A-Words: the Anxiety Series
I am a Type A personality. I’m not proud of this, because it gets me in trouble. I take on too much, get stuff done with super high standards, and expect too much of everyone, including myself. At least I’ve stopped expecting too much from my kids. This stems from the big A-word, Anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are highly heritable. That means that if your parents have Anxiety disorders it is likely you will have an Anxiety disorder too. There is not a single “Anxiety Gene” like a chromosomal deletion that causes Prader-Willi Syndrome or a deletion on the dystrophin gene that causes Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Maybe someday scientists will find an Anxiety-related cluster of genes, but I’m not too worried about it. I think they have better things to do.
My family portrait is a snapshot of Anxiety disorders. On BOTH sides! Everyone has some type of Anxiety problem – from paralyzing Social Anxiety where someone avoids social interaction and is not speaking; to General Anxiety Disorders where someone is always trying to control someone or something or is just plain worried. Add in some Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Eating Disorders and Phobia and you have a hell of a family reunion. And we’re not even including the second cousins – Addiction and Depression.
I’ve talked about Mr. Sensitive’ Anxiety (My Husband is Superman). I need to talk about my own.
Anxiety is pretty ugly. Yes, it helps me get stuff done. But sometimes it becomes too much and stops me from functioning like a semi-normal human being. I’ve missed work because I had to stay home and clean. I’ve been terrified my husband and son would get into horrible car accident, every time they left the house. At one point I was completely unable to leave my home for three days. With that one I couldn’t even throw out garbage. I literally could not step outside. I’ve spent too much money trying to keep up with the Jones’ – I bought stuff so people would think my house was ‘acceptable’ (aka a magazine-worthy model home) or I was ‘normal’ (aka reasonably fashionable and career- oriented).
In the past I would not eat more than 400 calories a day for weeks at a time. I would also exercise up to THREE HOURS a day. Yes, I finally looked like a magazine model. But really, jutting hip and collar bones aren’t so attractive outside of the glossy pages. I’ve learned from that one. I don’t own a bathroom scale or full length mirrors anymore.
What is Anxiety? For me, it means I try to control things I cannot. It’s a dysfunctional way of dealing with the countless things we cannot change. Some Anxiety is good, it helps you accomplish things. (You worry about a test so you study hard.) Too much Anxiety is bad, it compromises performance. (You fail the test because you are so stressed you cannot recall anything you studied.)
Anxiety can lead to a rage for control and order in world that can’t be controlled. Think of the classic Autism sign of a child lining up toy cars in an exact row. For people with Autism there is often a need for order and predictability. Think of the Dewy Decimal system – a place for everything and everything in its place. This can be partly from Anxiety and partly from their unique neurology.
My dish cupboard keeps me calm – all those glasses and plates in nice neat rows, are the only things I canreallycontrol. And I need to tell myself that.
Hubby says the worst battles happen inside your own head. He is absolutely right about that one.
Here are links to other folks who talk about Anxiety
Aspienaut writes about his childhood toy car line-up in “How I kept us safe in the ’80s”
Outrunningthestorm writes about her son with Asperger Syndrome and Anxiety in “The emergence of self-harming behaviors or why couldn’t I just leave well enough alone?”
Carol writes about Anxiety Disorders like OCD at http://carolsocdasd.blogspot.ca/
Other Articles from A-words: the Anxiety Series
And some F-words too…
I’d love to hear from you, please share your ideas!