Anxiety

A couple of weeks ago, I told Paul that once the kids leave home I will worry less. With less stress and anxiety, I would stop taking my medication for acid re-flux.

As a child, I lived with a constant stomachache. Sometimes it was a dull ache and sometimes it was a sharp fiery burn. I had a lot of nausea. I had it down to a science how much food I could eat to just feel okay. My parents never took me in and after awhile it became normal to me.

My autistic brother Matt also had stomach issues. He did a lot of gagging with his tourette’s. There were times that he even threw up at the table between the acid re-flux and tourette’s. It was not unusual for him not be able to keep his breakfast down and barely make it to the bathroom in time. There was a period of time that his valve between his stomach and intestines closed and he wasn’t able to keep any food down at all. He was very sick and almost died before the doctors figured out what the problem was and surgically corrected it.

As you can imagine, my stomachaches were ignored. It wasn’t until I was over 40 that I went to the doctor because of it because I was in a lot of pain. I probably had an ulcer. The doctor put me on 1 Prilosec a day and when that didn’t take care of my stomachache, I was put on 2 a day. It’s been a couple of years now.

I’ve always attributed my stomachaches to stress which I believe greatly aggravates it. Although there may be a genetic component to it since multiple family members have similar issues.

Childhood was the most stressful period of my life to date. Not only was my autistic brother violent towards me on a regular basis, he also had some very serious medical concerns as well. My dad was abusive. It was no wonder I had stomachaches.

It wasn’t all that long after I left my childhood home that I had a family of my own. Having 3 little children was stressful. I didn’t get a lot of help from either Paul’s or my family. I had a lot of stomachaches.

Then I helped my husband run a business while having three teenagers. I had a lot of stomachaches.

I am no longer running a business. One of my children has moved out and soon will another. Maybe I wouldn’t worry so much if I wasn’t always stressed out.

Then Paul said something interesting. Alissa, you will always have anxiety. You will just find something else to worry about. I thought of this as I reread my old journals. They were filled with anxieties and worries.

Sometimes I feel so full of anxiety for no apparent reason at all. I feel like something bad is going to happen and for some reason it is my fault. I felt that way a lot as a kid. If I wasn’t hyper-vigilant enough and missed the signs that my brother was going to attack someone, then it was my fault because I didn’t stop it. But the truth is that sometimes no matter what I did or didn’t do, I couldn’t have stopped it. The truth also is that I have lived my whole life with an anxiety disorder.

What makes me think that someday it is just going to go away when it was always there? The smartest thing that I can do is accept the cards I have been given and play them as best as I can.

I can’t relax. I get a lot done.

I worry. I care too much.

I have useless nervous energy. Running burns it off and makes me feel human.

I feel anxiety. I can help others by understanding their struggle.

I try to control things I can’t. I’m not to blame for things outside of my control. I realize that now.

Doing rituals made me feel safe when I wasn’t.

Isn’t overthinking better than not thinking at all?

I have the solution for every what if scenario whirling around my head.

I have to run back home to make sure I turned off the coffee pot. Got a keurig.

I’m not saying that I am no longer anxious. I just learned to live with it.

I have many fears. But I won’t let that stop me because I learned over time how to manage it to my advantage.

I learned to cope. I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to function without it. Strange because most people would think that I couldn’t function with it.

 

Goal 8: Try not to be too hard on myself

When I was a child, my parents were very hard on me. They expected perfection and I tried to deliver. The better behaved I was, the more I was loved.

I was punished for not being good enough. My parents had a hard enough time with my autistic sibling, they didn’t need any problems from me.

When I got a bad grade in elementary school, my dolls were taken away from me for a semester.

I am hard on myself to this very day. If I don’t accomplish enough in a day, I feel very anxious.

So it is no surprise that when I had kids, I tried to be the perfect parent. I thought that if I was the best parent I could be that my kids would turn out the way I wanted them to. If I was loving enough, they would get good grades and like school. If they were disciplined right, they wouldn’t try drugs, etc…(Insert problem here).

