Give It a Rest!

Nearly fifteen years ago, before I had children, when I was working at a job I truly loved but wasn’t sure I was smart enough to have, I had a bout of anxiety. I didn’t recognize it for what it was, maybe because of its benign beginnings.

I had an hour commute to work that I didn’t really mind. I had recently purchased my blue-collar dream car – a cherry red Ford Ranger pickup truck with a king cab and a manual transmission. I felt invincible in that thing as I sat high above all of the compact cars and listened to NPR’s Morning Edition on my way into the city. About two-thirds of the way to work I had the sinking feeling that I had left the iron on as I went out the door. I knew, despite the long round trip home, that I had to go back and check. We didn’t have any neighbors I could ask to pop in and have a look and Bubba was on a business trip. I got to work, explained the situation to my boss, and took off for home. The iron was off.
A week later, I had the same moment of panic about the toaster oven that I had used to make my breakfast. Luckily, Bubba was in town and only fifteen minutes’ drive from home so this time he could go check it out. The oven was off.
Nearly a week later again, I had the same anxious feeling as I climbed into the truck to back out of the garage. This time it caused me to stop and wonder what was going on. I was struck with the notion that I was becoming OCD. And then I realized that what I really wanted was an excuse to just stay home. Despite loving my job, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was “faking it” to get by and even when my co-workers and my boss praised my efforts and abilities, I felt as though I was fooling them all. I was also lonely. Bubba had begun traveling a lot for his job and I didn’t have many close friends. What I really wanted was to stay home with my cats and work in the garden and feel safe in my own space.
Since that revelation, I have had many more opportunities to understand that the things I am often afraid of are also the things I am most fervently wishing for. Not really, of course. I was relieved each and every time that the iron or the oven were off and I didn’t truly want the house to burn down, but if it had, it would have been an accident and people would have rallied around me in support.
When Bubba was sick for so many years, a horrible fantasy used to creep into my mind before I could slam the door against it that he would die on one of his business trips and not come home. I hated that thought. I hated that I was capable of thinking it and that my mind could go there. It wasn’t superstition – that if I thought it it might come true. It was the knowledge that, if he died, my fears would be validated and everyone would come to see that I hadn’t been crying, “Wolf!” when there was none there. I would have a reason to feel anxious and upset that nobody could dispute.
While I still shun those dark thoughts as quickly as they pop into my brain, I have also come to realize that they serve a vital purpose for me. Whenever I conjure up some terrible scenario of doom and gloom in secret, it is a cry for help. It is the way that my psyche lets me know that I’m feeling unsure of myself and frightened and alone. During one such time when my anxiety overwhelmed me to the point that I crawled beneath the covers and sobbed, Bubba asked me what I wanted. What I needed. The answer that came to my lips before it reached my brain was this, “I want someone to take care of me.” Nobody was more shocked than I was to discover the truth of that statement. I wanted to be cared for. I didn’t want to have to run the house, parent the children, make any important decisions. I just wanted to be. And I wanted to know that someone else was making sure things were okay in my absence. I didn’t want to have to justify it with a major illness (I fantasized about contracting horrible diseases from time to time) or a family member’s death or some other excuse for incapacitation. I just wanted to take a break from being “in charge” and “responsible” and “strong.” But I didn’t think I could.
It is still difficult for me to admit that these thoughts crop up in my brain. I’m beginning to work on allowing myself to feel overwhelmed and anxious without needing to justify it to anyone. And it’s not as though anyone has asked. Or accused me of histrionics. I think that as I become more realistic about my limits and how hard I really do work, I can prevent the need for these periodic alarm bells in my brain. It’s okay to take a day or two off. And I am not faking it. I am the real McCoy.
13 replies
  1. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    Kario, I began reading your blog a couple of weeks ago. What you'd posted that day was on forgiveness and how you realized that in a certain relationship you were the problem.

    With today's blog you share with us your realization that it's okay to let go of being the strong one. It's okay to ask for help and to show that you need it.

    Long years ago, a psychiatrist said, "Dee, be gracious to yourself." That's what you are being, Kario. Gracious to yourself. Thank you for sharing your journey to wholeness. Peace

  2. Chynna
    Chynna says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with anxiety and dpression. I'm going to share this post on my blog, 'White Elephants' that focuses on raising awareness about mental health issues, abuse, eating disorders and other subjects I think we need to talk more about.

