I have an anxiety disorder. I call it Harriet. I avoid her when I can, but in the end, she is a big part of my life. I try to not let her control me. When you have a Harriet, though, sometimes she takes over no matter what you do. My husband says he can always tell when she is bothering me because I sway from side to side. He doesn’t realize that’s only a small part of what really happens when Harriet and I battle for control.
Harriet can visit at any time whether I am having fun or under a lot of pressure. She especially likes to visit when our oldest son, Owen, is involved. Owen has a severe mood disorder. Sometimes he sees and hears things that aren’t there, or he might think we are hiding things from him. He can be aggressive and violent for hours at a time. He lives in a lock-down residential facility now, but I still feel the lasting effects of having him around.
I had learned to control Harriet when Owen was around, but I can’t anymore. The mere thought of being around him tells Harriet I am vulnerable. Even though he cannot hurt me anymore, in my mind, I can hear him screaming, throwing, punching, kicking.
Harriet circles over my head.
I have to keep her out.
Owen can’t know about her.
He will play with her.
Roll her between his fingers and squeeze her through.
My breathing gets harder and I get dizzy.
She weakens me.
My chest hurts.
I rock back and forth.
If I don’t get it together, my mind will dissolve.
She begins to take hold.
I can’t think.
I can’t speak.
Harriet overwhelms me.
I clean frantically, hoping to wash her away, the evidence of my weakness, the fleeting hate I feel for him.