Let’s be totally honest, if kids do something wrong the first place society looks is at the parents. What did the parents do wrong to have a child like that? I am just as guilty. There is some truth to that statement, but some kids just make bad choices against their parents wishes.

My own mother faced a lot of blame for having a violent autistic child in the 1980’s.

I tried to be the best parent I could be and that has to be good enough whatever my children choose.

It was so easy when they were babies. I had full control. I decided where we would go. I picked out the little outfits that they were going to wear. They ate what I made.

I tried to share my values and beliefs with them. But I’ll admit, as honest as I am, I lied to my children all the time. I lied to them about who I was. I tried to hide my faults. I pretended to like cartoons and Barney when I really wanted to be head banging to hard rock and watching horror movies. I didn’t swear around them and said a lot of nice words like please and thank you.

Hey, get me a beer was replaced by may I please have some more milk. Gangsta rap music was replaced with catchy tunes like I love you, you love me..we’re a happy family..

I hated pretending to be perfect and being someone I wasn’t. I always just thought that was a part of being a good parent though.

Then my kids grew up. I no longer picked out their little outfits. We stopped reading books together and listening to baby music. I was slowly more free to be me.

Part of the process of letting go is learning to fully be me again. It is losing some of my identity as a mother. Part of that is also showing my kids who I really am. I will share my book with them when they are ready and someday my blog as well.

I also have to accept that the choices my children make might not be what I have in mind for them. I have to be less hard on myself and them when they screw up. I also have to be less hard on myself when I am not perfect.

Perfection should not be my goal. If it is, I will live a life of disappointment because it is unattainable. Plus it annoys the crap out of my family. It is difficult to unlearn something that is so ingrained in me. But it is worth a try.

Maybe I would be a better person if I was a little less perfect. Now doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?

 

Goal 4: Worry less/let go/learn how to relax and handle stress better

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase ‘let go and let God’. It is something that is a lot easier said than done. I really wish there was a step by step manual on how to do it like an idiots guide or something.

Is it a process? Is it something that just happens? Will I be able to turn off my worry someday like a faucet? Or will it incessantly drip until it drives everyone, including myself, crazy?

How can I relax? How can I handle stress better than I already am?

How can I let go of these children that were once mine to hold onto? How do I let go of a business that I once helped build? How do I let go of past hurts? How do I trust God? Is there a dummies guide?

Maybe eventually I will figure it out. But until then I want to keep working on it. I don’t want worry to rob me of my joy in life.

Self-therapy breakthrough

Last night I dreamt about Matt for the first time that I can ever remember.

Yesterday I went to the mall shopping with Arabella and my mom. My mom spent most of her time worrying about getting back home because she had to give Matt his medicine. Frankly, it didn’t bother me much because I wanted to go home early because I hate shopping. It was my daughter Arabella’s choice for a girls day and she picked shopping.

As I mentioned before, my brother Matt is autistic and most likely schizophrenic as he hears voices that tell him to hurt people.

As a child Matt would:

  1. Have psychotic fits out the the blue where he would be violent towards himself or others. I don’t believe that this was within his control.
  2. Have episodes of anger where he would be violent towards himself or others when he was asked to do something he didn’t want to do. I believe this was within his realm of control.

Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between the first and second scenario. Matt did not have a lot of chores besides unloading the dishwasher. When asked to do that, he would sometimes hit himself on the head. Matt did have a lot of trouble in school. When asked to do his school work, he would often attack his teacher or his aide.

There was a time when Matt was schooled at home due to his extreme psychotic outbursts. The district sent a retired school teacher to our house. That woman was a saint because she was strict while loving. Some days Matt didn’t cooperate and she had to leave early.

Later Matt went back to the public school. At one time, my best friend was his aide. When asked to do work, he often attacked her just because he didn’t want to do it. One time after he attacked her, she called the police. They came to the school and hauled my brother away in handcuffs.

