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Behind the Curtain

August 22, 2013

You know how in “The Wizard of Oz”, there’s the image of the wizard looking larger than life and he says to Dorothy et al. , “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”?  Anxiety is a lot like that.  I talked about the monsters in a recent post on this but I didn’t talk about what the monsters are covering up.

The things, the real things I was dealing with when I was little were a lot for a little girl to deal with.  My mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor before I turned 2.  This meant the very real risk that she could die.  But it also meant watching my mother transform from the calm, confident, capable medical student & mother she had been to a frightened, emotionally volatile, partially blinded woman after her brain had been sliced into to remove the cancer.  Adjusting to the new normal when brief flashes of her old self would surface at odd moments wasn’t easy.  So how do you acknowledge the losses and mourn them when everyone says that its a miracle your mother is alive?  I didn’t know how to answer that question.  I didn’t even know how to ask that.

Not only was I afraid of what would happen to my mother but I had my own fears of mortality to contend with.  I had some pain in my left calf and trouble with mobility, especially running.  We all feared it was cancer striking our family again.  But we went to the doctor and were thrilled when he said it wasn’t.  But then he said, “Her veins aren’t right.  They’re clustered oddly.  When she hits puberty this could spread.  Her heart could explode.”  (this is not an exact quote, this was my rough translation of rapid fire medicalese the adults were throwing around me).

So to sum it up, I had the complicated feelings on the change in my mother’s personality.  The grief of missing my old mom that couldn’t be expressed.  I also had to contend with the fear of instant death at onset of puberty.  So it was a lot for a little girl to deal with.  And as gruesomely fairy-talesque as it all sounds, I just didn’t have the language or the tools to really describe what I felt or fully understand what was going on.  So what did I do with all the ugly fear & pain?  I created monsters.

My goal in talking about this isn’t to get people to feel sorry for me.  And actually things are currently going well on both counts.  My mom slowly regained enough of her eye sight to finish medical school and is a practicing physician to this day.  Her eyesight, confidence, calm presence & abilities have gradually returned to her as well.  She got to see me grow up and graduate from college as she had hoped.  As for me, I survived puberty.  Not to say that it was easy to get through it as a gimp.  There were times I wished my heart would explode just to get me out of having to deal with junior high.  However, Dr. Yakes in Colorado has invented an effective treatment for my disease during my lifetime that I was lucky enough to get to try and now I practice yoga & do long hikes & even go on runs recreationally.

It just is something to think about for those of us who are imaginative and anxious.  The monsters that  we create are a distraction from what is really going on.  So for me now, it is something I try to stay aware of.  When the monsters start closing in and my mind starts playing terrifying images on repeat, I know they’re there as a distraction.  Here is a peek inside my brain during an anxiety attack, “Is the door locked?  Is the door locked?  I should check. Check. Check.” then “Door is locked.  Did I unplug my straightener?  Is it unplugged? -image of house on fire, repeats over and over as I try to get to my car.  “I need to go back.  I need to go back to check.  Then I’ll be fine.  If I can check one more time…. And the stove.  Is it off?  Did I turn it off this morning?”  Its hard to do this but is always worth it to do.  I think to myself, “I don’t need to check again.  I need to remove the curtain  What am I actually upset about?  What’s going on in my life. my real life that I’m reacting to?  What feelings am I distracting myself from?  The answers to those questions are usually unsettling at first.  But the journey can be freeing and lead towards good decisions on my part.
Some good tools for curtain removal I have found: 1. Journaling 2. Meditation 3. Yoga 4. Prayer labyrinth.

 Other basic forms of self care can help cut down on the panic attacks too: 1, Herbal tea 2. Walks 3. Time with dogs -very therapeutic- they focus only on the present and it kind of forces you to do it too after a while.  I’ll do a post about it sometime.  4. Calling a friend. I don’t usually tell them what I’m worried about.  I just talk about other stuff or make plans to hang out later.  But just a quick conversation can  help pull my brain out of an anxious rut.

Also sometimes a therapist might be needed.  These monsters in our anxiety exist for a reason and sometimes investing in a good therapist can help to process whatever the brain is distracting from.  It was years before I could recognize or talk about a lot of these things to anyone but therapists & my closest friends.  And mainly I think its most helpful to pay attention to present events and feelings.  Understanding how you got to be the way you are is useful but not as useful as figuring out effective tools for navigating the present.

Disclaimer: This story is NOT meant to take the place of medical or professional advice.  Just take it as the anecdotal musings of one person.  I’m simply sharing what works for me sometimes.  Take what’s helpful to you and feel free to throw out what isn’t helpful.  🙂

© beckyofmoonlitoaks, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to beckyofmoonlitoaks with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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