I’m anxious. I used to think I just had a short fuse. I’d get angry over seemingly minor things. I hated this about myself. I didn’t know my short fuse was caused by the stress of living in constant anxiety. I know that now, and I take a small pill every day to so I don’t feel it as much. As long as I remember to take it, I don’t gasp when I see JoyfulOne bouncing on the bed. Or feel as if my guts have been ripped out when TornadoBoy falls off the couch for the seventeenth time in a row. Thanks to Lexapro, I can drive without gripping the steering wheel so tight I lose all feeling in my hands. And I can have a conversation with TheDad when he drives the car without having to stare at my phone to avoid a feeling of impending doom.
I used to think the anxiety or short fuse was a character flaw in myself. I had a little help with that – abusive ex convinced me it was. I know now it’s just a chemical imbalance. TheDad gives me grace whenever it rears its ugly head – like when he’s driving and I put my hands against the dashboard as I see him approaching brake lights. Or when I freak out over the kids walking down the steps without holding on to the rail. He reminds me to breathe deeply and talk calmly. And he brings me a little closer to the center of reality where kids are allowed to jump on trampolines and ride go-karts and dirt bikes. I can’t always watch, but I trust TheDad and don’t stop it from happening. More than anything, I don’t want my kids to be saddled with my anxiety. TheDad is the antidote. He gives them a little more rope than I’m comfortable with, and they proudly grow despite my fears.
For the most part, my anxiety is kept in check. I have nearly infinite patience. The fuse has been lengthened to the point that even TheDad marvels at it. But I still live in fear. Not acute fear that makes one draw in breath quickly. Chronic fear that lives just below the surface, and if not rooted out, colors my world.
I blame this on Asperger’s. The constant feeling that I don’t quite fit into this world that gets up under my skin and lives there. Reminding me that I’m weird. And yes, I know, EVERYONE is weird. But I’m me, and I’m weirder. I don’t always seem weird, but that’s just because I’ve constructed a complex set of rules that guides my life and keeps the weirdness in check. Rules like -
Don’t talk when someone else is talking. Even if what they are saying is stupid, it’s not okay to interrupt. Further, I need to look like I’m paying attention while they are saying stupid things and respond to stupid things and wait for the subject to change BEFORE I can say what I came to say.
To my Aspie brain this seems like a ridiculous waste of time. But I’ve learned to follow this rule in order to maintain not only my marriage and friendships, but also working relationships. Here’s another -
It’s not okay to ask questions while someone is talking. This is important ESPECIALLY when I’m interested in what is being said. Because then I’m curious and want to know more. And I want to drive the conversation along the lines of my curiosity, but inevitably, questioning and interrupting the flow of the storyteller shuts down the speaker and I’m left with unsatiated curiosity and an angry friend.
Multiply these rules by one thousand and you’ll understand why I’m an introvert. And anxious. It requires near constant self-correction for me to be with people. Including my family.
There are places where fear grows that are less apparent. Most recently, this plays itself out in where we live. Last year our house went into foreclosure. It was a necessary step we had to take in order to continue retaining our lawyer. We were able to sell the house on a short sale, and we ended up living a few miles away in a rented house. Our house is very nice. We didn’t seek out a big house, but it was the only house we found in the six months of searching that was willing to rent to us with our six kids, two dogs and cat. Our lease will be up in May. At that time, the rent will increase. We can either purchase the house or move to a new house. The right thing to do is to attempt to stay. It’s better for our family to not have to move again. It’s better for our court persona to be settled. It’s less stress on TheDad and I. But the big house has a bigger price tag than I want to spend. I’m looking at houses half the cost of the one we live in now. TheDad and I butt heads on this. There’s a part of me that knows he is right. Living in a small house is not easy with six kids. There are sacrifices that will have to be made. I’m more willing to make those sacrifices than he. Why? Because I live in constant fear that the brakes will go out on the van, or the furnace will die, or our lawyer will decide that she’s not as patient as she thought she was about us paying her back…
I’m torn on this. Between balancing my fear with what is right for our family. I’m trying to keep the blinders off and recognize fear for what it is, and attempt to understand if it’s useful or merely a distraction. It’s so hard to do when I feel we’re being ruthlessly pursued by ex spouses who want whatever money we have. Maybe if we have less, they’ll pursue less. Or we’ll be more in a place to give them whatever money we have so we can live in peace. After all, it’s not money TheDad and I desire.
We’ll be spending the next few months stewing on this. Prayers are welcomed. I’m praying for our path forward to be clear. That we are not held hostage to fear, but move in a way that allows us to continue to grow our family in faith. In the meantime, we’re facing a custody battle, one of the cars needs brakes, the other needs engine mounts replaced. It’s a fear inducing time I’ve chosen to root out fear from our decision making process. I feel certain though, once the decision is made, it will be right. Life isn’t what happens to us, it’s what we make of it.