Where does it come from, this thing called 'anxiety'? Have you felt it at times during your life? What brings it on? What chases it away?
In the late 1960's, when I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a lot of anxiety. My sister had joined the group of women who would follow Francis Schuckardt. From her letters home, there was much to be afraid of: One World Government, 3 days of darkness (Biblical reference, supposedly.), and of course - the Communists. We were going to be persecuted like none before us in history. The devil was unleashed from Hell to wreak havoc on the world, and in 1976, in the person of Jimmy Carter, the anti-Christ would arrive. Wow! That was a lot of crap for a 9 or 10 year old girl to take in. I didn't worry about those things too often. They scared me. From our farm in the country hills outside Kalispell, Montana, I would hear a group of motorcycles pass by on the highway, and it would scare me: Hells' Angels, for sure.
There was a lot anarchy and chaos in our country at that time. Protests against the Viet Nam war; Civil Rights riots; Countercultural movements; political assasinations; the Beatles; and the emerging generation gap. For some, it was a scary time. Others lived through it as just a phase in history.
And then, there was my mother. I believe that she was probably in the throes of a mid-life crisis at the time the changes in the Catholic church were introduced in our parish. She had already been ultra conservative politically. Then, Francis Schuckardt was introduced into her life - and, to her, the end of the world was imminent.
And so, as her way of dealing with all this strife in the world and in her church, my mother would disappear for hours and hours of the day. Dad was working, and she was just gone. This caused me a lot of anxiety. I had no idea what was going on when all of a sudden, she was gone. From the way I remember it, it was usually on a Sunday that she'd would just leave. I attribute that to the fact that we had completely stopped attending Mass at our local parish, and Mom was probably trying to process it all. My sister wrote extremely strong-worded letters to Mom about attending that diabolical service, the new Mass. In this new world of hers, the powers that be told her that it would be better for her to stay home and read the prayers herself instead of going to Mass. And so, Sunday after Sunday, when she hadn't wandered off, Mom would sit my sister & me at the kitchen table and read the prayers out of her prayer book.
When my Mom first started this behavior, I was scared. I didn't know if anything had happened to her or what. When she came home, she would say to me in a quiet, but threatening voice: "Someday I just might not come home." A.N.X.I.E.T.Y. In spite of the difficult relationship that we already shared, she was my Mom and it scared me when she said that. This happened several times. Finally, something flipped the switch in my brain and in my heart. The next time that she said those words to me, I distinctly remember thinking, "Good! Then don't come home." It seemed a game that she was playing with my head, because I never heard her saying that to my sister. At 10 years old, I had had enough. Part of me felt guilty for feeling that way, but a larger part was proud of the fact that I wasn't going to let her mess with my head or feelings any more.
I began this post by asking if you have experienced anxiety in your life, what caused it, how did you get over it. I am sure that we all process it differently. But, what are the lingering effects? Anxiety continued to riddle my life for years. First, it was the fear of being abandoned. Then, so many other fears were pounded into my head, that every day was an anxious one. Why wouldn't it be? Every day could be the day that the communists showed up at the door and drug us off to a prison camp where they would yank our fingernails out with pliers? WOULDN'T THAT MAKE EVEN THE CALMEST PERSON A LITTLE ANXIOUS? Of course, rational people wouldn't fall for it. But, unfairly, as a child, I didn't have the wisdom to understand that it was all a bunch of crap.
For a long time, I used medication to help with my anxiety. But, as life moved on, I found that I could rid myself of that feeling by taking advantage of things that make me happy: Nature's beauty, a cozy fire in the backyard, visiting with a friend, deep breaths, petting my kitty, but the most therapeutic of all: my family. Bernie and the boys, and in more recent years, Sully and Cassidy.
My life is good. I cannot complain. When anxiety raises its ugly head, I think of all the positive things that I have, and it dissipates those worrisome feelings.
"Peace of mind: The contentment of the man who is too busy to worry by day, and too sleepy to worry at night." Woodrow Wilson