I’m a doer. I do things. Lots of things. When I was working full time out of the home (mostly in people management) it was trendy to have your employees’ personality and management styles analyzed. Yep, certified Type A, ISTJ person, that’s me. Doing makes me feel in control. ‘Focus on what you can control‘ is my mantra. When I became aware of issues surrounding homeless pets and puppy mills, I wrote to my legislators and wrote letters to the editor (this was before social media). When an employee at my place of work died from a stroke at a very young age, I was moved to do a charity marathon to raise money for the American Stroke Association. As I grew and my interests changed, so did my volunteerism and activism.
By doing, I was preventing horrible things from happening to me. Or preventing situations from getting worse, or so I thought. When my son was born and we learned of his disability, I almost immediately joined Boards of Directors, held fundraisers, became a special ed advocate and many other things to go with this cause. I was doing. I am doing, right?
But sometimes doing isn’t enough, despite our best efforts.
My first job out of college was an Activities Director at a small nursing home in suburban Philadelphia. It was just ok as a job. Truth is, I never had any intentions of staying in that career forever, I merely needed a ft job to live on my own. We had between 50-100 residents and I got to know them and their families. Day to day it was an OK job.
And then there was Edith. Presumably she is deceased now, because she was in her late 80s or early 90s over twenty years ago. She was a retired teacher and the only visitor she ever had was her brother, who was also elderly but apparently still lived independently and could drive. I don’t remember the extent of Edith’s health issues or why she needed to be in a skilled nursing unit. Edith’s husband had already passed and she was childless. A woman of her generation had few options when she was unable to conceive on her own, and all these years later I could tell it was still an issue for her. One that she never resolved or got over.
I liked Edith because I saw some of my own personality traits in her, and they are the traits that generally people don’t like about me. Being too honest and blunt sometimes, telling it like it is, not always realizing and accommodating the feelings of others….these are personality traits that she and I shared. Others had a really hard time working with her and often staff turned to me for assistance because I was the only staff person she never hassled.
Lately I’ve been thinking about Edith a lot. Because, boy oh boy, do I remember her anxiety. When it would get the best of her, she would just sit in a chair and say, “Well, what am I supposed to do now?” And me, an early-20s Activity Director with relatively little life experience and certainly no training in mental health…I’d respond, “Well, that depends, Edith, What do you want to do right now?”
Now with a few more decades of life experience and wisdom under my belt, I see that that is a terrible thing to say to someone who is experiencing anxiety or anxiety attacks. How do I know this? Because I have recently had a few. Why am I sharing this? I don’t know. It just felt like it was information that I had to get out of my head. And, I feel an obligation to “walk the walk” and help erase stigmas of some health issues by talking about them more.
It’s been a bad week around here, and I know what triggered the series of events, but I don’t care to share that at this time. Let’s just say, it’s a lot. There’s a lot put on moms and especially special needs moms. And when we do a good job, even more is put on us. Need something done? Ask a busy person! I love the TV show The Middle and love the mom–Frankie Heck. She says things like, “No! Don’t volunteer for anything at the school, then they’ll just ask you to do more!”
But sometimes doing isn’t enough. You can do and do and do….and our worries are still there. And sometimes they get the best of us. I’ve done and I’ve done and I’ve done…..and lately my worries have gotten the better part of my brain, and I feel like I am starting to become Edith, just sitting in a chair and say, “Well, what do I do now?”
My thoughts have been a runaway freight train. It would be one little thing I see or hear, and then in my own head I have snowballed it into this uncontrollable tragedy that might happen. None of which is realistic or likely. I’m forever waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something bad to happen. A few weeks ago, a friend used a term to somewhat describe me–“vicarious trauma.” I am exposed to trauma on a weekly basis. I wish more people would call or write to me with good news, but they don’t. It’s always stories like “my 7-year-old was handcuffed” or “my son with anxiety and autism was locked in a room” and just tragic, tragic situations. Families with no money, disabled children whose parents are in prison. I want to continue to help people, but honestly, this wears on you after a while. I am experiencing significant traumas vicariously through others and some days it’s hard to be hopeful. This has been particularly difficult for me to admit since I like to focus on the positive and the progress that we are making.
But things are looking up. I have been to two separate doctors this week, and while I have been given some prescriptions, at this time I am able to manage this without them, which I see as positive. My family history includes addictions, so I am hypersensitive to that issue. I am hoping that this is just a big hurdle or series of hurdles to get over, and not a chronic condition. Time will tell.
And I am…..doing. I made a long overdue appointment for a mammogram. I am getting that mid-life physical and checkup which was also long overdue. I have finally made an appointment to have our special needs trust done and will drawn up. My health, my kids’ health and futures….these are some of the things that have been weighing on me. I am working on dealing with the issues that I cannot control–such as not having a whole herd of children to take care of Kevin when I am gone. This past week, I have actually found myself jealous of the Duggars…which just goes to show how irrational anxiety can be. But, with that many children, they at least have each other. Mine, they only have one sibling which just doesn’t seem like enough in this huge world. But these are the types of thoughts that have just invaded my head like a runaway freight train, until I couldn’t control them and was immobilized by fear and dread.
And, I’m staying offline more and doing more screen-free stuff. I am still working on identifying what triggers I read or hear that set me off, so for now, staying away from some news stories is what is best for me. I read someplace that if you have anxiety disorder or anxiety attacks, that you should try to not let it monopolize more than 5% of your thoughts and conversations. I don’t know if that’s true or not…but know that this site will continue to stay focused on it’s main mission–IEP information, travel tips and so on. This won’t become the “all about Lisa” and her anxiety blog, I promise.
I’m working on acknowledging that I can be strong for my kids and my family, and still have some weaknesses. I’m working on accepting that I too, have areas of need…not just my child. My “present levels of performance” may vary from month to month and year to year too. Setbacks and regression happen at all ages.
“Well, what am I supposed to do now?” is what Edith would say.
I don’t know, Edith, I don’t know. Just the best we can, I suppose.