A.

Anxiety and Childhood: The Power of Educating

If I see him again I will introduce myself.

That’s what I tell myself about the four-year old boy I saw on the train the other day. He was in a stroller on the station platform, being handled by his father, and I was in close proximity. The child was laughing and having a grand old time. All of a sudden, the train pulled up to the station, platformed in front of us, and his dad pushed the stroller into the train car. In an instant, that child went from innocent laughter to petrified screams. “Get me out of here, I want to get out! I don’t like it in here, I want to be outside!” he kept yelling.

The father wasn’t speaking to him much. All he was telling him was to calm down, that he was bothering everyone on the train, and how they would arrive to their destination ‘soon’ (the next stop was twelve minutes away). The little boy probably heard him, but he continued to scream at the top of his lungs and cry. He was absolutely afraid. And I could feel his fear. Hadn’t the train been so packed full of people, I would have gone over to him and introduced myself (with permission of the parent, of course). I would have told the kid that I, too, didn’t like trains, but that they are how we get to new, fun places. I wanted to tell him that many people take the train everyday and that there is nothing to be scared of. He has his daddy there that loves him very much and no one was going to hurt him; he was safe. But, I didn’t have the chance to tell him that; he was too far. As soon as the train platformed at Penn Station, I ran out to look for them, but had no success; they were lost at sea amongst the waves of morning commuters. And just like that, they were gone.

The Pain of a Stranger; A Child
That twelve-minute commute will be one that I will never forget. All throughout the trip there was a child crying and screaming non-stop. It was the commute where I felt a seemingly close connection and I started to cry. And I cried because I knew this little boy’s pain. I was terrified of trains a few months ago and the feeling was just absolutely awful. I could only imagine what he was going through! And yet, this little boy he was just told to hush down and no one was explaining to him why he shouldn’t be afraid. He had to bury this uncertainty within himself and just take orders. Which then made me think. It made me think about how, perhaps, this boy will grow up to be an adult and have a fear of trains (or closed spaces) and not know why.

I hope someone can explain it to him next time. I know the father wanted to help; he picked up his child and hugged him, but didn’t know that while hugging may help him feel a little better, that speaking to him would make so much more of an impact.  I hope that one day the kid really gets to learn. And I hope that he starts to ask questions. He may only be about four years old, but little kids have the ability to process what you say, connect the dots, and learn, too.

But then, there it was: an odd moment, right when I was crying, of a sudden flashback to my childhood that I must have buried so deep inside myself that I finally recalled it – almost twenty years later. And it was then that my fear of doctors and my feeling of being helpless came into fruition. It was at this time that I finally knew where part of my subconscious feeling of anxiety stemmed from…

Anxiety Stemming From Childhood – Uncovered
I suddenly went back in time and saw myself at about age six or seven. I was at my primary physician’s office (AKA the doctor) and was told that I needed a shot on my arm. I was so afraid of shots. Probably because whenever I asked why I needed them, I was given a mean look and was told “because.” It was kind of sad that no one ever took the time to explain that yes, while a shot would hurt for a very brief moment, it meant less runny noses, less coughing, less fevers and more time to play outside in the beautiful weather. So when the doctor started to rub alcohol on my arm, and it came time for my shot, I started to panic.  There was a need for both the doctor and my mother to pin me down to try to get it done. I was that petrified.

train

Very much like the little boy on the train, I cried and screamed- a lot. Figuring that I just needed a moment to relax and calm down, they took me off the chair and put me down on the floor. And that’s when I RAN [away]. I ran towards the door leading outside… and then I heard over the PA “we need all available doctors NOW.”

Next thing I knew, I was grabbed by four doctors, taken to a room, and was, yet again, pinned down to the chair. Each doctor had a limb to hold: legs, arms – even my hips were pressed down!

My eyes were absolutely blurry from all of the tears just balancing over my eyeballs and my vocal chords, oh my vocal chords, they were just calling it quits from so much screaming. 

That Moment of Helplessness
I remember looking at my mom and seeing such a nervous, sad, and worried look on her face. I was her baby, after all! Realizing that I was in a great mode of panic, she started to approach me.  As she reached out her hand to me, it was quickly stopped by a doctor saying, “No, mommy.  Stop and stand back. Don’t come any closer.” And just like that, I was shown that not even my own mother could help me.

Shortly after, I felt a big, painful pinch on my arm. And that was it… the deed was done. I walked away with two things: some medicine in my body and a mental scar of the moment that I was vulnerable and helpless.

