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Born Anxious with Relapses

Many of us have had physical symptoms for decades without realizing they were caused by anxiety. Sometimes when I watched a rash start and spread before my eyes as I was dealing with a sudden, obvious stressor, I saw the connection between the physical and the emotional. Other times when getting short of breath and feeling like something was squeezing my chest, if I wasn’t in touch with the triggering emotions, I thought I was having a heart attack.
Self-awareness helps, learning calming techniques, learning to laugh at ourselves, and cutting ourselves some slack in certain situations can help. Understanding that many, many people experience physical problems without ever recognizing the emotional triggers, learning to talk ourselves through our fears, finding the right anti-anxiety medicines, all can help when we quit beating ourselves up for being born anxious.
We didn’t choose it, it’s undoubtedly chemical and genetic, it’s way more widespread than anyone realizes, but self-awareness and experimenting to find what helps us can minimize the negative fallout for ourselves and those that love us.
We aren’t to blame, but we are responsible for learning ways to minimize the crippling effects. And I can personally testify that love, joy, delight, pleasure, lots of laughter, worthwhile occupations, concern for others are all possible even for us born worry warts.
PS: The other day, I found a lot of old comic strips I cut out over the years that “spoke to my condition,” letting me know I wasn’t alone, and freeing me to find humor even in my inner chaos: Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbs, The Far Side, Ziggy, Kudzu, Cathy, Zits, Dilbert, Doonesbury,Arlo and Janice, and many more. Laughter is Carbonated Grace.

Halloween Riot

I taught first and second grade in a four room rural Catholic School. The principal was an elegant sister in the traditional Dominican white habit, which she gathered close around her whenever she entered my classroom. I was into nature and had pretty much filled my room with birds’ nests, rocks, weeds, feathers, fossils, pet insect-eating plants, and other dust catchers. This left little room for art supplies, which sort of spilled out of my “Fibber Magee’s Closet,” whenever I opened the doors. There was a small glass window in our door to the central hall and whenever the fire inspector came by, Sister would stand with her squared off headdress blocking the window and the fire inspector’s view of my room and closet.
On Fridays the parish priest would come after lunch and teach my class religion. Halloween fell on a Friday my first year there and since we were having a party right after Father’s class, I conspired with him to be prepared for me to come bursting in dressed as a witch, screeching scary things. I didn’t think to warn anyone else.
I do a very scary witch. (Perhaps some type casting involved?) When I slammed open the door doing my witch thing, it set off a panic. Some children dived under their desks, knocking a few over noisily in the process, others fought to get into the over-stuffed closet, and one or two climbed up on the windowsills. Every single child screamed at the top of their lungs.
Their older siblings immediately fought their way out of the other three rooms to come to the rescue of their little brothers and sisters, totally filling the central hall and leaving their teachers (and the principal) blocked into their classrooms. Bedlam reigned.
No one was hurt, order was restored, children were calmed and consoled, and the teachers called it quits on classes for the day.
I really am a well-intentioned fun person, but I’m pretty sure my principal considered me a mixed blessing.