Friday, February 24, 2012

Not Quite Care Free

I grew up in a fairly typical family setting. I had two wonderful parents who loved me, one brother and a dog. Oh and I had a couple of hamsters along the way, but I'm pretty sure they would much rather have lived their lives out in someone else's house. We had what I would consider a pretty classic American family, or at least it was way back in the 1900's. You're mind is automatically going back to about 1910 right? But to our kids, the fact that we lived before 2000 and the Internet will probably never cease to amaze them.

My life should have been that of a care free child. I had nothing to worry about. I knew I was loved and I always had enough food and clothes. Perfect. But some of us, like me, aren't wired that way. While most of the time I lived out that happy childhood, there was always a bit of worry in my little brain. I carried anxiety that wasn't necessary for a child to have (this is strictly in my own opinion). Obviously, it is possible that everyone had these same issues.

When I was little I had nightmares. I won't go into specifics because, well, I don't want anyone to have me committed. But, they were recurring and even though I told my mom about them, I just couldn't get whatever was causing them out of my brain. I have always been able to remember my dreams, often more vividly than I would like. I work lots out in my head at night. I have found that when I am on anti-depressants for the post partum depression, the dreams become more vivid and scary. It's as if my conscious brain is blocked by the medications from dealing with what I see, hear and read during the day, so my unconscious works on processing it all at night. I am aware as an adult that my dreams cannot hurt me, but I was terrified as a child.

I lay a little of the blame for my childhood anxiety on the pamphlets given out at school. Do you remember the one where the man would drive by in his car, stop, and then get out and offer you a lollipop to get in his car? Or say that your mom had sent him to pick you up? I'm sure the propaganda was meant to instill a sense of fear, but for me it was terrifying. We lived close to school so I was a walker. Let me tell you, every single day I was watching the street for that car that was going to slow down and try to snatch me. Other kids were walking along, playing with friends, laughing. Not me, I was not going to be caught off guard and taken away from my family forever.

Vacations are fun right? Yes, I loved going to the lake with my family every summer. Who wouldn't? But, I couldn't get this one worry out of my mind while we were away. What if someone breaks into our house and hurts the dog? What if she is in pain and no one knows until my grandfather gets there to feed and walk her? Seriously, this fear was with me the entire vacation, every year. Not a thought about the stuff in our house if someone broke in, just, please don't hurt the dog. I needed to be there to protect her. I felt the need to protect. If I wasn't there, who would be?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my vacations swimming and boating and learning to water ski. It was idyllic; just what summer should be when you're a kid. And speaking of swimming.. this is how I know that fear roots itself deeply in me with a grasp so tight that I've had to fight for years to get out from underneath. I don't swim in any water with fish anymore. I haven't in years. When I was little, like all dads and brothers, my dad and brother would pinch me underwater and tell me that fish were biting me. It should have been a game. I mean really, I could see them doing it. But my brain registered a fear of fish right then and there, and I still cannot go in water that I can't see clearly to the bottom of to check for fish. Wish you were me don't you?

I can't change any of those pieces of my past. I accept that. It's not something my parents did, or something I did to myself; it's just who I am. Do you have any childhood fears that never left? That you now realize are unnecessary, but are so deeply rooted that a part of them will never go away? I bet we all do. I just hope yours didn't control your life quite the way mine did.

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