Stressing in the shadow of the moon

Traveling to see the total eclipse of the sun this week meant spending time with extended family. Now I love the members of my family. We get along well with each other, probably better than the average American family. But spending time with family still is stressful. It includes sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, eating on a different schedule, eating different foods, and being exposed to television programs I prefer to avoid. I am an introvert, a highly sensitive person, and am subject to bouts of anxiety. Not every member of the family understands my situation or has any sympathy for my problems.

The first problem was travel. Over the past five years, I have endured increasing dread over road trips. I wake up the morning of a road trip anticipating that something will go wrong with the car, leaving us stranded on the side of the road. In this case, the dread began building two days before the time of departure. I responded by praying that we would be kept safe throughout the trip. We were in fact kept safe, but not in the way I had hoped.

About halfway into the trip, stopping at a gas station, we heard a noise from the front of the car. To me it sounded as if something was scraping against the tire. We first heard it only while steering through turns. As we approached our destination, we also heard the sound when stopping, even without turning. I got out of the car and inspected the wheel well, and nothing was even close to touching the tire. We arrived at the house without further incident, but we knew that someone would have to look at the car before we did any more driving.

Our host knows more about cars than I do, so he went out and looked at the car. He noticed rust on the brake rotors, an indication that the brake pads were not coming in contact with the rotors as they should. He suggested that we visit a local mechanic to have the brakes checked. He also noticed that the front tires were badly worn and indicated that the mechanic would probably want to replace those as well.

The next morning I took the car to the recommended mechanic. He had a lot of customers and said the repair would not happen until the next day. He did say that he would look at the car the same day and let me know what work needed to be done. That meant that I spent the entire day waiting for a telephone call—not a good situation for someone prone to anxiety and in someone else’s house. When the call finally came at the end of the day, the news was not good. Front and rear brakes needed to be replaced—not only brake pads, but rotors and drums as well. All four tires needed to be replaced—the front pair were worn, and the back pair had been cut by failing shock absorbers. The noise we had heard was not from the brakes, though. That noise was from a ball joint in the front of the car. The total repair amounted to hundreds of dollars, although they threw in every discount they could find, including a one hundred dollar reduction given by financing the repair through a credit card supplied by their company.

In short, my feelings of anxiety about the car excursion were accurate. We were in danger of brake failure, which would have been worse than being stranded at the side of the road. My prayers for safety were answered; it may well have been miraculous that the brakes did not fail at any point of the trip.

Meanwhile, we had a second day without the car, a day that had been set aside for a visit to another city. We ended up making that trip in a borrowed car—one more unfamiliar situation to aggravate stress and anxiety.

Then came the actual day of the eclipse. My daughter and I were already energized in anticipation for the event, a feeling not far from the usual anxiety of life. Fortunately, the moon and the sun were not affected by our feelings, and we all enjoyed the show.

The final stage of the tour was driving home in a newly-repaired car. The night before that scheduled drive found me very unsettled. To make matters worse, the dinner menu that evening contained several foods that irritate my digestive system. I tried to limit my intake to small servings of those foods, but the combination of all of them—along with the building stress over the long drive—left me in severe discomfort. This experience is a vicious cycle—anxiety makes digestion worse, while bad digestion makes anxiety worse. The unexpected noise of a vacuum cleaner sent me over the edge. Our host tried to make things better by saying, “J., calm down, we don’t need this drama.” Of course that did not help at all. I needed to get away to another room, be alone for a while, focus on my breathing, and regain control of myself.

It would help if more family members understood what anxiety means. Too often they do act as if anxiety is a choice, something that can be controlled, and therefore a cause for blame. I know that if I showed up with my leg in a cast, they would not ask me to walk normally and blame me for being different. Because anxiety is not visible, it does not gather the same sympathy and understanding as a broken leg, or even a common cold. Even though that makes family events more challenging, I still love the members of my extended family and am glad for the time we are able to spend together. J.

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14 thoughts on “Stressing in the shadow of the moon

  1. I’m sorry J about your anxiety and lack of awareness among family. I too suffer from anxiety that gets triggered by a variety of things and know exactly what you speak of when you talk about digestive issues making it worse. For me it’s about loss of control and fear of the unknown.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s always helpful for me to hear how others experience and deal with their anxiety.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve learned a lot in the past few years, including how to see myself going through anxiety and how to struggle out the other side. It’s not under control, not by a long shot, but it’s better than it was. I hope that you are making gains as well. J.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh I have for sure made gains with my anxiety since I first stared dealing with it so many years ago and like you I’ve also learned a lot. Honestly it’s been a gift in some ways as to the insights I’ve learned about myself and other people. My best to you.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your prayers, Wally. I’ve learned that sometimes those inappropriate bursts of temper can be the result of anxiety. In our culture, this is especially true for men. The same solutions apply to both–a deep breath or two, an inner reminder that the situation is not worth losing control, and of course prayer. J.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I identify with the car situation, as far as being concerned about it, but I have never experienced a complete wipe out like you have described. That would be trying for sure. Anxiety in general, I don’t know about, but it sounds like IB (above) got on top of it. I guess you just keep holding on to “I can do all things through Christ Jesus …”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found myself slightly chuckling reading your tale of traveling ups and downs.
    Chuckling because I could oh so relate.

    The older I’ve gotten the worse my concern, or perhaps anxiety is a better word, over “road trips.” When we found ourselves having to drive the near 10 hour drive down to south Florida for my aunt’s funeral, I almost came unglued as I fretted and played the worse case scenarios over in my head days before we departed.
    I’ve driven enough on this interstate system of ours in this country and have thankfully lived to tell about it—I know what can go wrong if not deadly wrong.

    So like you I prayed.

    We where only forced off the road onto the shoulder one time by a u-Haul that didn’t see us in his blind spot as they changed lanes. It was scary at 80mph being forced to the shoulder, but thankfully it was the shoulder and not another car.

    Then your digestive issues….oh how you are singing my song—a vicious cycle of discomfort and upset causing woe, with woe in turn causing the same….
    And no, not everyone gets it.
    Thankfully God gets it as He is the go to in pray as I manage to balance my worries with my life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sorry, Salvageable. I really do empathize because I used to have anxiety, especially around cars and traveling. I could not eat, I wanted to throw up, could not sleep, and I was often busy imagining all the things that could go wrong. I don’t know why I stayed in that state, miserable for so long, or why the Lord suddenly cured me, but He did. Just like that, it was gone.

    Liked by 1 person

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