Monday, April 17, 2017

Anxiety

When I was young, I think I had some nervous habits that most children do. I didn't like to step on the cracks of sidewalks, not because of the adage that I'd break my mother's back but just because it didn't feel right. When I walked on the checkered tiles in our school hallway, I had to make sure I stepped on as many black tiles with my left foot as I did with my right foot or else I felt 'uneven.' I distinctly remember in grammar school, I would go up to sharpen my pencil by the door and I would have to spin the crank an even number of times or I would feel 'off' for the rest of the day.
Some of my friends would describe having similar quirks but I always knew mine were a bit more severe. In the afternoons when my sister and I would lounge around on the couch watching television, she would bring the pillow from her bed so she could lie down. I couldn't bring my pillow because it didn't belong on the couch and I didn't like the idea of my bed being pillowless. If my left arm was itchy, I would scratch it and then also compulsively scratch my right arm because my body craved the symmetry. During dinner, when I'd put my chopsticks down to pick up my spoon, I had to make sure they were properly lined up or else my food didn't taste right.

As an adult, I'm not as conscious about cracks in the sidewalk or feeling 'uneven' but this weird anxiety has manifested itself in slightly different ways. I am constantly compelled to clean the stove, even if it's still searing hot from having just been used; I just put on oven mitts and get to scrubbing anyway. I have a v. specific nighttime skincare routine (that involves almost ten steps) and I have trouble sleeping if I haven't completed the ritual. I can never let my gas tank get below a quarter tank, not because I had a traumatic experience from running out of petrol, but merely because it just gives me the creeps and makes me feel terrible thinking about having less than a quarter tank. I can't explain why.

And when it comes to travel - which was the point of writing about this topic, duh - I feel compelled to plan and plan and plan. And I'm not going to lie and say that I haven't had any panic attacks or emotional responses during less organized moments. I've written several posts on being organized, journaling, putting together itineraries and packing lists, and other meticulous, picky topics that are probably pretty boring for most. I mean, I said in one post that I literally plan the exact outfit for each day down to the underwear. But for me, these are necessities. As much as I love to travel, thinking about taking off to a new, unfamiliar destination without doing any research or putting together a game plan sounds like a punishment. It's making me itchy just to imagine it.

Sometimes I worry that my anxiety will get severe enough that I'm not going to be able to travel at all. I think about leaving my dog behind and it makes me depressed and anxious. I think about the task of having to unpack afterwards and it makes me feel icky. I think about the countless emails waiting for me at work and it freaks me out a bit.

I don't know. Are these actually problems that people have or am I just a huge weirdo?

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