Dealing With It Today
Think about it: if I was educated on just what this shot was going to do for me, if I was just given some time and a little explanation, I wouldn’t have had this thing stick around for so long.  Yet, it is all starting to make sense, now, why I feel afraid and vulnerable at times. Why I, and many people with anxiety, are always worrying about being safe and are making sure that we aren’t caught off-guard. We want to know everything about anything before it happens, and stress out about things being ‘perfect’, because we cannot deal with anything less.  We can’t deal with not being in ‘control’.  It’s a fear we live with and it all stemmed from somewhere.

There may be a link between anxiety and childhood, especially if you are dealing with it as an adult. Many life experiences attribute to who we are today and, to be honest, I am glad that the one I described above surfaced back, because it helped me see what was hidden and buried deep inside of me. And you know what? I now understand better. And that’s what counts. I analyzed the situation, learned that yes, it was unfortunate, but that I shouldn’t live my life based on what happened in the past. It’s time to move forward. We are in charge of our tomorrows and we are the ones to create our own futures.

Even though the boy’s experience was heartbreaking and unfortunate, I was actually at the right place at the right time. The situation opened up my eyes, heart, and mind to understanding something that I felt was beyond my control. When I told my husband all about the experience, I was in tears and kept telling him that I want to be better for our future children. I don’t want my children to go through what I am going through, and will encourage them to ask questions.

There’s no need to look back and blame my mother.  And there is no way that I am going out there and blaming that kid’s father.  They are parenting the best way they know how and, unfortunately, things happen. But it’s knowing that if you come across someone who asks for your explanation, or is in need of one (especially a child), to take the time to talk to them. Even if it’s another adult; take the time to explain to them what it is that they are seeking. You never know how much just one moment of educating and letting the other person understand can help shape their future and confidence. As for feeling anxious, I don’t need to seek for answers from my mom. I know what happened and I, being confident in myself, can take that experience and build on it. On my journey to recovery, I am realizing that it is a lot of taking the past as the past and working on myself in the present. In doing so, the anxiousness of worrying slowly slips away and I live a better, happier, and more stable life.

If I see the little boy again, I will introduce myself.
Loren.

L.

Letting Others Affect You: DON’T.

I’m not perfect.  And I don’t expect this blog (a reflection of me) to be either.  With that said, I want to share an obstacle that presented itself to me that turned into a real struggle.  And although it comes once in a while, the way it took me over was unacceptable.  And so I learned a new way to test myself to be brave.  Maybe this can help anyone out there with a similar situation, too.

What presented itself:
The other night I went out for dinner with a few people that I hadn’t seen in a while.  And while it was meant to be an enjoyable outing, it turned into something that took my high spirits for a detour – for about a week.

It’s hard, as you may know, to accept everyone you come in contact with as they are.  There are things that people might say or do that you may not necessarily agree with.  And while I am generally good about not letting others affect me, there seems to be a few selective ones that I cannot shake.  And that was my case the other night.  Someone at dinner seemed to have changed within the past year and acted in a way that I didn’t think was appropriate and, thus, tested my tolerance level for it.  So, throughout the whole dinner, I had this anxiety building up, just brewing inside of me.  I was worrying about: what they may say next, how they would say it, or if they were going to do that annoying thing they do again.

My dinner, though, had all the right ingredients for a successful night: delicious food, a great glass of red wine, and an environment that was ready to foster a night of open conversations and laughter.  But there I was: angry, sad, confused and frustrated.  Because out of everything I was doing to make my life better, there just seemed to be that one person that ‘messed’ it up.

So, that was a couple of nights ago.  But ever since then, the way I perceived myself hadn’t exactly been the same.  I noticed that I allowed this other person’s actions come in and encompass me, turning me into someone I couldn’t shake.  I kept worrying about the situation, kept re-living the conversations, and kept letting it get the best of me  Yes, I did go to yoga, but for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t concentrate; my practice was not enjoyable.  And then I noticed, after each passing day, that a little something was starting to chip off of my ‘road to recovery’ block.  It was like someone was taking a sledgehammer to a home I had been building for months.

Breaking us down:
I allowed for all of the negativity to come in and live itself inside of me.  And the consequences were presenting themselves very clearly, I may add.  For starters, my white board wasn’t updated.  My room started to become a mess, followed by the kitchen, and then the living room.  I craved nothing but junk food and my water intake was very low.  I was not in a clear state of mind and, thus, I couldn’t concentrate.  My self-esteem was low and I even started to panic a little on a crowded train (ugh!).  I just didn’t care about myself anymore, it seemed.  Because, why bother building myself up when someone could just come in and break me down?

