Up until now I had successfully avoided the plague. I’m sure I got it because I kept bragging about how I hadn’t caught it yet. Then Thursday when I started feeling a little more tired and Marc was all, “You’re just thinking you have it because you sat next to someone in a meeting who had it.” And I was like, “No, I think it finally got me.” And he waved it off and then Friday I had a sore throat and the only thing we had for medicine were these huge DayQuil pills and I was like NOPE NOT TAKING THOSE. Because I’m always afraid I’m going to choke and die on any pill that’s bigger than a Sudafed.

Whenever I get sick I’m always just always expecting I’m going to die. I analyze every little symptom of the illness and wonder if it a normal cold symptom or something bigger. Like death. Marc is always like, “It’s the flu.” And I’ll be like, “I’m not puking, though. But my body is sore. Maybe I have blood clots. Maybe I’m going to die.”

Then I won’t eat much for a few days out of fear that I may puke. There is nothing I fear more than throwing up.

Okay, there are things I fear more. But throwing up is pretty high on the list.

When I was younger I was always throwing up. My mother likes to remind me of it, and brought it up often when we adopted Oliver and Oliver, a dog, got car sick every time we took him somewhere. That’s right, I have to talk our Chihuahua off the puke ledge when we’re driving somewhere. He’s gotten a lot better after we drove him 20 hours during the move, but sometimes he’ll be lying on my lap when we’re going somewhere and immediately sit up and look at me with his wide little watery eyes. It’s a look of fear, a look of panic, and look of, “Imma ‘bout to give you my breakfast back on your new jeans.” Then like a crazy psycho person I turn the air vents in the car on him to get him some fresh air, and I have to force him to stop staring at the floor of the car and rub his little neck and his mouth gets this weird smile on it and we either succeed and he just nervously yawns, or well, you know what the other possibility is.

It’s absolutely ridiculous, trust me, I know. But I know my mother loves every minute of it. Payback in the form of a tiny car sick Chihuahua.

I think if diagnosing kids with anxiety was a thing back when I was younger a lot of the incidents could have been prevented. I was never actually sick, I just started to panic over something and that led to me puking everywhere. During long car rides I would panic over the small space of the car, and the seatbelt rubbing on my neck.

I remember I went on a retreat with my youth group when I was in middle school. We were on the bus and I had my knit gloves on and somehow I got a piece of fuzz in my mouth and I swallowed it and it got caught in my throat. I started to cough and I was terrified I was going to throw up on a bus of people I didn’t know, far away from home. Thankfully one of the chaperones had a peppermint for me to eat. My panic subsided and I was fine the rest of the drive.

 

I remember when I first went to the doctor for my anxiety. It was a few months after our wedding. I had been fine for years, no big episodes, everything had been great. Then we were in a restaurant with a group of friends one day and something happened where I just suddenly had a moment and the restaurant felt small and the food smells were overwhelming and I had to go outside. I brushed it off and Marc drove me home and I thought nothing else of it.

I knew I had to go talk to someone when one day while we were in Florida, I decided to drive to Kohl’s while Marc was working. The Kohl’s was about an hour drive away, due to traffic. I got there all fine and good, walked inside, started looking at some things. Then suddenly I felt nauseous and dizzy, the store felt too small and I panicked. I went back out to my car and cried because I was an hour away from our apartment, I was scared and alone, and Marc was at work.

I have to give props to the sweet doctor who had to deal with me when I went and tried to explain to her my problem, and I’m sure I sounded crazy. I told her first that maybe it was that they had just switched the type of birth control I was on. I like to pretend I’m a doctor and can diagnose myself. She kindly explained to me that was most likely not the issue, and then we chatted about some life changes that maybe had triggered everything. I love that she didn’t immediately give me a prescription for some anxiety pills and send me on my way.

We talked about my eating and exercising, and things I could do to calm myself down. She kindly suggested I look for new employment. It was after that that I really started walking. Marc and I would walk every day after I got out of work. I started eating every few hours, eating better so I wouldn’t have sugar drops that would cause me to get dizzy and panic. I carry snacks and water with me everywhere.

I’m very lucky that this is something that I can control, I know it’s not the same for everyone. I wish that I had known that I’d had it earlier on in life, because it would have explained so much.

I remember when I was still in Catholic School, and puberty hit me HARD. I was dizzy constantly, my eating was a mess, and I was constantly leaving school early because I felt sick. My mom came home from work one day after my dad had brought me home early. We stood in the living room and she hugged me and we cried. Because we both didn’t know what was wrong with me and I couldn’t keep coming home from school all the time.

It’s because one day you’re a kid, and you’re just cool with everyone and you’re all just playing on the playground. Then suddenly something happens and you become, self-aware, I guess? I was at a birthday pool party once, the first one where boys were invited, and I remember for the first time ever changing into my swimsuit and staring at myself in the mirror and thinking I was fat, my tummy was sticking out just a little. One girl once said when we were all looking at our school pictures, “Aw, Stephanie look you were so chubby!” I remember thinking, was I chubby? Am I still chubby? Is chubby bad?

I had such a hard time getting through that time where suddenly playing Pokemon cards wasn’t cool, and all the girls were putting on make-up and being Britney Spears. But my hero had always been my brother and I just wanted to play Gameboy and Mortal Kombat.

Growing up is terrifying. You start thinking that when you have a cold that you’re going to die, or that you have blood clots, or whatever you eat is going to give you cancer. Then a week later a new study comes out and suddenly breathing air will give you cancer and everyone is going to eventually turn into zombies. As terrifying as growing up is, zombies are worse. I have a plan for that though, because part of keeping my anxiety under control is being prepared for everything. Even zombies.

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