After that incident our lifelong best friendship dissolved. And I wonder why I have trust issues with friends??

I had a dream that Matt and I were at an amusement park. I was watching him. I told him that he couldn’t go on any more rides because he hurt me physically. My mom overruled me and said that Matt could go on the rides. I told her that if she wanted to have Matt go on the rides that she could take care of him. Matt was angry at me for saying no to him so he hurt me. He spit on me. Then Matt hurled himself off of the cliff. He landed grotesquely on the pavement below. I was afraid that he was dead or seriously hurt. But the feeling that I felt the most was guilt.

I woke up realizing for the first time that Matt hurt people when he was having a psychotic fit and when he had to do something he didn’t want to do. I feel angry that he was never told that his actions were wrong. It would’ve made me feel better, like there was justice, even if he had absolutely no control over it.

Matt had total control, but no one else ever saw it that way. Was I wrong? I don’t think so. Matt was in control of our house and he wanted things his way. If we were all packed up ready to go and he wanted to stay, we stayed. If we were all too hot to sleep but he wanted the fan off, it was turned off. Anything that could set him off was taken away. One Christmas a boyfriend gave me perfume, I threw it away because I wasn’t allowed to wear it because it might set Matt off. We had to live our life around the god of what might upset Matt. Matt had to have things his way or somebody was going to get hurt.

You have no idea what it is like to be forced to worship that kind of god or how it messed up my life. I am just beginning to realize.

Chaos reigned which is why I need to live in a controlled environment today. I like my schedule, routine, and organization. It is my security blanket. I like to control the temperature and lights in my house, etc.. I learned to have control over the little things to find comfort. The things that most people don’t care to have control over like the placement of an object on the shelf. It is safe. I go absolutely crazy if someone tries to take my control away which is not even a bit logical. It gives me extreme anxiety. Turn on the lights right after I turn them off and see what happens. It makes no sense.

I have also learned to have a great amount of control over myself. Me. No one I know can beat my self-discipline with the possible exception of my brother Mark. At times I make myself hard to love. I am tough. I have high expections on others and even higher expectations for myself. I embrace pain and deny myself pleasure. I guess that is what attracts me to long distance running.

I am too old now for a baby security blanket. I have to learn to be able to rest without it. But I can’t relax.

I’ve made a tremendous amount of progress on my self-therapy.

This session is over.

My psych eval (25 years later) part 1

Alissa was referred for psychological evaluation at this time by her therapist…Alissa has a long history of outpatient treatment including an inpatient hospitalization at the end of December of 1992. Alissa has utilized a variety of medications including: Prozac, Pamelor, Anafranil, and is currently taking Wellbutrin. Alissa was referred for this evaluation due to concerns about her OCD and possible ADD.

The family system includes an autistic brother who has proved challenging for all family members. For a time period Alissa functioned as the caretaker for the brother…Alissa has had a difficult relationship with her father. The father reportedly has several indicators of a possible psychiatric disorder. Alissa’s mother will spend many hours a week working.

Alissa has had depressive and suicidal symptoms starting in the fourth grade…Throughout the meeting with Alissa it became apparent that she has had serious psychiatric symptoms for many years. Her condition is quite serious and of a chronic nature…At the time of this evaluation, she had reddened hands which she attributed to dry skin. Due to the OCD, this examiner speculates that the hand condition does reflect excessive hand washing. She stated that as a younger child she would wash her hands frequently, including before and after eating, and before and after using the bathroom.

Symptoms that Alissa currently endorsed include checking to make sure that she has turned off the lights on her car. Due to the distance involved it is a major inconvenience for her to go to the classroom building at college to the parking lot to check on her car. She did go to this extreme measure and when she got to the car realized that she had turned the lights off even though she was not consciously aware of doing so. At other times she will have to check numerous times to ascertain the exact location of her purse. At home she counts a short flight of steps constantly whether she is ascending or descending the steps. This seems to be a strongly ingrained ritual. This examiner believes that there are other examples of obsessive/compulsive thoughts and behaviors that Alissa is not acknowledging at this time…She does describe the checking behavior in terms of feeling she “has to” check.

