I came across an article lately (not on vocal, btw, so I'm not entirely sure if I can share the link) that talked about the difference between worry and anxiety. Oddly, I had never heard of this distinction. I thought I had read alot about anxiety, and I have definitely seen a good number of therapists in my day. One would think I'd have heard of this distinction before.
But, sadly, no. I don't think this is necessarily because I've had poor therapists (although some have been pretty bad). I think it's because I always manage to bail before things get deep enough to really help me.
One of my earliest memories is one of social anxiety
I was always a nervous kid. One of my earliest memories, in fact, was walking back from church with Marty, my dad, holding his hand, when he ran across a neighbor who lived a few doors down. I'm not sure exactly how old I was, but I must have been really really young if I was holding his hand. Plus I remember being really short, maybe as tall as my dad's belly button.
As a kid, I was never sure of how I was supposed to act around adults. (Still don't, btw.) When my father started talking to Mr. M, I didn't know if I was supposed to say hi too or if it was a conversation just for adults and I should stay quiet. I opted for staying quiet. When Mr. M leaned forward and said hi to me, instantly in my head, I determined that I had made some sort of social faux pas and pretended I just hadn't noticed him somehow. So I sort of jumped and said "Oh, hi!" as if I'd been taken by surprise. Mr. M promptly laughed for what was probably a perfectly innocent reason, but I of course took it as being laughed at and convinced myself I'd screwed up somehow. As a result, I not only remember it a good 55 years or so later, but I still feel stupid and wish I had acted differently. Normally.
Step on a crack...
At some point, I developed this odd habit. I'm not sure exactly when it started, but, again, I know it was when I was very young. It involved anytime I walked alone: sometimes to school in the mornings, or if I was heading down the block to hang out with my friends, or walking the few blocks to visit friends who lived further away.
This habit involved the cracks in the sidewalk, both the straight lines that were there on purpose, something to do with the expansion and contraction of the cement during the changing seasons, as well as those cracks that appeared over time.
The habit involved stepping on one of these cracks, but it wasn't the typical attempting to avoid stepping there for fear of breaking mom's back, that silly little kid thing. It actually involved making sure anytime I did step on a crack, that I “evened things out” by then stepping on a crack with the other foot.
If I ever stepped on a crack with one foot, I would almost sense this sort of itching for lack of a better word that wouldn't go away until the other foot had stepped on one. This grew over time to the point where it wasn't just a balance between the feet but between the parts of the feet. So if, for instance, the front of my right shoe touched a crack, it could only be made right when the front of my left foot touched a crack too. And I kept a running total going in my head at all times. Let's say the front of my right shoe touched a crack, and I had that “itching” in my right toes; if I tried to even it out with my left foot but accidentally stepped on the crack with the heel of my left foot, I would then have that “itching” in my right toes and left heel both until I could even both of these things out.
This grew crazier and crazier as the rules expanded over time to be not just the cracks but these sort of invisible lines that would run from the edges of houses or gates or even the tires of parked cars. It was this huge elebaorate world of invisible lines that I had to navigate while I walked. It even started in my house, where the edge of a doorway would “extend” into rooms.
Needless to say, this became fairly unpleasant. However, because it was very important to me that I appear normal, I did all of this while keeping as normal a pace as a could (while also walking rather quickly – I was a city kid after all.) In fact, not one person ever noticed this in the years and years I did this (or at least, they never pointed it out to me).
This lasted well into my adulthood, by the way, and still ocassionally haunts me, although I can ignore it. I would imagine it's similar to a schizophrenic still hearing but being able to ignore the voices.
My one year as a basketball player
This odd form of anxiety did grow a bit too out of control at one point and became visible to others when it started to involve my hands. Luckily, this was short lived, pointed out to me by Marty who noticed it, and it never happened to me again.
At one point I was actually on my elementary school basketball team. This would be absolutely hilarious to you if you have ever seen me attempt to play basketball. I'm not sure why I was even on it. A friend of mine had convinced me to try out. Neither one of us had ever played basketball in our life, as far as I know. Not that we didn't run around and play sports, like most kids. But we tended towards football and stickball.
But, you know what? We both made the team! You'd think that might be because we had some natural athletic talent or something. But no. It was because there are 12 players on a basketball team and only 12 kids tried out for the team. So me and my friend were the 11th and 12th players.
Marty would often drive us to the games, and sit and watch from the stands while we sat and watched from the bench. I am pretty sure we only got into one game, or at least that's all I remember. I remember being incredibly nervous, as I'm sure you can imagine. I don't think I really did anything of any value, not knowing where to go to play defense, or how to play defense in fact; I couldn't shoot, wasn't much of a dribbler. So, basically, I think I just ran around and spun around like a top. Doubt I even touched the ball at all.
But what I did do, though, was engage in a sort of ritual similar to the sidewalk crack ritual, except now it involved my hands. It was based, once again, on keeping things “even.” So that if my right forefinger, e.g., were to touch the palm of my hand, I would then have to touch my left forefinger to the palm of my hand. But it had to be the same spot. Maybe the right forefinger glanced the base of my thumb. Well, then the left would have to do the same. If it hit in, say, the middle, I now had to retry with the left, and also make up with the right by hitting the middle of that one.
When Marty and I were alone in the car later on, he pointed it out to me. He was actually pretty nice about it (I have a lot of memories of Marty being nice when I was young; probably why he's the only one in my family I miss). I do think though that he was kind of embarrassed. But I'm glad he brought it up nonetheless because I think it somehow broke the spell. I have never ever had the urge to do that with my hands again.
To Be Continued...
I have so much more to write about anxiety. In fact, this was supposed to be a single essay on it. But I guess I just have too much to restrict to just one essay. So I guess it will be at least 3 parts. Eventually, though, I'll get to the point where it's about what I just learned re: worry vs. anxiety. This was actually much harder and much more emotional for me to write than I ever expected. Man, I'm more messed up than I thought! If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing so that you can read about how my anxiety has manifested in my adult years. (HINT: it's so much more than the sidewalk nonsense).