When you become a parent worry takes on a new dimension. We are in charge of somebody else. Like truly in charge — of their health and well-being. If we drop the ball, it’s worrisome to say the least.
And when one parents a child with medical or developmental challenges, that’s another level of worry.
I’ve always been able to cope with my worrying with a little reassurance, or with some stern self-talk. Lately however, my usual tactics have failed and my worrying has reached ridiculous heights.
For example, if my husband takes a few minutes longer than normal on his way home from a Sunday morning coffee run, I begin to fret. “What if his car went off the road? What if he was held up at the Tim Horton’s Drive-thru? What if…..oh screw it, I’m texting him!!” And god forbid he doesn’t reply immediately.
The other day as I was examining a wart (sorry. gross. but necessary for this story) on my daughter’s knee, I had an epiphany…
I worried about this wart. What if the virus causing it signified a problem with my child’s immune system? What if the wart spread and she ended up with warts all over! I worried about it. I fretted. I wondered what to do. I Googled and then ogled the wart some more. And then it hit me, “I’m losing sleep worrying over a harmless wart. I’m a worry wart!”
Worry had become a monkey on my back. And I don’t care for monkeys. Ever since I saw the movie “Monkey Shines” I’ve been suspicious of our distant cousins.
So I went to see my doctor. She gets me and I know she has my back. The one with the monkey on it.
She suggested I give myself a break and helped me to acknowledge that many of the things I worry about are legit.
But, she agreed that when worry grows from a tiny spider monkey, to a chimp, to a baboon, it’s only a matter of time before you’re carrying around a 400 pound gorilla on your back. And who wants that? Aside from maybe Dian Fossey.
Though talking to a professional is helpful in many cases, we both agreed that I wasn’t there yet. I definitely needed to do some work to get my worrying under control, but this was something my doctor felt comfortable with me doing on my own.
She assigned me some homework. I was to buy a book called, “The Anxiety and Worry Workbook.”
“Lisa,” she cautioned, “it’s not enough just to BUY the book. You need to actually read it and do the exercises.”
It’s like when you buy piles of vitamins with every intention of taking them as part of your new “get healthy” regiment and then they just sit in your cupboard while you hack away with phlegmy cough and pop Advil to fight the fever from your flu.
I bought the book.*
I’m doing the exercises.
I’m worrying less.
The monkey on my back has a name. It’s Steve. He likes banana daiquiris, romantic comedies and anything by George Michael. We’ve become quite chummy. A shame really, because it looks like he won’t be staying long.
*I found the book online and put it on hold at a local bookstore as there was only one copy left. I was late picking it up so when the clerk brought the book up to the counter I exclaimed, “Phew, I was so WORRIED it might not be here anymore.” (As I pointed to the title) I laughed. The clerk didn’t. But I didn’t worry about it. Much.