The Fine Art of Worrying
by Michele Christopher
Michele takes the Gauntlet for a rare Sunday morning drive...
I've always been a worrier. It's just what I do. When I was little I would worry about the Russians and plane crashes and my parents dying in a horrific fire at the drive-in while they were watching Mothra. Yes, a fire at the drive-in. I was little. Even then, my imagination soared. I worried about school. I worried if my stuffed animals could breathe in my toy box. I worried if people liked me. It was pretty easy to let go of that worry once I realized they didn't. If only the Russians would have had the decency to ease my mind like that.
The worrying not only carried on into my later years, but intensified and then was accompanied by panic. Several years ago, I went on some medications to help stem the duo of Panic and Worry. A year later, I stopped taking them (note, I do not recommend going cold turkey off anxiety meds). Medication made me feel absent from myself. That's the simplest way I could explian it. I hated it. Sure, the panic attacks were gone. The anxiety was under control. But I was basically null and void as a human being. Not a sacrifice I was willing to make. No, I did not want to try other meds. I would do this on my own. I would face the panic and worry head on with only my wits and good looks.
The thing about Worry and Panic is that they form the perfect storm of anxiety. When someone already has all this anxiety running around in their system, this super cell of stress causes a transformation in the person. In the case of myself, this transformation is an alternate personality. We call her Worst Case Scenario Girl. WCSG, as she is known, can take any situation and make a DEFCON-1 disaster out of it. Kid is five minutes late coming home from school? He must be laying dead in a ditch after being beat up by some bullies who wanted to steal his test answers. Hear helicopters in the middle of the night? There must have been a break out at the county jail and the escapees are running around your neighborhood - no wait, they are in your yard - and they are going to break into your house and hold you hostage like Mickey Rourke in that movie. With that chick. Forgot the name. But you get my point.
It's not easy being like this. I don't want to be like this. It's a hell of a way to live. Constantly one step away from a panic attack. Most of my days and nights are spent with my heart racing and my stomach in knots, my breath short and my hands shaky. I'm spring loaded and ready to go.
Wake up. Worry if it's going to rain. Or snow. Or not rain or snow. If it's going to snow, should I go to work? What if it snows a lot in the afternon and I get stuck in a snowdrift on the way home from work and my cell phone dies and everyone is wondering where I am and maybe I should put a blanket in the car just in case. And some water. And maybe some food. Just in case I get stuck on one of those deserted stretches of lonesome highway....that don't exist here. I know how ridiculous my worries are. I know when someone says "I'll call you in five minutes" and seven minutes later I start worrying about them, it's ridiculous. But they have to understand. My anxiety has a mind of its own. It does what it wants. I can argue with it and talk it down and tell it that it's being an ass, but its a force that will never give in. And then like a mental Ultraman, all these anxieties and worry and panic join together to form the most formidable opponent that serenity, peace and reason have ever known. Worst Case Scenario Girl has arrived.
She may be my alter ego but I loathe her. I don't like when she shows up. But it happens. I can't make her go away any more than I can make any other parts of my personality go away. She's part of me. I've come to accept her like one accepts a large tumor sticking out of their face.
So WCSG has been hanging around consistently for a week or so. She hasn't fully taken me over yet, she's sort of just hanging around the corners of my mind, waiting for that right time to set off my spring-loaded action. Just one little tweak of the spring and she'll be in full control.
See, it's a good thing that FTTW has the format it does now. Remember back when it was just me and Turtle and we would post a couple of times a day? If we still did that, WCSG would be taking over the site in a few days. You would get to experience the inner workings of my alter ego:
You think I'm kidding. Don't think these scenarios haven't already played out in my head. Well, all except one because that's kind of ridiculous. He doesn't really like clowns.
I've already accepted the fact that I will be worrying and panicking and worst case scenario-ing until he pulls into my driveway. Even then I'm going to check his body for the the tell tale signs of kidney removal. But this is what I do. It's how I am. No amount of talking to myself is going to stop it. And I can sit here and say, well girl, you are not the one doing the actual driving across the country, so what the hell are you stressing about?
Well, right now, I'm stressing about stressing. Worrying about worrying. Panicking about panicking. My head is a weird place to be sometimes. I can sit here and pace and stress over things I have no control over. It's so easy to do. But there's a side of my brain that so wants to gain control over these things but can't, so it takes control of other things. This is when I put my CDs in alphabetical order. Rewash all my silverware. Organize a cabinet. Eat an entire bag of Chex Mix, but leave all the peanuts. Start Legend of Zelda over from the very beginning. Anything to keep WCSG at bay. Finding order anywhere in my life - if I can't find it in my brain - can usually keep her away for a few hours. Sleep can keep her away too, I discovered. But I really don't want to take that route. I've been in a place before where I crawled into bed to escape my demons and it was about four months before I got out again. I don't want to be there again.
It's kind of hard to explain to people around you what's going on when WCSG shows up. Hell, it's even hard to explain the Panic and Worry guys. When you are talking to a person who is, for lack of a better word, normal, it's hard to explain why you think the way you do. Why you act the way you do. Why you cry all the time or why you always think something is wrong when it's not. "It's just the way my head works" isn't really a good explanation and, if anything, it makes me worry more because now I'm thinking, well he probably thinks I am insane. And a handful. So now I'm worrying that he can't handle my thinking process. Or doesn't want to. Which sets off a whole new set of worries. And here comes WCSG, swooping in, taking over. It's a vicious cycle. And an ugly one. I really don't want anyone to see it, especially someone I love. My family is mostly used to it. Plus, they are stuck with me no matter what. It's not them I worry about.
I want to learn how to take on WCSG. This trip is a good place to start. I want to come up with an arch nemesis for her. Someone who can swat down her conspiracy theories, someone who can fight off her far fetched fantasies, someone who can shoot lasers at Panic and Worry before they can get together to form WCSG.
Sure, there's Jack Daniels. And there's sleep. And there's Xanax.
I want to choose None of the Above.
I want to be able to tell myself that the children of the corn don't really exist. That there are no gay clown rodeos in Wyoming. That no one has ever been swallowed up by Cleveland before. That turtle has no desire to join up with the Amish in Pennsylvania and turn to a life of raising barns.
And then I can transfer this to every day life, where I will be able to convince myself that not every day will bring some kind of unmitigated distaster. That the sky is not falling and my kids don't have some rare disease and that tree in the backyard is not going to fall on my roof and crush my house and kill my cat.
Maybe I can do it. Maybe I can't. But I'm certainly going to try to slay WCSG before she slays me.
Michele once had a crush on Alfred E. Nueman
[wcsg was made here]