Wednesday, April 20

and cue crazy circus music in 3... 2...

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that *it* hasn't hit me yet. No doubt. Because I have filled my time looking in every other direction and enjoying certain distractions to ensure I only get a few glimpses of *it*.

And, yet, somehow I have actually made progress toward *it*. (must be delirium)

And by *it* I mean my first ever, I'm actually going to be do this, oh holy crumbs!, selling of my art at an expo.

I've spent a good amount of time in my makeshift studio (read: I split the master bedroom in half, no matter how atrocious it comes off looking, just to have some space the two minions can't get into). I've prepped, sketched, painted, lingered, embellished.

For hours.

And not once have I entered into that cyclical negative dialogue over any aspect of it. I'm not sure if it's a testament to the wisdom I gained from my years in therapy and my brilliant therapist or more a testament to that whole fight-or-flight adrenaline thing. Or caffeine. Or Rockstar. Because, God only knows, I am loaded up on that sweet nectar.

So I've spent a majority of the not-being-mommy time either working at my tables or formulating and planning things in my mind or in the presence of confidantes who lend me nothing but support and wings to help fly my dreams. (Omg, I just rhymed. This caffeine + "minerals" sh*t is the BEST!)


Add to having actually, maybe even gotten ahead of myself in preparations for the show this weekend (I know, I know, on Friday I will be freaking out over all the things I somehow missed) I have managed to schedule all this prep work to be done the week my 5 year old daughter is home from school for spring break. And we all know how the five year old daughter can be, right? (Here's a hint: "serious boundary issues")

Said five year old, however, has probably been the best lesson I've needed to learn following the experiences with my parents back in February.

I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I have no doubt it's hereditary. I also believe that, as a child, it was emphatically compounded by my saturated physical experience of and reaction to the world as well as my permeating imagination. (Go ahead and take a deep breath. It's okay. That sentence had a lot of big words.) GAD can exhibit itself in everything from separation anxiety to near-hallucinatory fits. Being sensitive, spirited, creative,  whatever only adds to the body's intense experiences of GAD.

Which brings me to my daughter. Last week my daughter's school had a fire drill. No biggie. Not exactly. Descending down the hereditary ladder, she has no doubt inherited a tendency toward anxiety disorders. Add to this being gifted, creative, high-strung, and intense and we have all the makings of a future GAD patient wrapped up in one little five year old body.

For her, the otherwise-no-biggie-at-school fire drill turned in to an all-out panic attack at home. A calm dinner discussion about the drill rapidly became her in hysterics, demanding to be outside, away from the house because "THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE!"

And not like "oh, the house is on fire!"-let's pretend to do a drill and go outside-isn't this fun. More on the side of hallucinatory. Seriously.

Because that's what anxiety does to the body. The mind perceives a threat (real or not) and the body reacts. In overdrive. Because the body's natural response is fight. Or flight. Pick one. For a child, that intense physical response just gives confirmation to the mind that the threat IS real and that the child better DO something.

I spent about ten minutes out in the driveway holding my daughter while her brother cluelessly walked around the landscaping. (He's pretty used to her being loud. Because that's the only volume level she has.) She was terrified. I knew telling her "you're okay" meant squat to her. Because she knew she wasn't okay. Having been on the receiving end of those words myself too many times, I know they do nothing more than invalidate me and my experiences and what happens in my body. It also doesn't help me cope.

I cannot recall just how many times I told her "the house is not on fire". I didn't say it like "the house isn't on fire, dumbass, so move on" (even though I wanted to) but in a calm tone. "Lovey, listen to what's real. Look at the house. Is the house on fire? ("No", she'd respond in a mousy, panicky voice) Are you on fire? (Same response) Is the house safe?" She tripped up a couple of times with that third question because her body's intense reaction was still telling her mind that, yes, the house was indeed on fire.

I persisted with the calm questions and finally lead her into repeating after me: "My house is not on fire. My house is safe. The Holy Angels are watching over me. I am safe." After about the fourth time, her mind was beginning to help her body de-intensify itself and she was calm enough to allow me to carry her inside. Once inside, with her eyes she did a sweep of the house, and then, just as instantly as the anxiety had started, it was over.

(I must tell you at this point that I'm not a genius though I do play one in real life. I've been reading Diane Peters Mayer's Overcoming School Anxiety to help cope with my daughter's separation anxiety. The tools Mayer provides have, obviously, been extremely helpful and effective.)

I have been applying my newfound knowledge and objective experience of GAD to my current situation with the upcoming expo. Because if my daughter learns "high strung" from anyone, it's going to be from me.

But not this time. I want this coming-into-my-own-artistic-skin thingy to be a good experience. For me and for my kids.

To ensure that I am not overwhelmed by my own fight-or-flight response, I put together a list of what needs to get done as well as a plan as to how it will get done. And I called in my cronies who unconditionally support me as a safety net.

Having this GAD issue at the forefront has also helped me to see that I am not this disorder and this disorder is not me. Neither am I a victim. This is just life. Some of us are more charged up than others and it's not a reflection of my worth. And it's not a reflection of my daughter's worth either.

GAD has also helped me realize that I can put into motion something deep, something big, something incredibly amazing. And that I can experience and exhibit it without compulsively diving off the edge of sanity.

Oh, who am I kidding? I jumped a long time ago: I had kids. And it probably was more calculated than compulsive.

Cause that's the way I roll.

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