Picture it. You enter a dark room. The lights flash on and then off and then continue to flicker like something out of a horror film. The ground beneath you is soft and squishy and pulsing with electrical currents. As you walk, you pass through a wave of happiness, followed by a wave of fear, followed by a wave of anger, followed by a wave of anxiety, followed by a wave of happiness, followed by a wave of anxiety, followed by another wave of anxiety. Finally, you come to a place that is central and all of these emotions are upon you all at once, all the time.
Welcome to my brain.
Listen, I don’t want sympathy. Honestly. I have experienced trauma. Many people have experienced trauma. You just do what you can to move forward. Yada, yada, yada. But there’s baggage. Mental baggage. And plenty of it. In fact, I do believe my actual brain function has been altered by trauma. My brain thinks through situations – every situation – with a whole new set of rules of logic. Everything is possible (and not in the good way). Nothing is ludicrous (except Donald Trump running for President of the United States…that’s always going to be ludicrous…even more so if he wins).
And just to give you a real sense of what this means for my daily life, I thought I would take you through an average day for me, from an anxiety perspective.
For the past several weeks, I have started my day by worrying about the future of the United States. I worry about all of my American friends and family. I worry that they are going to have to come and live with us. (Don’t worry. We will take you. All of you. We completely understand.)
I make my children’s lunches. I try not to include food items that they could possibly, maybe choke on. Avoid the large baby carrots. No grapes. You know. This is just good parenting.
We all walk to school. I take note of the ice on the playground and know that I will spend the day worrying about kids falling and hitting their heads. Where’s the custodian? Where’s the salt or sand? Isn’t this a liability issue for the school? Don’t they care?
Tony and I walk back from school. I think about the United States again and wonder if Donald Trump will want to avenge the War of 1812. I know that article I read was satire. But is it really outside the realm of possibility?
I get in my car to drive to the office. As I travel on Highway 6 to merge onto the 403, I wonder if this will be the day that merging into the left lane of a major highway will be the cause of my untimely death. Sometimes, I picture how it will happen – sound effects and all – just to freak myself out completely.
While I’m at work, I worry about whether Tony will remember to pick up the kids from school or if they will be left standing there, wondering why their beloved mother has abandoned them, easy prey for the pedophile who hangs around in the hopes that some idiot will forget their children. So, I call Tony…and Skype Tony…to make sure that he doesn’t forget. (It’s not him. It’s me.)
And then I call…and Skype…to make sure they are home okay. There are people who drive pretty briskly through our neighbourhood and there are no sidewalks and my children don’t seem to have any peripheral vision or protective instincts to speak of. I really should be there with them.
I will probably spend an hour or three worrying about that email I sent. Did it make sense? Did it sound bitchy? Were there any typos? Maybe, I shouldn’t have replied to all? I’m probably going to get fired.
I get in the car to drive home. Same crash scenario dances through my head like sugar plums. I’m still wondering about that email. Thinking about how corporations like to “restructure” every now and then. It happens. I’ve survived it before. But I probably won’t get sent home in a limousine – from Toronto to Hamilton and including a complimentary bottle of water – this time. I mean, who does that? (Start-up tech companies, which ultimately go under, do that.)
I come home to see that Tony has dinner underway. Realizing that he is cooking meat that was most certainly raw to start with, I get out my Lysol and start asking him to identify areas of possible contamination. Why should anyone die from E. coli if they don’t have to? It’s just logical. We all do this. Right?
Over dinner, my mind wanders to our upcoming trip to Mexico. I begin to mentally prepare for a flight. On a plane. Anytime I am faced with the opportunity to fly somewhere new and interesting, I have to weigh the pros and cons. Do I really need to be on a warm, sandy beach, swimming with sea turtles, visiting Mayan ruins and drinking margaritas? Wouldn’t it be better to stay home, safe and sound, in the snow and cold of Ontario? I think about how great it would be if we could teleport ourselves to Mexico. I think about how much more at ease I would feel if parachutes, rather than life preservers, were stored under the seats. I think about how parachutes and life preservers won’t matter when the plane explodes into a ball of fire.
Occasionally, once the kids are in bed, I go to my friend Mo’s to sit in the hot tub. Again, pros and cons. Hot, bubbling water soothing my aching 43 year-old bones and quality girl-time. Or possible exposure to Legionnaire’s disease. Girl-time pretty much always wins out. But don’t think I’m not thinking about infectious diseases and heart attacks the whole time I’m soaking. Relaxing. Taking my own pulse from time-to-time. Just to be on the safe side.
Before I fall asleep at night, I run through a mental checklist of safety precautions. Stovetop is locked. Doors are locked. Alarm system is armed. Teenage girls have extinguished their pyre of scented candles. When the mood strikes, after all my people are asleep, I may even do rounds to make sure everyone is breathing.
And then, I lie in bed and try to recall every detail of the news article I read on an outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Cancun. I wonder if the ice on the school playground will be gone by morning. I pray that Donald Trump will not become President of the United States of America. I consider whether a prescription for Ambien might prevent all these pre-sleep ponderings.
Welcome to my brain. Take me with you when you leave. Please.