Yes, it is true that I was very depressed at a young age. I remember people telling my mother that they have never seen such a young child so depressed before and that I needed help. But there weren’t many programs available to special needs siblings. I felt incredibly alone and disconnected from my peers. I started seeing a therapist in my late teens.

It was especially hard in grade school because my autistic brother was in the same school as me. They had a special ed room that was shared with the library. I don’t know whose dumb ass idea that was. It was never quiet in the library, although we were told to be. That probably made my brother’s behavior all the more shocking.

When I would go in for library, my brother was oftentimes flailing around as if he was possessed inside of the big ‘naughty’ box they put him in that was located between the classrooms. This caused my classmates to point, snicker, and laugh. It made me feel angry, sorrowful, and ashamed. He was MY brother. It was very painful.

I think I developed rituals to help me cope, to feel like I had an iota of control over my life. The hand washing ritual started when I was in middle school after I was almost attacked in the parking lot while I waited in the car for my mom to finish up with her support group for parents of special needs children. The support group was held in the library and sometimes the library closed before the meeting was done and I would meet my mom in the car. That hot summer night I felt like I was suffocating in the locked car while those guys tried desperately to get in. It was so hot, but I didn’t dare open a window. The car handles were dirty. I felt dirty. Hand washing made me feel clean and cleansed.

You would think that I would have issues with libraries or books. Sheesh!

I like to have clean hands, but I haven’t obsessively washed them in decades. I like things clean and I like to feel like I have control even if I don’t. My parents are hoarders. Our house was always chaotic and messy.

It’s strange how I can be obsessive without being addictive since they seem so similar. But I don’t want anything external to control me, yet sometimes the internal things still do. Sometimes I still have to check things..

To be continued…

 

Luke’s visit, part 8

Over the past year, both Mark and Luke quit drinking. I was a little worried about Mark a couple summers back. One morning he started drinking at the cabin before most of the family woke up. Luke was always a drinker. He knew everything there was to know about beer. Luke was also the comedian. He’s not funny anymore. It’s strange that I felt some sadness at the loss of his role. He always made us laugh which made going through hard times easier.

Luke was upset that our parents did not seem to want to hear what he had to say to them. He told them that he needed to talk to them for him. It wasn’t about him being emotionally supportive for them anymore. He needed this for him to heal. He quit being the comedian not all that long ago. But making us laugh made us feel better, not him.

Luke stripped himself of all coping mechanisms and dove right into the truth. He is relying on God to get him through this. Me, I like to dip my feet in the water and keep my coping mechanisms nearby. Maybe I’m okay with the lies I tell myself until I am ready to face the truth. What is wrong with that?

Mark played the part of the invisible middle child. He had an important role too. He was the one who advocated for my dad when my mom packed up the car with her stuff and was ready to leave. He kept the family together.

I played the part of the caregiver/counselor. I was always the ultra responsible first born. This has been my role since I can remember. I think it is going to be hard for me once my kids all leave home. I cared for my autistic brother Matt since I was a little kid. I still was his caregiver after my children were born up until he started acting violent towards them. Then I had my own family to care for.

Luke asked my husband how I cope. Paul told him that running helps me cope and it does. I don’t drink to cope. I could never let anything control me. But is that really true? I like to work and keep busy at all times. Perhaps that controls me since I can’t ever seem to relax. But how can working be a bad thing? What if my coping mechanisms aren’t unhealthy? Who can I hurt by having a clean house, etc?

I like to write about my experiences. But on the days when I write about the most difficult times, I feel very depressed. Paul said that although writing seems good for me, maybe I need a counselor. But I stubbornly resist the notion of anyone helping me with anything. I don’t want help. I don’t think I need it right now. I want to work through this on my own.

