After the overwhelming response to my post earlier this week on my daughter E’s anxiety , I knew that I would have to share my story with anxiety as well so you could better understand where we are coming from.
For as long as I can remember, I have had anxiety. When I was little, I remember very specifically watching a sitcom on TV and a lady was in labor. They put her in an elevator and then the elevator doors wouldn’t open and they were trapped in the elevator. This was supposed to be funny but to me it was so scary! I remember thinking, I didn’t know you could get trapped in an elevator. I am never riding in an elevator again.
After that I didn’t or at least I didn’t want to. I think my parents’ forced me on a few elevators but since we lived in a very small town we didn’t really have to use them more than twice a year. Until we took a trip to Washington DC when I was 10 or 11. We were going to visit the FBI building and had to ride up to the 11th or 12th floor. I didn’t want to go but my parents made me. I’m pretty sure I suffered a panic attack but we didn’t know what those were at the time. I remember maybe they gave me a Pepsi or something and I had to sit or lay on some chair, it’s kind of a vague memory but I do remember I didn’t have to go on an elevator ever again. To this day, I have not been on an elevator. More on this later.
Another thing I always hated was sitting in the backseat of a two door car. Once again, I didn’t like the feeling of being trapped. How would you get out if there was a car accident? I was pretty sure if someone was going to kidnap you, they would have a two door car so you couldn’t get out.
When I was maybe 9, my mom worked for the airport in the office. One day they were just taxiing a plane up and down the runway and we were able to go on the plane while they did that. All I remember is seeing that door shut and I’m pretty sure I had a freak out. I did not want to be on the plane, even if it wasn’t taking off, I didn’t care, I wanted out. NOW. I have never been on an airplane again.
hen I went to elementary school we had those heavy wooden doors. Sometimes the doors would slam shut really hard and I hated that. In fourth grade it was time for lunch and I remember the class across the hall was stuck in the classroom, the door wouldn’t open. Everyday from then on, I would worry about the door being stuck and being trapped in the classroom.
For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of thunderstorms. According to my parents it’s because when I was little, maybe two or three years old, there was a thunderstorm. We lived next to an Iron Ore mining facility that they didn’t really use anymore. It had a generator on the property though and when the storm was going on, lightning hit the generator producing quite the electricity in the air. Apparently enough that it actually raised me off the floor where I was playing. I’m sure that is what made me afraid of thunderstorms. Anytime there would be a thunderstorm I would be in my parents bedroom faster than fast. I would hide under the pillow, squeeze my eyes shut as tight as I could and cover my ears.
When I was younger we would sometimes travel to Green Bay for the weekend which was about 3 hours from my hometown. For some reason I knew that Wisconsin would get tornadoes but the Upper Peninsula of Michigan didn’t really get tornadoes.
So every time we drove to Green Bay I would stare out the window at the clouds, wondering if a tornado was going to form and blow our car off the road.
In junior high, I was teased a lot by some kids. I had bad acne and was called names like “Pizza Face” and teased for other stuff too. Every day I would go to class, they would tease me, I would ask to go to the bathroom and pretty much spend my entire class period in the bathroom hiding. I suffered from allergies and sinus infections a lot during junior high and sometimes I would just complain so I could go home and not deal with being picked on. For some reason whenever I thought about telling anyone about the teasing, I just couldn’t do it. I was ashamed.
During high school I would lay awake at night worrying about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning until my parents bought a carbon monoxide detector. Then I was worried that I would have appendicitis, not sure why this was a big one but I was freaked out about it. Those same kids that teased me in junior high were still not very nice in high school so I took an F on a speech in at least one class because I didn’t want to stand up in front of everyone. My high school years weren’t that bad, I had great friends and my anxiety wasn’t challenged too much.
My senior year of high school I met my husband. We started dating and were engaged a month after we graduated. He was going to a school in Lower Michigan in the fall and I was staying in the Upper Peninsula. It was really hard to be apart and he ended up coming home after the first semester to attend college in the UP. My anxiety was still kind of dormant at this point, nothing much bothered me. I was working retail and ended up getting the Manager’s Position at a store in the mall. Eventually I was asked to go help re-set a store in Lower Michigan. My parents ended up driving downstate with me but then I needed to drive the seven hour drive home by myself. I was a little nervous about it because I didn’t want to cross the Mackinac Bridge myself, I hate that bridge! It’s a five mile long suspension bridge so it moves a little with the wind and sometimes they limit who can cross , sometimes it is only open with one lane on each side. Cars have driven off the bridge into the Great Lakes below. Yuck!
I made the drive ok, I was nervous but doing fine. It was getting dark and now I had to drive through a section of the UP that is 30 miles long with pretty much n o civilization except the people traveling on the road. Cell phone reception is sketchy at best in this stretch and the wildlife is abundant. I am pretty sure I had a mild panic attack while driving through that area but I made it! This is probably where the beginning of my driving anxiety started.
My hubby and I were married in the summer of 1998 when I was just 20 years old and he was 21. He had one more semester of school before we moved away for his first job. He had interviewed and lined up a job the spring of 1998. I was pretty excited to move away. Before the wedding I went with my mom to try on wedding dresses. While I was standing there all of a sudden I felt lightheaded and things started to fade. I was passing out and I’m not sure why. That freaked me out so now I was constantly worrying about passing out. I worried that I would pass out while in front of the church on my wedding day. I worried about passing out at work. One thought was maybe I had low blood sugar so I made sure I always had sugar or carbs nearby. I probably ate too much to overcompensate to make sure I always had high blood sugar. Thankfully I stayed skinny during this time because french fries with cheese all over them and Sprite are not the best sources of nutrition. I never did pass out again so who knows what happened that day but it was just another link added to my chain of things to worry about.