Updated: Jan 2
Anxiety Can Be Caused by Anything
Besides dogs, another BFF of mine is anxiety which goes hand in hand with my ruminating. Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, fear, or dread, and ruminating is intense thinking, which in my case can lead to insomnia. Is there any fucking normal thing about me? Sorry, lost it there for a second. There's rarely a time when my fears are at rest because of my anxiety. I could be laying in bed at night, waiting at a traffic light, or working with dogs when an uninvited unpleasant thought enters my head. Like many bad parties, this unasked guest always stays too long and leaves attendees mentally exhausted. Similar to many people who rethought their lives during the pandemic, I now realize how bad my anxiety is. There is a part of me that believes intense worrying on any subject means I will be prepared for it. I actually believe my thinking should be considered therapy and when my higher power doles out punishment I should be spared. The first episode of anxiety I recall having as a child was about quicksand, thanks to The Land of the Lost the children's television show which premiered in 1974. While other five-year-olds were worried about having confrontations with Sleestaks, they were likely comforted by the fact they were watching fiction. Nope, not me. I had to pick the one thing in the entire production that was deadly and real. I remember being awake for hours trying to think of a previously unknown way to save myself in quicksand. In my defense, quicksand does exist in many parts of the United States.
Thanks to my parents I was introduced to terrorism as a twelve-year-old by none other than Rutger Hauer who played Wolfgar in Nighthawks in 1981. I wouldn't want to learn about rainbows and unicorns from Rutger Hauer let alone terrorism. Not only did Wolfgar flirt with a woman at a makeup counter and then leave a briefcase-bomb under her counter, but he also dangled a baby over the Hudson River while on the Roosevelt Island Tram. If that doesn't give a kid anxiety, I'm not sure what would. Next, it was killer bees aka Africanized bees. First discovered in the 1950s in Brazil, they quickly spread through Central and South America. The first killer bees found in the United States was in 1985 in California. All I recall about the bees is the word "killer" and "they are definitely coming to the United States" which was enough to freak me out for the next dozen years. Only about 1000 individuals have died in the United States as a result of killer bee bites. Honorable mention goes to my parents yet again for taking me to Towering Inferno as a five-year-old. Do you get where I'm going with this? Childhood anxiety is especially cruel because depending on how old a child is, there might not be any resources to put a fear in perspective. A child can't look up the statistics of a large building collapsing due to fire.
Maybe I never had a chance to avoid heightened anxiety. I could have been a very different person if I was ignorant to acts of terror, scorching fires, and too much-unsupervised television. There is little doubt that I wouldn't be as entertaining an individual, but I would easily give that up for a good night's sleep. There are careers where having anxiety is beneficial like a surgeon or a rocket scientist. I wouldn't want a surgeon with a "Don't Worry be Happy" attitude or an oral surgeon who loves giving me a high five. I own one of the oldest pet sitting businesses in my area because of my paranoia. My fear helps keep animals safe because I'm always anticipating what could happen. Could this hyper-vigilance stress the animals in my care? Probably, but if I'm doing my job, stress on them will be minimal. I would love to be that happy-go-lucky girl walking a golden retriever looking like neither one of us has a care. However, I see what the golden retriever does not. This includes neighborhood idiots who refuse to admit their dogs are vicious or the cat that enjoys running roughshod in front of cars which results in those cars possibly hitting me to avoid hitting the cat.
I realized this morning that all the thinking in the world didn't help me process the loss of a good friend. It was still painful, shocking, and surreal. I hope that this realization will help me put life in perspective. If overthinking doesn't do anything but make me physically sick and psychotic apparently, then I should stop doing it. Likewise, it would be helpful to recognize that my biggest fears rarely come true and the ones that never crossed my mind are the very ones that will occur. By 52-years-old one would think I know that death is a normal part of life. I do know this. However, I've been lucky throughout my life that the few peers of mine from high school who have passed away, I wasn't close to. I still felt great empathy for those who lost good friends, but this didn't translate to my being prepared for a similar loss. I walk through life shocked at very little including acts of both cruelty and hope. It has been two months since my friend passed and I have remained just as surprised as I was weeks ago. I've been trying to glean some good out of the circumstances so that her death won't be in vain.
I've done this after every major event in my life and unfortunately, it's human nature to slide exactly where I was before a life-altering event. Post the World Trade Center Attacks I had a slew of things I had planned on doing and not doing as a result of gaining perspective. I moved to Hawaii within months of the attack, but as Buckaroo Banzai said, "wherever you go, there you are." To ease my anxiety when I saw planes in the air after the attacks my therapist said when I see planes in the air I should think of how excited the people on board could be to get their vacation started. Instead, I would look up and think 'I hope those people are excited because they are all about to die.' The next terrifying event I experienced was Hawaii's false missile alert that took place in 2018. If having 15 minutes to get your affairs in order doesn't put life in perspective, nothing will. Besides being off the rails every time I hear an alarm sounding or when Kim Jung-un is in a bad mood, nothing changed for me.
Maybe the lesson is to not wait until a major catastrophe occurs before making life changes. Life alterations can happen any second of any day. A million people shouldn't have to die in a pandemic for me to realize this is the only life I have so I should get my shit together.
PS I could not include a picture of quicksand because my heart was racing too much.
PPS I used to be afraid that I wouldn't be able to remember traditional wedding vows. Little did I know the real challenge was to find a man, not recalling three words.