I will be okay. I am healing. But it is not always a beautiful process.

In 2 more days..

In two more days, my whole life is going to change..

We will be closing on our new house and moving in this weekend…

Yesterday we walked to the nearby cemetery one last time for the Memorial Day service. We saw a lot of people that we knew from the community. We ran into some friends of ours that recently bought a plot for themselves there.

Where do I want to be buried? What kind of headstone do I want? What do I want written on it? I couldn’t get myself to make any decisions in stone yet.

Our friend has leukemia, so the concern for her is a little more immediate. She talked in a matter of fact manner about death, cemetery plots, and updating her will. The last time she updated it, she was looking for guardians for her children. Now her youngest is living out of state, graduated from college, and is engaged.

I understand the feeling, but there are some things I refuse to think about yet. We just updated our will and passports. I removed my mother and listed my oldest daughter as the main contact/decision maker. Will my mother be living when I update my passport or will again? She will be 70 this year. It wasn’t easy to think about.

The last few months have been very extreme as far as beginnings and endings go. I have a hard time dealing with change, even if it is for the better.

Even the weather has been extreme. Can’t anything stay the same/normal??? Last month winter did not want to let go. We had record snowfalls last month before we got hit by the blizzard. This last weekend we broke the records for hottest Memorial Day weekend.

I felt a lot of anxiety and trepidation the end of last week. I feel better now. For awhile I had this really strong feeling that something bad was going to happen. Maybe it was from all of the change or loosening the reigns of control. Angel flew out to Boston with a group from her college for a competition. Alex took his tax return money and bought a motorcycle.

Alex spent most of the weekend hanging out with friends. He doesn’t want me micromanaging his life anymore. He doesn’t want me to wake him up in the morning or remind him about the things he has to do. I guess I can’t blame him. It took everything I had not to wake him up a couple weeks back when I had to leave the house before he would normally wake up for school.

This weekend I noticed that Alex was at some sort of pond when I tracked him on his phone at midnight. It took everything I had not to call and ask what he was doing or where he was. I have to let go and it is hard. He will be 18 next month. I had to ask myself…Is it really so bad that he is at a pond on a 90 degree day at midnight?? Self, just go to bed!

I feel a certain isolation now that my kids don’t need me as much anymore. I tell myself that it is finally time to focus on my own life now. So I went trail running this weekend to practice for the marathon. I hit the trails for 3 hours each two days in a row. Then I had to ask myself honestly…Why the hell did I choose this as my hobby?? I was miserable, tired, irritable, sore, hot with temps in the 90’s, and bit up by mosquitoes. I felt this way all the more when I heard about all the fun things everyone else was doing.

Besides running and packing all of my earthly possessions, I did have a little fun. I was able to go sailing for the first time this season. After my long run, we sailed to the beach. The water was ice cold, but it felt great on my aching legs. I refuse to complain about the heat though…bring it on!! I love it hot.

I wish I liked change. It would be nice to just let go and not worry so much. These transitions are hard for me.

 

I’m leaving

In about 24 hours I will be packing my bags and leaving this cold climate behind. I’ll be visiting a climate that is 100 degrees hotter than mine.

I will finish cleaning the house and doing loads of laundry. Soon I will create a packing list. I’m afraid of leaving something behind, something obvious like a camera or my passport. Don’t laugh, I’ve done things like that before. I packed a suitcase for my husband once and forgot underwear. The good news, my husband never asked me to pack his suitcase again. Last year my husband went on a sailing trip and forgot to pack any shirts.

We will be on an airplane for a total of almost 21 hours. 21 hours!!! The longest I’ve been on a plane is 6 hours and that freaked me out. We are heading to Thailand tomorrow and checking our first continent (outside of our own) off our bucket list.

What is it about traveling that makes everyone tell you about their horror story flights? Or bring up terrorists? Or plane crashes? The TV show Lost??

