As fall approaches every year, I can feel the anxiety rising. Ironically, fall is my favorite season of them all. I love the leaves changing, and sweaters, and all things pumpkin. But, it’s also a signal of something looming that I dread every year – sickness.
While my Anxiety and OCD isn’t just about illness, it’s a huge triggering factor for me. It robs me of the joy I want to feel around my favorite time of year. I’m constantly waiting for the inevitable – for someone to get sick.
This holiday season, we had three trips planned back to back. I was a mess inside my own head. I slept horrible, and had a hard time enjoying myself because in the back of my mind, it was always there nagging at me. What if someone gets sick? What if we’re trapped in this hotel room together sick? What if we’re trapped in someone else’s house and it runs through all the cousins like wildfire?
A kid saying their tummy hurts immediately sends a hot wave through me. My heart starts racing and I have to calm myself down so others don’t notice how I’m panicking inside. I feel isolated, ridiculous and alone.
I take medication, and I’ve been to therapy. Both help. But, I also want to lock my family inside and never leave the house for all of the winter season. It’s irrational, I know. But, I also feel like it’s the only way to protect us. And, yet, I feel guilt and shame for even entertaining those thoughts.
People get sick. No big deal, you might think. But, for me, it’s my biggest trigger. I sleep less. I am angry when I find out I was exposed by a friend, or when my child comes home from school and tells me someone threw up in class that day.
For me personally, the worry about illness is mostly about my Emetophobia which is a nightmare to live as a parent. But, it’s also about winter in general. It’s an association with what I’ve deemed a miserable time of year when I have to be hyper-vigilant, hyper aware, and I’m constantly on high alert.
Most people find solace in posting about their various illnesses on social media, but for me, it’s more than just stress inducing to see their posts. I don’t care if you live three states away, if you post about someone in your family throwing up, I’ll think about it for days. I’ll worry that it’s coming my way, and I’ll likely lose sleep over it.
Most people lament that they hate this time of year as they exchange horror stories (at least that’s how they feel to me) of their entire family falling victim to an illness, but it’s not really that I hate this time of year, I just hate who it makes me become.
I went to visit family right after Christmas, and on the long drive home I crashed. Hard. I slept almost the whole way while my husband drove for most of the 11 hour trip. I was relieved. Relieved we lasted for a full week with no one getting sick. Relieved that I had survived it (because that’s what living with anxiety feels like every day). And, at the same time feeling that feeling of relief made me realize something.
This anxiety is robbing me.
It’s stealing sleep, but it’s also stealing happy moments I could be enjoying more fully, and it’s stealing peace I could feel during a beautiful Christmas season. It’s stealing joy I could feel when cousins are in close quarters because I’m too busy worried about a little cough in the night or a kid restless in his bed.
It’s robbing me, and I’m on survival mode. I’ll get through it. I always do. I just wish I didn’t have to fight so hard.