Suburban Snapshots

I'm only going to say this once

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My boss was surprised today when, as I tried to avoid my way out of a cross-country flight, I revealed that I've dealt with anxiety on and off since I was 19 years old. I've only hinted at it here, not wanting to give it any air time or more presence in my life than it deserves, like an asshole cousin who only shows up at your favorite aunt's house when he needs money, then eats half her pantry before leaving with a handful of twenties and her car.

Not surprisingly it runs in my family. We're a bunch of sarcastic, hilarious people with copious love to give and a tendency to over-worry under stress. And we run the gamut: the constant worriers, the obsessors, the panicky. But we're all resilient. We're genuinely happy. We enjoy our lives, we understand our flaws, and we go right on laughing.

But you know how some people facing their own struggles tend to say they wouldn't change things? Well, I'd be more than happy to ditch this crap, far away along some dusty, isolated road and well out of my life. Sure, I've learned really excellent coping mechanisms for all kinds of stress, I've learned that humor really is some of the best medicine, I've learned that I'm stronger than I think. But I've also probably been harder on myself than I need to be, I've missed out on things because I thought I was too anxious to take them on, and mostly, I will be heartbroken if Anna has to deal with more than the standard-issue level of anxiety.

So when I'm trying extra hard to keep my game face on during a flight, or feeling sensitive to Anna's fears, part of my concern is that I don't trip whatever brain wire seems so reactive in my line of DNA. When she is afraid I look for the most practical and common sense ways of soothing her. I breathe deeply and talk reassuringly. I help her to be brave and she helps me to be calm, and I guess that works out pretty well.

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