I have a wonderful life. My loves, my cities, my writing, those who support me through all my tumbling around. Oh, and hedgehogs—I got to pet a hedgehog at Boo at the Zoo last weekend. Honestly, I could not ask for more. And I also have periods of runaway anxiety and fear.
It’s not Mental Health Awareness month that I know of. Nor have I ever been diagnosed with a condition. I have no reason for posting this and telling y’all about my difficulties, except a need to say it.
Partly, it often feels as if social media insists on unrelenting happiness and beauty. (I know this is an old thought, but it’s a continuing issue). Maybe our public mirrors are so upbeat because when joy hits our world, our human reaction is to share it. We are social creatures, more so than we give ourselves credit for. Sharing joy with another person exponentially increases it, almost as if we get to re-live it each time someone joins in. For joy, for ineffable joy.
But sharing sorrow? Fear? Despondency? Where is the joy in that?
As a result, we can get the message that we are the only ones who struggle. The only ones who have no reason to complain—and don’t—but who lie awake at night fearing the crumbling of our world. (Right here I feel the need to tell my mother that I’m okay; it’s just the way it is; you don’t need to worry about my worry.)
A new friend was telling me recently about her eye condition that left dark spots in her vision. She began taking eye vitamins and—lo and behold—the spots disappeared. Similarly, the dark spots in my life are purely a product of the way I see the world. They float into my consciousness and, before I realize it, they are blotting out all the goodness. I understand this, and yet at times I can’t evict the dark spot from my brain.
These times pass. I return to the land of light. If you follow the Enneagram, I am a six. Sixes are fear-based people. Richard Rohr thinks there are more sixes than any other type. Fear is verrrrrry common. So, in a way, rather than viewing my dark troughs as failures, I could view my default position of happiness as an ongoing, uncelebrated victory.
In closing (how formal is that?), if you have moments, afternoons, days of overwhelming fear, you are not alone. And, to paraphrase a church I visited once upon a time, “The Universe loves you, and so do I.” Let love prevail.
I am on muscle relaxers.
Never would I have thought such a sentence would come out of my mouth. It reminds me of my first—and hopefully last—divorce trial when I found myself on the witness stand giving dog testimony. I thought, my God, Ellen, here you are under oath, giving dog testimony—“I was the one who bathed them, I fed them”—desperate to get custody of my three little Yorkies.
The muscle relaxers have come into my life because I’m “down in my back.” I will probably tell folks it’s from raucous sex. Well, probably not. The time my now-husband and I really did break our bed, it was the most embarrassing thing. Calling all around town, trying to find someone who could fix the metal hinge on the bed frame. “We broke our bed,” I’d say, and snicker, snicker, I’d get in return. The less-specific, “Our bed broke,” didn’t improve things much. Still: snicker, snicker.
So I’ll probably have to tell the truth about the muscle relaxers: the loss of youth. Which, quite frankly, isn’t enough of an excuse to get me to take medicine. I’m one of those people who does not take medicine well—it makes me nervous to put foreign substances in my body. I shared this feeling with my doctor, who I also told of my association of “muscle relaxers” with “addiction.” He told me that wasn’t going to happen, not on his watch. Turns out, this internist was a certified addiction specialist.
“You may be an addict,” he said, his gaze piercing. “I don’t know you that well. But it won’t happen on my watch—I’ve got my eye on you.”
Actually, I really liked him. Because he told me how crappy menopause was. No soft music and babbling brooks for this man. I appreciated that. I’m not sure being down in my back had a thing to do with my going through menopause, but he was a new doctor who needed to build a practice and I was a paying patient, so he was listening to whatever I had to say. I also liked that about him. He assured me I hadn’t ruined my kidneys from taking herbal supplements for my menopausal migraines, but I probably had given myself an upset stomach. From the magnesium. “Magnesium,” he said, “like Milk of Magnesia.”
Well, who would’ve thought?
Trusting in this man, I filled the prescription for muscle relaxers. The pharmacist, thank God, told me not to take the muscle relaxers until I got home. He didn’t want me to drive until I knew what effect their sedative nature would have on me. I was glad he mentioned this since that was the very reason I’d bought the Mt. Dew in my hand—to wash down the muscle relaxers.
Do the muscle relaxers help? I don’t know. Tonight is my wedding anniversary—my eighth anniversary with this, my hopefully last, husband—and I’m not going to be on muscle relaxers for my anniversary dinner. Tomorrow will be a new day.
Tomorrow will, in fact, be the beginning of my ninth year in this marriage, in which the husband of my second-half-of life tells me how well I’m managing my health problems. The husband who sleeps with me in a broken bed lying flat on the floor because we decided we kind of liked it that way. The man who does not fight in court with me over my Yorkies but lowers his long self onto the den carpet—all six foot three of him—and hand feeds the tiny dogs their doggy biscuits, making munching noises if necessary to get them interested in their delicious doggy treats.
The dogs eat enough of those biscuits, they’re gonna get addicted.
Not to worry.
I’m a certified dog biscuit addiction specialist.
I’ve got my eye on them.