I hate tomatoes and liverwurst. They're gross and I have no problem admitting it. I also hate scrubbing my bathtub. I hate cold weather and icy roads. I hate being late. I hate really long commercial breaks. I hate road construction and, now, even the color orange. I hate my kids' math homework. I hate my scale. I hate multi-lanes roundabouts – they freak me out and should be illegal. I hate heavy metal music. I hate spiders. I hate itchy tags in my clothing. And I hate shaving my legs.
These are my socially acceptable hates. These are the “safe topics” that come up in casual conversations with people I meet throughout my week. These are the things that normal people can relate to – the things that give us the smallest sense of connection with one another. Oh, your neighborhood is blocked off for construction, too? Weeellll, let me tell you about MY street! Right? You could have that conversation with your grandmother, your neighbor, or the person in line behind you at the bank. Safe topics.
So, while I was at the doctor's office last week, my PCP asked me the list of questions he always asks: Do you smoke? No. Are you still taking the same birth control? Yes. Is Patrick still your emergency contact? Yes. Have you been under any stress lately? Not really.
Not really? Not really?? My mind screamed at my mouth as the vicious lie slipped out. On what planet are you NOT REALLY stressed out?? So, I tried to backpedal a little bit.
“I mean, I have stress… and I sometimes feel anxious. But, you know, not like crazy or anything. Just a little more stressed than some other people.”
Yeah. That cleared it up. I mean, what was I afraid of? That he would find me crazy? That I would start rambling on like a fool about all the things that make me lose my mind on a daily basis? That I would begin sobbing uncontrollably in the doctor's office and that he would feel so uncomfortable that he'd ask his nurse to take over so he could make a quiet escape? That he would have me committed?
In a word, Yes.
And the fact that the things I have to say are not part of the socially acceptable hates. They're not the things that an average person can relate to. Not the things that the average person wants to spend time thinking about because, quite frankly, they're depressing. If I walked out into the street right now, I could find at least 10 people willing to talk to me about the weather. (Ok, that number falls kind of flat if you think I live in a big city… to clear things up, 10 people would be like 95% of the people, so…. Yeah. Basically everyone would talk to me about the weather.)
What I needed to say to my doctor was my list of non-socially acceptable hates.
I hate mental illness. I hate that it's waiting at my door when I first wake up and that it lives in my home all year long. I hate that I can't fix my kids and that I get angry at them hourly for this. I hate that every other Sunday I have to return a child that I love so deeply, so fiercely, to his biological dad's house. I hate that he sobs, hyperventilates, and fights tooth and nail when the hours arrives for him to leave. I hate that I watch the life leave that same toddler's eyes as he gives up the fight, knowing that he's going back whether he wants to or not (and he never wants to). I hate that he screamed and pointed to me, telling his dad's girlfriend that he wanted me and not her… “I want THAT Mama, NOT YOU!” I hate that every other Sunday becomes the new worst day of my life and that it requires several days of a mourning period to readjust to life again without him. I hate that my husband and I don't get to see each other more, and that when we do, quite often we argue. I hate that we pay our bills from our savings account too regularly. I hate that I've been having anxiety attacks more and more often, not being able to catch my breath or stop my heart from racing. I hate that I'm supposed to help others when I feel like a hurricane is constantly blowing inside of me.
Have you been under any stress lately? Not really.
I hate that anxiety is so hard to talk about! That it makes me feel weak and useless and like a failure. And that my doctor may prescribe me medicine and brush off all my symptoms as “womanly” or “psycho-somatic”. And that he may be right.
Shivonne, why would you post something so negative? So much hate and bad feelings going on here! I'm sorry if I've brought anyone down tonight. But quite honestly, I didn't have it in me to talk about the weather.
Friends, if you know of someone that is just really going through it right now, someone that's facing anxiety or depression, do me a favor. Make it a safe topic. Don't let that person go on and on about tomatoes or traffic jams. You don't have to personally know what their situation feels like to care. You don't have to understand to love.