge to run is monumental. It’s boiling out of me. My leg is twitching. My hands are shaking. I’ve chewed a nasty place on the inside of my cheek. I’m fighting the tears. The anger wells up. Who the hell am I angry at? Myself? The universe? I don’t know but I’m mad! Anger is overtaking me at my own ineptitude. Why can’t I just be normal? How I hate that word! How I hate it when A- uses it, and here I am, wishing and praying for it. What would normal even feel like? Would it quiet the Whoosh of my own pulse in my head? I wonder.
A- is called and she goes to present her project and meet with the interviewer. I hold my breath while she is talking to the judge. She was so nervous! Her project was so personal – teen suicide – but made up of her personal thoughts and experiences with suicidal thoughts. She knew the interviewer would ask why she had no sources for her project, and she would have to explain that it was because her project was made up entirely of personal experience, and that she had drawn each of the pictures she used for graphics herself. She knows that raising awareness for suicide is important, but sharing your personal story can be daunting. Especially when you are being judged on it. But she did great. (Winning second place I may add…) I run for the exit when A- comes off the stage after her interview. I was able to use the excuse of being cold – I was freezing. That auditorium could have doubled as a meat locker. I was only able to run for a couple hours, then had to be back for judging.
The place was packed. Even searching for an empty seat in the crowd was making me dizzy. I can’t go into crowds. Especially in an unknown situation. If I have a mission, or know what I’m doing or what is going on, then it’s okay, but scanning the room for a seat was making me panic. Then her friend’s mom found me again. She was nice. She thought she saw a couple seats. I followed her. The results and giving of trophies took three hours. For three hours I sat next to a woman I did not know, giving some sort of answer to a stray question every now and then, rubbing my hand raw, trying to control the twitch in my leg, and reminding myself to breathe. Three hours and by the time it was over, my heart was pounding, I was light headed, and I wanted nothing more than to disappear. She asked if I wanted to take the kids and get something to eat, as they hadn’t had anything all day. I found myself saying okay. Okay? Did I say okay? I certainly did not mean okay! But what else was I to do? My daughter is the one to pay for my anxiety. She’s the one being punished because I can’t function. It isn’t fair. And there was that familiar anger again.
I let it get the best of me today, and I still can’t quite come down from it. I made it through dinner, but I can’t even imagine what the woman thinks of me. I know I barely spoke – just stared at my plate. I wanted to crawl in a hole. The thing is, I’m used to everyone thinking I’m the stuck up bitch, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. I want something so much different in my head – but it won’t come out. My words are paralyzed and nothing – not a single thing- will come out. I can’t speak. In my head people can see that I actually do have a personality. In my head I am able to be myself – to talk and laugh. In my head I am not tongue tied and awkward. In my head I have something to say.
But all of that is only in my head.
I came back feeling disgruntled and sad. A- went off with her friend and I found myself being childish about it. I’d wanted her to stay. I was stressed and frayed and the hotel room was too quiet (not the case now that I would love to sleep), I was alone – but worse I was lonely. I was weepy and anxious. And angry. Angry that I continue to let A- down. Angry that I can’t participate in normal acts of society.
The worst part is, I don’t even know what to do about it. I forced myself to go – but nothing changed. It was torture. So is the victory in the fact that I went? It doesn’t feel like a victory. Quite the opposite. I’m so tired of being “that” person. I want to be able to meet people and make friends. I want to be able to be the person I am inside my head when I’m around others. I want to joke and laugh and be myself – then if the person doesn’t like me, well at least it’s because of my own personality and not because they thought I was creepy.
And worst of all? The fact that A- knows what’s going on and feels sorry for me. The fact that she bears the burden of it all. When we were going back to the auditorium for the judging, I was fighting a full on panic attack. I was trying to breathe, trying to hold back the tears and there she was – at first thinking I was angry at her – then trying to talk to me until I was okay. I hate that.
I’m having some anxiety about her growing up and not being so dependent on me. I know this. Overnight though, she is changing from the kid that clung to my side like glue, to someone who wants to try out her independence. This is a good thing, I know, but that doesn’t make it easier to deal with. She’s been so dependent for so long, it’s hard for me to back away. I’m used to having her with me at all times. I’m used to the routines of our life together. I’m finding it hard to adjust to the changes.
But today I’m so sick of what’s inside my head. I try to always find the good bits. I want to be optimistic and love myself. Today that is just too hard. Today I wanted to be the person that had friends. Today I wanted to be the person that found socializing easy and fun. I wanted to be someone people liked. But I’m not.