I’ve always been “high strung” — you know, that thing people call you when you like things to be a certain way and you are bossy and you sweat the small stuff and you can’t stand when pictures hanging on a wall are off center but have no problem leaving the cap off the toothpaste.
High strung. Anal. Particular. Selective.
I always thought this was normal as nearly everyone in my family is the same way. My grandfather preferred his tools to be organized just so. We used to joke that my father was one step away from making us scrub the stones in the driveway with a toothbrush until they sparkled. My uncle writes his name on everything — everything — from the bag his camping tent came in right down to each individual stake.
Every. Single. One.
Even my son inherited this trait. He can’t move on to another task if he feels the previous one hasn’t been completed to his satisfaction. He likes his toys organized in just the right fashion. And God forbid anyone attempt to throw a forgotten Happy Meal token away because he “love[s] it so much.” He’s got a bit of hoarder in him.
Not until my second was born and our lives were turned upside down did I realize that this sort of behavior is NOT, in fact, normal.
For instance, did you know most people don’t wake up in the middle of the night convinced their child is dying of a heart attack for no good reason at all?
Were you aware most people don’t live their lives ready to collapse from exhaustion all day but unable to sleep at night for fear a rogue pipe might burst in the house or a murderer might select one’s very home as his next homicide shack?
Or how about what happens when one forgets to do something like turn in a homework assignment or send an email to a colleague? Have you received the memo that these kinds of oversights will NOT cause the Earth to stop spinning on its axis no matter how convinced one is to the contrary?
Until my second son’s arrival, I sure as hell wasn’t aware.
My constant tendency to worry increased to a level I didn’t even know was possible for a human being after he was born and the uncertainty surrounding his survival and recovery heightened, and for the first time in my life, I thought I should see somebody about all the sleep I wasn’t getting and all the crying I was doing.
Turns out, I suffer from anxiety. I mean DUH.
The doctor prescribed long-term anxiety meds, which at first, I was unwilling to take. Up until that point, I had lived by a no-medicine-unless-absolutely-necessary philosophy, the absurdity of which was not lost on me given my propensity for indulging in hooch and cigs. In retrospect, no wonder I indulged so heavily. I loved that both helped me unwind.
Eventually, despite fears that the meds would turn me into a slobbering bucket of mush, I took them. And sweet Jesus on a Harley, it was the right decision.
You see, anxiety feels like The Hulk is squeezing every last ounce of sanity from one’s body until one’s blood turns to coagulated motor oil, one’s mind simultaneously plays 6 different versions of the same movie at quadruple speed, and one’s breathing becomes so elevated it seems as though one will drown on dry land in the same way a goldfish plucked from its bowl will flop frantically about, desperately clinging to life while fruitlessly expending the energy required to maintain it.
Once medicated, I found I did not become frustrated with my children as easily; I did not treat a failed endeavor at work as certain evidence of my ineptitude at life; I did not cry at Hallmark commercials; and I did not genuinely worry about all the ways I might wind up in a suitcase, diced into pieces and buried in someone’s basement beneath forgotten trinkets and a great grandmother’s dusty shawls.
And MY GOD is life much more pleasant on this side of things.