Day # 4 Question: The worst thing ever to happen to me…
Let me preface this by giving you an update on day number 2. A Tootsie Roll is no longer the most valuable thing I’ve ever stolen. I am ashamed to say that I am in the act of thievery as I type. Our area’s main internet provider, of which I am a subscriber, is out in the tri-county area. My next door neighbor must feel pretty smug right about now for chosing the number two provider in the area. I’m also very grateful that he made that choice because I’m stealing his signal to post this. Sorry, neighbor, I’m only borrowing it for a minute! 🙂
One might think from reading other posts on my blog that the two worst things to ever happen to me would be the untimely death of my mother and my youngest daughter’s diagnosis of type II bipolar disorder. As tragic and unpreventable as both of these events were, the most catastrophic part of their occurrence was what manifested in me after-the-fact. Anyone who knows anything about the human psyche knows that a tragic event renders many emotions, and those feelings, if left unchecked, can fester and turn into one, or many, psychological conditions. My unchecked emotion was fear. After my mother died, and I was left to navigate the world on my own, I became extremely fearful. I was afraid that my brother, who drove too fast, would die in a fiery car crash. If my boyfriend was delayed in traffic, I was terrified that he was dead in a ditch somewhere. If I developed a rash, or a cough or even a muscle spasm, I was certain that I was dying from the same awful disease that my mother died from. While I consciously realized that all of these fears were irrational, I couldn’t seem to control them. I had always been a very happy, fun-loving person, but now I was living a life of caution and worry. The terrible thig was that I was living this life clandestinely, because the thing I feared the most was that someone else would find out just how afraid I was. So, I hid it; I didn’t talk to anyone about how miserable I was feeling. I was my normal, joking, silly, cynical self and no one knew that I was terrified of nearly everything. Soon my fear turned into anxiety, and before long it had festered into full-blown generalized anxiety disorder.
For 18 years I didn’t seek help. Anxiety was my dirty little secret; my flaw. I went about my day, known by others as the person with a usually cheery disposition who could handle nearly any situation, but by night I was an angst-filled insomniac praying for a few hours of worry free sleep. The cycle seemed endless, and between worry, work and home it certainly didn’t seem like my existence could get anymore stressful than it already was. That’s when life threw me another curveball. My beautiful youngest daughter began exhibiting signs of mental illness. Because she was unable to function in a normal school setting, I had to stop working. With the help of a homebound teacher I kept her as caught up as I could with her studies, in between dozens of doctor visits. The psychotic episode had damaged her brain. Her short term memory was affected. Her deep depression rendered her nearly catatonic and doctors urged me to hospitalize her. I couldn’t bring myself to place her in a psych ward. I had taught children much younger than her who had been hospitalized for psychiatric illesses. I knew how violent some of them could be. I couldn’t imagine placing my daughter in a facility where she might be further damaged. I was her round-the-clock caregiver. This was especially difficult because without family in the area, there was no one to give my husband and I a much needed break. It wasn’t until a year later, that we found just the right doctor, the right diagnosis and the correct combination of medication. On lithium my daughter soon returned to her sweet, healthy self , but I was still a wreck. I watched her like a hawk, waiting for the slightest symptom to return. After coming to the realization that myanxious behavior was hurting her, far more than helping her, I decided to seek help. Talking to a counselor was very hard for me, at first, because I was so used to holding in any of my negative feelings and used to always presenting a positive exterior to others. The funny thing is, that all it took was talking to a professional for a few months to quell the beast that had tortured me for so many years. Now, I talk and write about the things that bother me, and I’ve learned not to think in extremes. I’m happy pretty much all of the time and feel very hopeful about the future. So, to answer the question (and believe me, I am blogging with the utmost honesty); the worst thing to ever happen to me was being afraid for 18 long years and knowing that while I was waiting for the worst to happen, I wasn’t using the time that I had on this Earth to live my life to it’s fullest potential. Now, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!