Friday, October 16, 2009


I don't want to.

I don't feel well.

I don't feel well because I don't want to.

Lately, I'm finding it harder and harder (and I mean HARDER) to get past the part of me that rebels against almost any new or unusual or untried event or experience. Sure, I wanted to see Em play a 12-minute exhibition soccer game, with her team, on a full-size field during the local community college game's halftime this evening. But what if it's crowded, I asked myself throughout the week? (At a community college Friday-night soccer game?) Where will I park? (Um, one of the 75 parking lots on or around campus, perhaps?) How will I find the stadium? (The blinding lights? Just follow 'em.) How will I find the team once I get there? (Yeah, you're right. Hard to pick out 12 girls in blue uniforms on bleachers in a crowd of under 75 spectators.)

By the time I left work today, I was in full pout mode. My head hurt, my body ached, I only wanted to go home and go to bed. I knew I couldn't bail--Baroy, as the team's assistant coach, would have to go out onto the field during the halftime game, and he couldn't take N with him. But that doesn't mean I couldn't bitch and moan to myself all the way home, all the way through changing clothes. It doesn't mean I didn't curse under my breath when Baroy didn't pick up his cell phone when I called to complain about how icky I felt, and to try to talk him into dropping N home on the way to the game, so I could stay put. It doesn't mean I didn't curse out loud all the way to the pizza parlor where the team was having its pre-game dinner. And it doesn't mean that I didn't give in to all the stress I was feeling about the whole thing while driving Em over to the stadium, following Baroy and N, and ranting loudly the entire time about the stupid way he chose to go. (It was--I will give myself this--a very stupid way to go. Extra distance AND the worst traffic in the area. front of Em? I should be kicked.)

And, of course, all that angst was for naught. Once there, I gobbled up every second of the experience, especially the part where my kid--a kid with MY GENES, which I would have sworn to you were such completely ANTI-ATHLETIC genes that they would have had the power to SQUASH any athletic genes Baroy might try to pass along--arced an incredible shot at the goal, which the other team's goalie juuuuuuust managed to get a couple of fingers on and deflect. Even if there were only a few dozen folks there, it was still awesome to hear them shout for my girl, calling out, "Great shot, number 12!" In fact, when Baroy was ready to go, after the exhibition and during the college game's second half, I talked him into staying longer, so that Em could continue to hang out on the sidelines of the field with her teammates and act as ball girl, gathering up the soccer balls that went sailing past the goal every few minutes.

But that's not unusual, either. I'm always reluctant to go somewhere, but once I'm there--once I know that there aren't crowds likely to swallow me up, that I'm not going to be stuck in some panic-inducing, car-immobilizing traffic jam, that I'm not going to get lost in an unfamiliar place--I'm fine.

(If any of the things I fear do happen, however, all bets are off. Just ask my friends about the first year we went up to Big Bear during the Christmas holidays and I lost my MIND on the packed streets of the Village and pretty much simply BOLTED. Now, every year, I fight incipient panic attacks as the date for that annual-though-no-longer-at-Christmastime trip gets closer. Add to that the fact that there's really only one road up or down the mountain--a fact that fills me with a sense of claustrophobia I can barely stand to even write about here--and, well, all I can say is that if it weren't for the fact that it would almost literally kill my husband and kids to miss the trip, I'd probably never start up that mountain again. And yet, once I get is BY FAR my favorite weekend of the year. Go figure.)

All of which leads me to...Nope. I got nothin'. I have no idea how to end this. It leads me to despair, I guess, at how this sort of over-reactivity only seems to get worse with age, not better. Because as I get older, I start to add new tricks to my get-out-of-uncomfortable-situations arsenal, the most recent being the Why should I do things that make me miserable? Haven't I earned the right by now to stick only to my comfort zone, if that's what makes me comfortable? whine.

And, sure, to some degree I have earned that right. But if I let myself exercise it all the time, or even close to as frequently as I'd like to, I'd wind up awfully close to what pretty much any armchair psychiatrist would be able to label as agoraphobia. Which makes me think that, for as long as I'm capable of pushing myself in the other direction, I need to keep on pushing.

Otherwise, one of these days, I'm going to miss seeing the goal my kid scores under the bright lights of a nearly-empty soccer field on a warm fall evening. Or, as would have happened tonight, I'll miss seeing her come oh-so-close, make a tiny moue of disappontment, and then get right back into the game.

She has so much to teach me.


Niksmom said...

She has much to teach so many of us. Thank you for sharing this; I think I tend to experience my own version of this and have let myself slip into the safety of not doing simply because my son currently CANNOT do these sorts of things. How easily it can become my excuse for not stretching my limits from time to time.

Hmmm. perhaps there's a blog post in here somewhere...

Ambre said...

My anxiety has never been debilitating to that point, but always present. I use preset schemas to combat it.

1) I try to get some information about the venue so I can create a mental picture of where I will be going.

2) I try to predict some of the challenges and how I'll deal with them. Not knowing where the ticket booth is? I'll ask someone (makes mental picture of asking someone). Not being able to find my seat? Reminds myself of signs, and my general ability to find such things eventually, and reminds self that 2 minute delays never killed anyone.

3) I remind myself that mild anxiety is to be expected, that I'll survive it, I always have. I picture myself approaching a person and asking for help *while feeling anxious*.

But you can see that what I don't have is the claustrophobia, you'll have to come up with your own coping mechanisms there. I'd suggest that the best one would be giving yourself permission to leave if you feel it coming on, without the guilt.

And, since you think in words, you really need to change your word usage. The ones you're using are really pretty self-deprecating and negative. Instead of berating yourself for having to make the mental path beforehand by wording it as though you're weak for needing to do so, word it as if you were giving a perfectly capable and competent person directions to deal with situation without anxiety.

Does that help at all? I used to have to give lots of presentations when I was working, and attend lots of functions at new places, and these were my ways of approaching them- including my first trip on an airplane, my first trip on a small plane, my first solo hotel trip, etc.

po said...

The thing that pushes me is reminding myself how much I'm going to be glad I went, after I go. It happens every single time. I also would never leave the house to do things that are out of my routine, if I let myself give in to my aversion to doing anything out of my routine. And yes, it's gotten MUCH worse as I've gotten older, rather than better, which pisses me off.

AB said...

I so understand. I don't have panic attacks per se but I can talk myself out of going to places that I don't know where they are.

I do panic over finding a dentist down here and so haven't gone in over 3 years... I get so sick before I go but push myself.

Today I pushed myself to go food shopping which I can't stand to do on a Sat... here I am retired and have all week to do it but when do I go - Sat...

So, here I am OLD and think I can do what I want but I really can't... I do have some obligations like showing up for meetings - I did join these groups...

I have a lot more things since I retired and no longer have a stress job. Maybe I should unretire? (is that a word - probably not)

roni said...

FYI: There are three major ways into the Big Bear Valley, though you probably take the most-traveled one coming from where you live. If you ever want directions for an alternative road in that is quite beautiful, though a bit longer (Scenic Route), just ask. (Big Bear Valley resident from 1974-1981 and mom lived there until 1999). As a fellow anxiety sufferer, I feel your pain!