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.


6 thoughts on “Anxiety on the edge of something terrible

  1. megpie71 says:

    I think in times like this, the best thing those of us who are actually mentally ill can do is share advice with other people, because one of the key life skills we have is we know we can survive times like this. We know how to work past the terrible inchoate fear and niggling worries that come with anxiety, or how to nail those fears and worries down, pin them to a definite shape, and do something practical about them. We know how to get up and keep moving through the flatness of depression, even though our “get up and go” has got up and gone. We know how to ride the roller-coaster of contrasting and switching emotions that is bipolar disorder, and get through the worst of it without allowing those emotions to rule us. We know how to ignore the voices of the psychoses in our heads – or how to best talk back to them and refuse their suggestions. We have skills!

    This is why I’ve written this piece in my Dreamwidth blog, and why I’m sharing it everywhere I can: How To Get Through This: Tips From A Lifelong Depressive.

    • KellyK says:

      Thank you. I think you’re right. Also, I really appreciate your sharing your list of coping tips, which are really helpful. In fact, I think I’m going to go color for a bit.

  2. Dave Wallace says:

    Hi, Kelly. I found your blog via your comment on Slacktivist.

    On Roe, I agree that there is a real tiger there – Trump is likely serious about appointing judges who are inclined to overturn it. But it will take him a while to do that. Right now, there are five solid votes on the court who have stood up for choice in Women’s Healthcare. Trump needs to appoint at least two judges to have a chance of overturning Roe – the appointment he has been given by the Senate Republicans refusing to confirm Merrick Garland, plus replacing at least one of those five. That will take time, depending on how long those justices are able to hang on. Then it would take time for a case to bubble up from the lower courts. Even then, Roberts may prefer to hollow out Roe over time rather than immediately overrule it, so we don’t know how far-reaching the first ruling will be.

    So I think there is a real long-term threat to reproductive rights, but I think it’s unlikely that a blue-state resident would be directly affected for the first 2-3 years or so of a Trump administration. Beyond that, though, my crystal ball gets cloudy.

    • KellyK says:

      Hi, Dave! Thanks for commenting!

      I think your crystal ball is pretty accurate, and I’m not in a position to be affected immediately. Nothing’s going to change immediately, at least not in a blue state. In the red ones, I can see blatantly unconstitutional TRAP laws being passed any time now, in anticipation of a friendlier Supreme Court when they’re eventually challenged. I am concerned by the idea of a federal ban, either a 20-week one or something stricter, now that Republicans control the House and Senate. One thing that gives me a little hope is that abortion is the religious right’s big moral sledgehammer. If Roe is actually overturned, evangelical Christians who are generally decent people lose one of their primary reasons to keep voting for slimeballs like Donald Trump. So, they may hold off on actually doing it, as a means to maintain power.

  3. Dave Wallace says:

    Kelly – I hate to rain on a belief that’s giving you hope, but I think that if Republicans didn’t want to really get rid of Roe, they wouldn’t have tried to block Garland in such an unprecedented way. They would have made their excuses about how he was about the best nomination they could expect from a Democratic president, and approved him lest Hillary appoint someone further left when she got into office. Blocking Garland as flagrantly as they did only makes sense if they were really going for broke on abortion and risking everything for the chance of a Trump victory. I think there really is a tiger there, at least in terms of what they are trying to do.

    • Kelly Keck says:

      Unfortunately, I think you’re right. Don’t worry about raining on a belief that gives me hope. I’d rather have depressing facts than false hope. I’m also in a pretty safe position personally.

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