I lived in the country surrounded by fields. We had a small area with apple trees that I climbed frequently, pear trees that gave us delicious fruit, and a cherry tree. There was a creek running through our ground where I spent many happy hours finding crawdads, watching tadpoles, and playing in the shallow water. We had a couple of barns, one of which had a hayloft where I would climb up into, open the loft door, and just look at fields all around me for hours. My dad was a hunter so we always had hunting dogs, puppies, and usually one or two dogs that were for playing. Everything there was beautiful, and I could not have asked for a better place to call home as a child.
Mom managed the household while dad worked for the phone company all day. We had dinner together every night at five o’clock sharp. We all said “I love you” to each other before bed every night. We volunteered for the local Catholic basketball program where my brother eventually became a player and I became a cheerleader. We usually visited one or both sets of grandparents on the weekends. We played games, cut and delivered firewood together, and went on family vacations every few years. We visited The Wisconsin Dells, Silver Dollar City, and Disneyworld. I could not have grown up in a more loving family.
By all appearances, my life was perfect. When I was going through elementary school I loved it. School was one of my favorite places to be! When I wasn't in school, I was playing school with two younger neighbor girls. I loved learning and socializing with everyone. I didn't know a stranger. I had lots of sleepovers with my friends, always played during recess, and through most of school got honor roll grades. I continued to love school throughout middle school and early high school. It was an idyllic life to those on the outside but on the inside, something darker was brewing.
This is the face of anxiety
This is not the life or the type of person most people think of when they think of someone with anxiety. What would a person who "had it all" have to be anxious about? I had that question too. I wondered what was wrong with me that I had such a great life yet I couldn’t enjoy it. When I thought about it, it went something like this:
My parents only love me because they have too.
People tolerate me but no one really likes me. Everyone really hates me.
Every time I walk into a room people leave because they don’t want to be near me.
Every time someone laughs when I walk into a room or laughs anywhere near me they are laughing at me.
I need to get excellent grades in order for my parents to be proud of me. They always say "whatever grade you get is fine as long as you did your best" but what they mean is I have to get perfect grades or they will love me less.
My brother doesn't even have to try and he gets good grades, but I have to spend hours studying. They love him and wish I was as smart as him.
My daddy works all those hours because he can't stand to be around me therefore, I must always be smiling, happy, and do what he says when he is home so he will love me.
Mom spends time with me only because she feels sorry for me. She would much rather be doing something else or be somewhere else.
I can’t leave mom alone in the house because something could happen to her.
My brother plays with me only because mom and dad told him he has too, he doesn't like me let alone love me.
Those "I love you" moments before bedtime are just words, no one really loves me, how could they, just look at me! I'm terrible, ugly, stupid, stick out like a sore thumb, awkward, worthless, unlovable, ungrateful, sick all the time, make mom worry, and cause stress for mom and dad.