I was stuck in a rut and realized that I was regressing.  The signs were all clear: I was starting to feel sluggish, I wasn’t as happy as I was throughout the weeks prior, I became more anxious, and I even started taking every day for granted.  Who was this person?  No, this was just not acceptable anymore.  I didn’t like this person; I didn’t like me.  There was no need to be stuck in this rut.  I hated feeling bloated and feeling like I was just wasting my days away.  It was time to wake up and realize that I was heading in the wrong direction.  So I put my foot down and decided that I was going to suck it up, be brave, and change my habits.  I was going to regain control of my life.

Picking ourselves back up:
I tried yoga again the following night and when my husband picked me up afterwards, I burst into tears and told him that I wasn’t happy.  I told him that the dinner from the other night was driving me insane and that it was taking over my life.

So he talked me through it (he’s so kind) and made me realize that I was basing my everyday view of myself and life on one person.  Who, let’s be honest, probably doesn’t even know that all of this internal turmoil was happening.

Yes, there was someone that messed up my evening that night.  And that person was me.  I allowed the outside world take me over and I let myself succumb to being put second.  And so, because I let in the aggravation and held on to it for days, I suffered.  No one else.  My internal suffering isn’t going to change the other person; the other person may never change (they may never know).  And we can’t control that.  Yes, we can try to talk to this person (which I have done so in the past and, no luck), but if that isn’t an option or you don’t feel comfortable doing it, then just let it go.  Don’t let it control you.  I know it’s easier said than done, but I’m saying it and learning how to do it.  So I know the struggle.

Change comes from within, as we know.  So unless I dive into this other person’s soul and live life as them, then there’s no changing anything.  Heck, the closest thing I can get to is thinking of how I married my husband and how we became ‘one’, but there’s no way I can change that man (haha, he’s great actually).  But putting jokes aside, what I can control is how I handle the situation and how I compose myself throughout it.

How to deal in the future:
So, knowing that letting what someone says or does boil up inside of me leads me to gain five pounds, be unhappy, and perceive myself as ‘not worth it’, I think I’d rather not let their actions get to me and lose five pounds, be happy, and perceive myself as definitely worth it.  Next time, I can just nod my head politely and smile.  I don’t need to have an opinion or engage in a deep conversation all the time.  I can still be respectful, but shouldn’t anticipate myself changing them.

Letting others affect you?  Don’t.  I know, sometimes it does hurt to take things in, but if you’ve been working so hard on yourself for a better you and a better tomorrow, then there should be no one that can be able to tear down your walls down and make you regress.  Not even you (ah, that quote that says “you are your own worst enemy” is starting to make sense now…).

And I came to this realization when I was taking a hot shower yesterday. Because it was in the shower that I noticed that the person wasn’t there.  The other person was just another event in my life.  The other person was about a week ago away.  So I let the water cleanse me, I started to clear my mind, I breathed in deeply and let out a huge sigh.  I was telling myself that I really do deserve better.  And that I should not let another week of self-pity and anxiety control me.

To summarize:
It’s hard being brave.  But it’s not impossible.  I’m sure the first few times will be a little difficult, but there is always a challenge before being presented with the greater success.  So my plan for today is to pick up my home, clear up my mind, and clean up my act.  I am going to update my white board, go out for a run, and be happy again.  Because at the end of the day, it’s me that counts.  And no one should ‘mess’ that up or take it away.  Because, honestly, the only one that ‘messed’ it up or took it away was myself.  And that’s just not right.

behappybeme

Last thought:
I remember when I first started telling my parents a few years ago that I wasn’t going to continue to eat white rice and oily chicken every night for dinner anymore.  And I remember telling them that I would prefer a healthy piece of salmon, some brown rice, and a baked sweet potato instead.  It wasn’t something that was exactly accepted at the time with an open mind (because, who was I to go in and change them and how they did things?  Who was I to say how they should raise their family?).  But, had I let their actions, comments, and traditional ways get to me and anger me internally at the time, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I casually pushed for that salmon because that’s how I wanted to live my life.  Happy.  Healthy.  With a piece of salmon.  And, in the end, I got my salmon.  On my own.

And that applies to many things we may encounter in our every day life.  And it’s in these situations that I have to remind myself to either take it easy or not care at all.  My parents, by the way, did accept this new way of eating (they practice it themselves today and were actually the ones that introduced me to quinoa!).

So, with that said, what do I say to my next dinner outing with that person that I can’t really tolerate?  Life is wonderful.  I am wonderful.  No one is tearing me down.  Not even me.  Bring. It. On. 🙂

Loren.