I’m not sure how I will handle the flight. I always have this irrational fear that I am going to start screaming on a plane. Kind of like the time I went on a roller coaster that was too much for me. I am afraid of being out of control.  I certainly won’t have any control over the plane. It makes me feel trapped.

Thankfully I have medication for that. I am going to start a stop watch on my phone after I take my medicine. A stop watch seems kind of creepy though. I don’t know any other way to keep track of time after skipping so many time zones. The last thing I want to do is OD on a plane. Yes, I suffer from chronic worry.

Since we are leaving Chicago right after midnight maybe I will sleep. But I sleep on planes like I sleep in the hospital. How can I sleep sitting straight up? Plus there is always noise…dinging from announcements, other people, hospital emergencies with a little turbulence thrown in..I always wondered why they hand out peanuts on planes. Don’t a lot of people have serious allergies to peanuts??

There is a 12 hour time change for us in Thailand. I am excited to finally see the world, it’s just the getting there that sucks! Sitting still and relaxing are not my things. Now if they had a treadmill on the plane…The more nervous I am, the more I want to move. I try not to let fear stop me. There is nothing like flying 21 hours one way to confront my fear of flying.

Paul and I are going to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We will be visiting with our old neighbors, and going on a tour. I promise to take lots of pictures and keep a journal. This will probably be the last time you hear from me for awhile. But I promise to tell you about it when we get back.

This will be the first time we are away from family and work for this long. We have family staying with the kids every night. The last time we went away things didn’t go very well. The dog tore up the linoleum in the bathroom. Alex got a rash and thought he had bedbugs (thankfully we didn’t). I expect the house to be trashed and a pile of work waiting for me when I get back.

But I think that having a break will be worth whatever we come back home to. I will try my hardest not to worry and to relax. It might be so nice that we won’t want to come back home..

In the cold dark light of the full moon

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It only takes a little light to reflect the cold barren emptiness of a winter tree on the snow.

It has been cold in Wisconsin. The wind chills haven’t been above zero since who knows when..probably a couple of weeks. We haven’t noticed that much. We have been busy with the holidays.

We know the drill. It happens every year. It doesn’t snow when it is bitterly cold. The cars make strange noises when attempting to start. You don’t want to get a car wash or your car doors will freeze shut. Everything creaks, crackles, and moans under the heavy weight of the bitter cold. People die.

People die! I knew it would happen on New Year’s Eve especially. The reports of the deaths. I live in the drunkest state next to one of the drunkest cities in the United States. I predicted that if the Packers were having a better year, the death toll would be higher. The bitter cold usually starts this time of year, but this year it hit us a little early. It started over Christmas…the home Packer game…Christmas weekend and New Year’s Eve…the drunkest time of the year near the drunkest city in the drunkest state. The roads are hazardous not just for the cold, ice, and snow ya know.

Drinking is our culture. It just is. I am a big proponent of designated drivers, but sometimes you can’t trust that will even work. People get carried away. Blame it on the cold harsh climate.

I worried the weekend of New Year’s Eve. My daughter Angel drove to Madison to go to a party with friends. My son was who knows where. Every day I would be in touch asking where he was and what he was doing. Every day my son stopped home and my heart rejoiced that he was alive. It’s not always them I worry about…it is the others on the road. How do I keep them safe? It is surprising that I am letting go at all.

I worry about the drunks on the road. I worry about car trouble in the bitter cold remote areas with no cell reception. Or what if I am sleeping and don’t hear the phone? I worry about car accidents on slippery heavily wooded winding roads.

My deepest fear is that my children will die if I am not in control. If I don’t pay attention, they will be gone. If I don’t notice a problem, they will slip through my fingers forever. It is really rather horrifying since I am not in control. I never was in control even when they were babies. I couldn’t control if they got sick. I couldn’t even control if they decided to sleep through the night. As they got older, the feeling of being out of control grew and festered in my soul.