    Great job!


  3. Elizabeth Young
    Elizabeth Young says:

    I appreciated reading about your experiences today. I suffer with bipolar disorder and have a post each Monday at my blog called Manic Monday around mental illness. Right now I'm experiencing serious depression, which is wierd, as I'm usually high in the Summer and depression hits after Christmas, so it's really thrown me. I have suffered from anxiety a lot in the past also. Thanks for your courage again and transparency in sharing here. Take care, Elizabeth.

  4. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    Thank you, Kario, for commenting on Laz and Eliza on my blog and for your kind words about living with Meniere's.

    Right now there are 4 postings on my blog about Meniere's. As time passes, I hope to post other entries to show how one lives with the disease.

    If you'd like to read them also, they are archived on the blog under the category "Meniere's."

    Kario, I hope you realize what a kind and compassionate and strong person you are.

  5. Brynne
    Brynne says:

    What a wise and courageous woman you are. I love how you write that '…(your dark thoughts) serve a vital purpose for (you)'. That statement by itself shines a bright light on those shadows that dwell within you. When we listen, we rob our shadows of their power, we see their voices as a way to honor where we are, a way to honor who we truly are, a way to grow compassion…the almighty healer. Thank you for having the courage to share, to heal in our presence. By doing so you give your readers permission to do the same.

    If I were near, I'd come by to give you, beautiful you, a big heartfelt hug:)

  6. Leah
    Leah says:

    Kario, thank you for this post! I cannot tell you how true it feels to read this, as if I wrote it myself. I feel that way so much of the time! The work scenarios especially. I like my job, the people I work with, but I cannot help but feel it's just a mask because I really want to be home, enjoying my actual life with my family and writing. I have had the exact same negative feelings of wishing for illness or death of a loved one just to get that kind of time to myself. I always thought it was just me that felt that way. Thank you so much for being so brave and sharing this.

  7. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    Kario, Thank you for putting words to my own fears. I have those same overwhelming anxieties, and at times, I've let them go full blown and it's been crazy for awhile. I love your honesty, openness, willingness to share those deep, deep feelings I'm beginning to realize aren't just my own. I could relate to nearly every word you wrote. Ironically, I've recently been in a place where others are taking care of me, and it really just pisses me off! Even though, I totally relate to what you said, I do want someone to take care of me. (But, I don't want to be unable to care for myself, at the same time!) Why do I hate it when they do, though???? Crazy!

  8. Jill of All Trades
    Jill of All Trades says:

    Oh my. I think it is brave to share this and for me I'm linking this to my youngest daughter. I think your insight might help her because she is experiencing some of this and it might help her. Thank you for your candid thoughts. Carla

  9. Kelly Coyle DiNorcia
    Kelly Coyle DiNorcia says:

    Thank you for having the courage to share your experience! I am bipolar, and have been hospitalized in the past, and recently completed an intensive outpatient program for my mood disorder. I was so embarrassed about it, and I went to great lengths to hide my issues from even my closest friends – but when I got to the point where I could start to let other people in on my "dirty little secret" I was astounded to find that 1. I am not alone, and 2. people were so supportive and helpful!

  10. chriswreckage
    chriswreckage says:

    This is great insight Kari. I think most of us at some times feel these things, but are all too afraid to admit it. I know I get overwhelmed by all apsects of my small life and just this morning jokingly considered moving intoa hotel for the rest of my life, so someone else can deal with my mess! I appreciate your words.

  11. Deb Shucka
    Deb Shucka says:

    You are the real McCoy for sure. You are also brilliant, wise and so very insightful. And deeply honest. What you shared here is so common – we see it every day in the people around us. Few that I know are able to know themselves this well. I hope you'll find a way to take time for yourself – to fill that well that you draw from for others so often. Love.

  12. Laura@Catharsis
    Laura@Catharsis says:

    Wow. We are so alike in some respects. Except my anxiety stems from leaving the flat iron on in the bathroom, not the other things. I finally purchased one with an automatic shut-off so I could get on with my life. I hope you are coping well.


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