It might be that my mom didn’t get to hold me right away. She didn’t see me for two weeks after I was born, and not because anything was wrong with me as a baby. She almost died. They had to take care of her. I was just ‘Baby Girl Jones’ until she was better. Why my dad didn’t tell the nurses the name my parent’s picked out for me has never come up in conversation.
I don’t remember being young, but I do remember standing in front of a large picture window eating a dill pickle and thinking of the vastness of time and space at an age before I started preschool. I remember being so panicked by the endlessness of it all and the weight of time that I didn’t want to go outside—like ever.
People scared me. They still do. I consider everyone a suspect until proven otherwise. It’s like anti-benefit-of-the-doubt. I could attribute that to years of foster siblings. After ten kids passed through our home with abusive parents I started to assume everyone had abusive parents. I’m sure it didn’t help that my parents were busy and tired. I felt like I was on my own for protection—if I was to be afforded any such thing.
I’m generally great at social events so long as no one gets in my personal space or wants to talk about real things. I can’t tolerate tight spaces with lots of people for extended amounts of time, including family reunions, or any setting where my guard might come down and let my thoughts and worries out.
My fears got worse after having children. Suddenly instead of protecting just myself I felt like I had these tiny little innocent beings I had to keep safe. It was as if all the effort I had to put into ensuring my own safety was compounded by infinity.
I’m that weird mom who won’t let my kids play in anyone else’s house. I have to know who they’re with and what they’re doing. It’s different than being a helicopter mom.
It’s total panic that something could happen to my children that I possibly could have prevented. I want my children to stand up for themselves, but I don’t want them to HAVE to defend themselves. It’s a constant strain to my energy, anticipating their safety, well-being, and if I’ve done all I can.
My husband lovingly calls me ‘Worst Case Scenario’ but the truth is, I really do picture the worst possible events happening constantly. I have a vivid imagination that crawls into my sleep and plays out fears in horrifying detail. And there is nothing endearing about seeing horror happen in your head at all times.
“Are my children safe from danger?” is the prevailing thought at all times.
Of course those images don’t wait only for sleep to haunt me. I watch my children fall down stairs and break their necks if they stand too close to the landing and take a single step back without looking. I watch car accidents happen as I navigate the car with my children safely buckled in their age appropriate seating. It just plays out in my mind and I breathe faster until the possibility lets itself be known, the oncoming car passes safely in its own lane and the entire process starts again with the next vehicle approaching.
If my family knew the extent of how often such uncontrollable concerns go through my head during any given hour on any given day, they might understand my terror when my kids get too close to the top of a stairwell, playing too close to a roadway, a car slowing in an unanticipated manner down the street, hiking, driving, swimming, camping, outings in unfamiliar settings, metro rails, crowds, heights, choking on marshmallows handed out in preschool… There are so many variables of danger that my mind thinks it has to anticipate in order to prepare for or prevent horror from happening. It’s exhausting.
Simon Pegg has a movie titled: A Fantastic Fear of Everything. I believe that is a thing.
I smile well, I speak well, I hold it together—but in my head horror is threatening everything I love, at all times, and I have no way to truly prevent those fears from coming true.