Chapter One – The End of the World

22 May

When you learn to write in school, they tell you to “begin at the beginning.” Well, tough shit. This story begins at the end of the world.

I was a really good kid. I mostly did what I was told (don’t let my mother fool you), I ate my vegetables, and I went to bed on time (ok, sometimes I had to be dragged to bed kicking and screaming). But I always remember being worried. Not worried in a, how much money is the tooth fairy going to bring me, kind of way. Worried in a, oh my GOD our house is going to catch on fire and we’re all going to DIE, kind of way.

I remember the first time I was felt panic so overwhelming I was pretty sure the ground was going to open up and swallow me whole. We were at the grocery store (“we” being my Mom and I – I’m an only child, but I do have a “sister”. More on her in the future. She’s an important part of this story.) and I had recently learned to read. When does that happen? Around 6 or 7 years old? That’s about where I was in my life. I saw one of those tabloids that swears an alien had a baby with Willy Wonka and that baby is Snooki. But this wasn’t a fun or even amusing headline. This was “THE END OF THE WORLD” and an exact date that life as we know it would stop on this planet.

This date was approximately six months in the future. And I was consumed by terror so real that I began to plan what I would be wearing that day, because I wanted to die in something special. (This is a fear that still haunts me – that I will be somewhere very important to my life story, wearing the wrong shoes, and it will completely ruin the entire event.) I was so afraid, I refused to sleep. Every second I was asleep was a second I wasn’t living, wasn’t outside playing in the garden, wasn’t running amok with my legion of pets and imaginary friends. (Did I mention we lived in the country, before the country was “cool” or “populated”? Our house was on an acre of land, and our nearest neighbor was at least a half acre away. I had plenty of space to run amok. And be alone with the terrorizing thoughts about the end of the world.)

Shortly after this, I began to get sick. (Guess what, the world didn’t end when the World News said it would.) I was plagued by stomach aches so bad, there were days I couldn’t get out of bed. Everything made me sick. And my pediatrician tried everything. It’s acid reflux. It’s IBS. Eat just chicken and rice. No dairy (hello, I’m from Wisconsin. No dairy is akin to a death sentence.) No sweets. It’s nothing; she just wants attention.  It was miserable, and so was I. Having to know where the bathroom was AT ALL TIMES because you never knew when/where/what was going to make you sick was painfully embarrassing for an already painfully embarrassed child.

I think by this time my Mom started to realize that I was “a worrier.” But in the early ‘90s, any kind of mental illness was a pretty scary stigma for an adult, let alone a child. I can only imagine the kind of inner battle she fought trying to decide if taking me to a specialist was worth the embarrassment or shame (for her? For me?). So we coped with pharmaceutical relief that didn’t really work, but I couldn’t bear to see the pain in my Mom’s eyes when I told her that. So I didn’t. And the inner battle raged on.

I can clearly remember the day my allowance was raised from $2.50 per week to $5 per week. I’ve never, ever been good with money. (I have more shoes than Imelda Marcos, and a Visa bill to match.) But I was absolutely terrified that with this increase in allowance, we were going to go broke. We wouldn’t be able to eat, we’d lose our house. These were the kinds of events that shaped my childhood. Nothing was small or immaterial. Everything had to be saved. (Ok, fine, I was an 11 year old hoarder.)

The end of the world was just one step away.

And my entire life, I have been ashamed of how I take everything so seriously, how every opinion of me matters in a life-or-death kind of way. How I am never good enough, never pretty enough, never skinny or smart enough. Never enough.

This is my journey through the dark lonely hell that is an anxiety disorder. I hope I can prove to you (and perhaps more importantly, myself) that I have handled, and continue to handle, this invisible disease with courage and resilience. Plus maybe a little humor? And of course, the right shoes.


One Response to “Chapter One – The End of the World”

  1. Brandy May 23, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    youre good enough, youre smart enough, and gosh darnit..people like you 🙂

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