The Roots of My Worry Run Deep

The ubiquitous question: “Why do you worry so much?”

I am a worrier. I freak.the.F.out about almost everything; present, past, and future. This is the opposite of living in the moment, as they say; a travesty to be unable to appreciate the “gift” of right now.

I find it fascinating that I only discovered that I have high anxiety in the past few years, after realizing not everyone ruminates the way I do and that perhaps anxiety/panic presents differently in different people. Upon this epiphany, I was shocked to think that despite 30+ years of therapy and institutionalization, no one ever cared to inquire if my depression happened to co-present with generalized existential terror.

A short list of things that I am scared of:

-Being in a car, which could at any moment collide with another (surely larger, and most assuredly deadly) vehicle; flip over; cross the median in a fiery head-on wreck; explode spontaneously into flames (like many of my fears, this one is sadly not alleviated by a modicum of understanding of physics or combustion engines)… Never mind the idea of operating the car myself, which engenders entirely new fantasy scenarios involving involuntary manslaughter…

-Walking over metal grates covering holes in the sidewalk; I once had a boyfriend who fell 8 feet into one. That the majority of them are extremely well-secured matters not at all. They are death traps to be avoided at all costs regardless of how ridiculous one looks tiptoeing to their side…

-That everyone I love a) doesn’t love me b) is going to leave c) if they don’t leave, they’re going to die prematurely, i.e. leave

-Crossing bridges. They’re going to break. I’m going to fall to a prolonged, watery death. (I probably should have studied physics, but I doubt it would help; I am also afraid of tall buildings toppling over… hence:

-Heights in general. I’m going to fall. I’m going to die. I’m going to leave behind the people who depend on me.

…and it’s not just potentially dangerous/deadly situations that raise my anxiety.

Long after moments have passed in which I felt humiliated, I allow the ensuing self-loathing to occupy me. In relationships, I often overthink and project and make mountains out of molehills. I have to constantly fight a deep and abiding tendency toward fatalism.

What does it feel like? I don’t often get the breath constriction or heart-attack-like panic others describe. I do– more often than I’d like to admit– become hysterical, unable to stop myself from sobbing or regulate my frantic breathing, often spiraling into utter despair. Or I feel sick, unable to eat, heart beating like I’m on a coke binge. This is my panic. I am seized with the unassailable conviction that it’s all utterly hopeless, that I am devoid of worth, that there’s just no.fucking.point. …And that’s where the anxiety and the depression begin to boil, boil, toil and trouble together.

But WHY? They still want to know, and I do, too.

I can only surmise that it’s rooted almost entirely in my childhood and the way my attachment developed; I don’t buy that it all happens within the first year. When I was two, my parents divorced and my father took off for his home state in a pickup truck, telling me when I asked to come with him that he didn’t have enough food for both of us. I didn’t see him again until he was on his deathbed twenty-five years later.

When I turned four, my mother died of cancer and my brother and I were shipped off to the other side of the country to a strange new “mom”, who– while large of heart– was temperamentally unable to provide the sort of loving comfort a four-year-old who has lost both parents needs. Hysterics, a sadly frequent occurrence, were met with a slap across the face, a recommendation provided to her by a (clearly sadistic) therapist for “snapping her out of it.”

I was bullied. I faced emotional and at times other types of abuse. I learned (subconsciously) that there was no one to protect me, that I was alone; and yet, since there were people who ostensibly cared, I had to take care to remain alive lest I hurt them…

Every moment could be your last! For some this engenders a “joie de vivre!” – live it up today because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow! – but for me, everything becomes a potential danger; in a mind you can’t shut off, everything has the potential to terrify.

No one has ever diagnosed me, and I haven’t sought treatment, the most effective of which (benzos) are hardly benign. I do my best to drive the darkest thoughts away; I self-medicate; I try to live with it and keep the effects away from my loved ones as best I can. I try to practice mindfulness and gratitude. I have attempted meditation (a total joke for me), and work at yoga, but I may be unable to master turning my goddamn brain off, ever, for even one second.

“Why do you worry so much?” It’s just who I am.