Since I have an anxiety disorder, it doesn't take much for me to feel fearful, nervous or anxious. I'm essentially on the brink of those feelings all. the. time. Sure, I definitely have fewer panic attacks than I used to, I've been in a good place for awhile now... but I am still on the brink, always. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a real thing, it's a part of me, it doesn't just disappear. It's just me. Eh! I've come to terms with it!
I have these really random lasting fears, fears that began in childhood. I forget about them for long periods of time, but then something will jog my memory and the same fearful feeling that I had as a child will suddenly hit me. I will know that my fear is unnecessary in that moment, and it's that particular knowledge that makes me so good at dealing with my anxiety issues in general (like a boss, yo). Regardless, I feel the physiological symptoms of fear when I'm trapped in the memory.
This topic comes to mind because just now there was an ad on TV for a meningitis foundation. Did you know that from childhood until much later than was probably socially acceptable, I thought meningitis was a death sentence? And when I hear the term, I have an instant wave of anxiety over contracting it... until I remind myself that there are treatments, that I've even had a meningitis vaccine, and that I am careful anyway, and need to stop worry and just live my gee dee life?
I remember when this fear began. When I was a very young child, I remember sleeping in my mom's bed because my dad was away on a business trip. My mom was obsessive over teaching us to be clean, over us not sharing drinks, over us not using the water fountain at school. She was so fearful herself over us contracting meningitis. I feel like there must have been some news stories about a meningitis outbreak, or a child dying from it at the time. I remember laying in bed with her, it was dark, and she was reminding me of all her rules. She told me about the disease called meningitis and she said something along the lines of, "if you get it, you cannot get better".
Now, those are the details I remember when I feel the fear, lost in the memory right now. I don't really remember the rest of the conversation. However, that small moment, laying in the dark in my mother's room, scared me enough that all my life until now I've really, really feared meningitis. I was adamant over not sharing drinks, all the way through until University. Even know, I'm very careful about it and try to avoid it, only taking a sip from a very best friend's cocktail or something, if even then. I was even known as "the girl who does not share drinks" for a chunk of my life by my peers. It all stemmed back to one conversation, as a little girl.
(Okay, I'll admit, mostly I'm glad for how anxious meningitis made me, I probably did live a good long time without sharing germs I didn't need, meningitis or not. I'll share the same messaging with my future children, adamant that sharing drinks and such is wrong, wrong, wrong. I'm just trying to prove a point that my fear from a single moment led me to a lifetime of particular choices and actions).
Is this trivial? If you don't have anxiety issues, you may think this is such a weird post. But this is reality for someone with anxiety disorder... these nonsensical things that pop up in our thoughts and cause us to feel worry and fear physiologically. It's the over-thinking, the over-worrying.
There are just these lasting fears, a moment from our past that is stuck in our subconscious, that scared us so much at the time we've held on to the feeling deep down inside us somewhere. Sometimes those fears get drawn back out, in the most random of moments.
Now, it's not that I'm anxious over meningitis tonight to the point of panic, or lost sleep, or any of that. All I mean to share is, one memory from a long time ago combined with a TV commercial today was enough to bounce me in to an anxious state. Fortunately, I have that rational side of myself that knows this isn't a topic to let my imagination run wild with, and I am able to stop the anxiety before it progresses. It's just amazing to me, the psychology of how this happens to my body. It's like a repressed, lasting fear coming forward in a sudden, unexpected moment.
And maybe by posting this, someone else out there with generalized anxiety disorder who has had this experience will have the opportunity to think: Oh thank God, I'm not alone. I'm not crazy. Someone else has this happen to them too.
Don't worry, my anxious little darlings, you are definitely not alone.