Friday, 11 November 2016

Anxiety on the edge of something terrible

As someone with anxiety disorder, I’ve gotten used to telling myself that my fears aren’t rational, that the things I worry about won’t really happen.  Usually, this is true. This week, however, it doesn’t seem to be.  I worried that people would elect a known racist and sexual predator who has promised that the Constitution will only apply to white Christians and that the undesirables would be rooted out of our country, making it great again. And here we are.  I worried that every Hitler wannabe would be emboldened to go out vandalizing property and harassing and intimidating people.  And here we are.

So now, I worry about things like, “Is it safe to wear my Hillary shirt the day after the election?” or  “The truck that was burned and spray-painted had a coexist bumper sticker.  I know it was a trans woman, and I’m cis, but does having that same bumper sticker make me a target?” or “When I tweet at Donald Trump about all the evil that’s going on in his name, am I going to start getting death and rape threats from neo-nazis?” (The answers are “Yes, at least so far,” “Who knows?” and “Not yet.”)

I also worry about getting pregnant in Trump’s America, which is kind of ironic, since I’ve spent years trying to get pregnant with only two chemical pregnancies to show for it.  (That’s a miscarriage before your 8-week sonogram, called a chemical pregnancy because the only way you know you were pregnant is your hCG level.) But, between following pro-choice websites, having a lot of friends and family who’ve had scary pregnancies, and having my own miscarriages, I have heard all manner of horror stories.  Which, of course, the anxiety brain magnifies.

So, like a lot of women, I’m giving extra thought to my birth control. I’m 35 now, advanced maternal age, and trying to get pregnant means lowering the dose of my anxiety meds. I’d already given up and gone back on birth control in order to bump the psych meds up and keep my brain healthy. I was pondering the idea of permanent sterilization, but it seemed too, well, permanent.  It felt more like giving up than just not trying anymore.  But now, I’m back to considering it.

I do the mental math about how likely it would be, if I got pregnant in the next six months or so, for Roe to be overturned during that pregnancy, leaving me out of luck if something goes catastrophically wrong.  The odds of something going catastrophically wrong aren’t high, but I do have some risk factors (like that “advanced maternal age”). There’s also the fact that I live in a very blue state, but  a federal law change could still screw that up.

And, like always, I tell myself that my fears aren’t justified, that I’m not being rational.  So, I go to my husband, who is my sanity check for the crazy shit my brain comes up with.  I ask him if he thinks it’s nuts that I’m considering getting my tubes tied. And he says, “No, that’s not crazy, but vasectomies are a much simpler procedure.”

This is both comforting and terrifying. Comforting that he doesn’t think I’m overreacting and terrifying because I’d rather live in a world where “Make damn sure you’re on good birth control,” is an overreaction to a Presidential election.  (I know that as a married white woman with a well-paying job, I still don’t live in that world to the extent that a lot of people do.)

I’ve had anxiety explained to me as your brain thinking there’s a tiger, and gearing up the fight or flight response, when there really is no tiger.  It’s a cardboard cutout, or a housecat. And all of my coping strategies center around reassuring myself that there’s not a tiger.

But now, it’s definitely a tiger.  I’m looking right at it, and it’s hungry.  It’s got a lot of people that it wants to eat before it eats me, but it is definitely a tiger.  And those coping mechanisms become a lot less helpful.

 




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