I try to let go and let God, but then grab the reigns back again chaffing my hands not able to get a grip. This worry, this anxiety, has been a constant thorn in my side. I feel if I let go of my little iota of control, then my children will die and I am responsible. It is completely illogical and irrational as most fears are.

Do all mothers of teenagers feel this way? Or do I just take it to the extreme since I am anxious to begin with? Or maybe having 3 teenagers is enough to set the sanest person over the edge?

drive

I had a busy weekend.

Paul and I left home early Saturday morning to set up a booth at a trade show. After a couple hours of working, we drove a couple more hours to see Angel at college. We arrived to see her a couple hours before her show. We haven’t seen her since we dropped her off at college in August.

There were some repercussions of leaving home earlier than the kids. Thankfully this time though it did not require a new bathroom floor. It was more along the lines of them thinking that they could both take a shower when it was time to leave to meet up with my mom. They were late and there was tension. Not to mention that things were forgotten.

Thankfully everything else went according to my plan. We were able to get at the restaurant early enough to get a table for 14 people and make it to the show on time. Angel had a lead role in the college opera and would be on stage for the first half hour only. If things went off rail, we could miss her part entirely. Several friends and family drove several hours to get there, got a hotel room, and some had to get a babysitter. Needless to say, a few minutes off on my time management could’ve been a huge disaster.

The show was awesome. Watching your child perform at a high level is very close to performing yourself. It is anxiety provoking, yet exhilarating. I was able to visit with Angel the next morning before she had to perform again. Then came the long ride home.

At 10AM, I dropped Paul off at the local airport. He had a business meeting. Instead of driving the 4 hours home and flying out, I decided it would be quicker for him to fly out where we were. Just 2 connecting flights and 10 hours later, he reached his destination.

I had to make the drive back with Arabella. I almost had a panic attack after I dropped Paul off at the airport before visiting Angel. It was a unseasonably warm and sunny day. Pedestrians and bikers were everywhere. Not to mention road construction and heavy traffic. I kept getting notifications on my phone for the flight which covered my navigation. I think I went through a red light since I was so flustered.

If you told me 5 years ago that I would be driving 4 hours without another driver in my car, I would’ve told you that you are crazy. I used to have panic attacks while driving. It would happen out of the blue. First, I would sweat profusely. I had to open my windows, even in the middle of winter. I couldn’t breath. I needed air, fresh air. Then the tunnel vision would hit. I would have to slow down. I’m sure that I swerved around a lot. I thought I would die or worse yet kill someone else on the road. I had to pull over at the first exit. My whole body would shake.

It was a horrifying experience. But I would not let fear control me. I forced myself to go back on the highway. Even if it was from one on ramp to the next off ramp. It was grueling and tedious. I wasn’t sure if I could even conquer my fear. But I had to put myself out there again and again or I wouldn’t be able to leave the house unless someone else would drive me. I felt feelings of failure when I could only drive a couple of miles from my house without panicking. But I kept at it and now I can say that I am almost completely able to drive without panic attacks.

I am also one of those annoying people that can’t seem to sit still. If I sit down without anything to occupy my mind, I will probably fall asleep. If the movie is not great, I fall asleep and I fall asleep sometimes even if it is.

Did I mention that I didn’t sleep that great in the hotel room?

I have fallen asleep while driving before. After about 2 hours on the road, I was starting to drift off. I knew this was happening because a stationary object bounced out into my vision. I think it was a garage. This has happened before when I was really tired.

Typically when Paul is tired, he can pull over for a cup of coffee. He instantly is energized and can drive for hours. It doesn’t work for me. Extra coffee makes me jittery and anxious while driving…more likely to have a panic attack.

I looked over at my passenger, Arabella, who was sound asleep. Did I want to wake her? Then I remembered our conversations in the car over this past week week…Mom, how old were you when you first had sex?? Were you in high school? College?? The interrogation went something like that…Ah, better just let her sleep.

I pulled it together and got us home safely. I knew I had no other choice. It was a great weekend, but long….very long, especially the drive.