I permitted my emotions to manipulate my life. The smallest fear turned into a full-blown horror flick, with me in the starring role as the fiend. It got so bad that right after the attacks on the World Trade Centers, I became a raving lunatic and knew I had to change or
get soaked with garlic and holy water lock myself in a rubber room.
I never listened to talk-radio before, but right after September 11, 2001, I was listening to it all the time, and when I wasn’t, I was watching the news on television. I was bombarding myself with nine-eleven information and images day in and day out, which only fueled my fiendish behavior.
Then I got Anthrax.
Well, actually the first letters containing Anthrax spores were mailed to news media offices and two United States Senators one week after nine-eleven, on the eighteenth.
And THEN I got Anthrax.
I had a sore throat, a fever and my muscles hurt like the dickens. “I’m dying of Anthrax in three days!” I told anyone who would listen. Which was mostly my family and closest friends. Poor things, they almost went nuts just listening to me! So that meant I was either dying of Anthrax in three days or my darling husband was going to strangle ME to end THEIR misery. But my husband controlled himself and called my dad instead. No, not to strangle me, but to talk sense into me and if that didn’t work, then maybe some strangling.
I heard David on the phone. “Talk some sense into your daughter. She THINKS she has Anthrax.” Then he handed me the phone.
“Hi Dad,” I sweetly greeted my father, pretending I didn’t know WHY my husband had called him.
“I hear there’s an outbreak of Anthrax in Gibsonia.” My dad’s use of humor, even when I was dying of Anthrax, didn’t surprise me. He was just being my daddy.
“Daaad! Stop it! I’m telling you, I HAVE Anthrax. I’m dying in three days.” I’m sure he heard the panic in my voice but chose to ignore it. He had to if he ever wanted to talk any sense into my thick head.
“Ooohh. You need to stop this shit.” I knew he meant business because he rarely, if ever, cussed.
“I know you are. But you can’t live your life in fear. You have a better chance of dying in a car wreck than dying of Anthrax.” That’s my dad, straight and to the point.
“I know.” I held back my tears but my fear was still at the forefront.
“Are you still listening to the radio and watching the news all the time?”
“Yeah,” I reluctantly admitted, never being able to lie to my father.
“You need to take a break.”
“How am I gonna know what’s going on in the world?” I asked because even though the news upset me, the thought of not listening or watching made me feel more ill at ease.
“If anything important happens, I’ll let you know.”
“I don’t know…” I mumbled. I knew I had to appease him or we’d end up going round and round over it and I was NOT ready to stop listening to the radio or watching the news. I was also NOT ready to tell HIM that!
Eventually I did stop though, I believe it was only after I confiscated my kids’ Halloween candy…
But before THAT escapade, at the end of September, I forbade my parents to leave for their Hawaiian vacation. I INFORMED them that they could NOT go because the plane could be hi-jacked by terrorists or blown up. They INFORMED me that they were indeed going as my siblings and I were all grown up and not dependent on them anymore plus this was probably the safest time TO fly! Since I couldn’t change their minds, I made them promise they would call me as soon as they landed and EVERY time they island hopped.
It was kind of funny because when I spoke with my brother Mark I mentioned that our parents had taken a helicopter ride over a volcano and he asked, “How do you know?” I answered, “Because they have to call me, their spaz daughter, every time they switch islands.”
Needless to say, my parents had a wonderful, SAFE, two weeks in Hawaii and did NOT blow up on any of their plane rides nor were they kidnapped by terrorists. All in all, it was uneventful as far as MY run-away fears were concerned.
My kids, however, did not have such an uneventful Halloween. No, they didn’t blow up or get kidnapped by terrorists either, but they did have to deal with a lunatic mother.
My boys were little. That Halloween Dalan was almost nine and Austin was only four. They got a lot of candy but I confiscated it. My husband asked me why I took their candy. I replied, “It could be poisoned.” There was NO changing my mind either, so once again, my husband called my dad (my husband had to do that a lot over the years!).
“Pam, give the kids their candy,” my dad ordered me.
“No! It could be poisoned!” I defied him. He should’ve been used to that, after all, I had done it quite a bit during my life.
“It’s not poisoned,” he told me sharply.
“How do you know?” I’m sure I sounded like I was six rather than thirty-six.
“Because terrorists aren’t poisoning candy in stores in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. Now give the kids their candy.” Of course my dad made perfect sense, yet again. Terrorists hadn’t filled the candy with poison in the stores in MY little town. But even though it made sense in one side of my brain, the other was STILL scared shitless! Reluctantly, though, I gave my kids their candy…and guess what? Nothing happened!
Even after all that, I was still frightened and I was still listening to and watching the news. Then one day I SAID I was scared in front of my son, Dalan. He asked, “Then why are you watching the news if it scares you?”
It was HIS words that made me pause.
Why WAS I watching it over and over and over if it scared me so much? If something was going to happen, it was going to happen whether I watched the news or not. Watching the news or listening to the radio had NO effect on what would be. I was literally frozen in fear due to what if! And I had NO control over THAT.
On that day, I turned the radio OFF and changed my television station. I decided I would NOT permit what if to control how I lived my life. I finally realized I did have control and it was to live life NOW because that was the only guarantee I had. There was no guarantee I would receive another minute so I needed to make NOW count and I couldn’t do that wasting it on fear or something that MIGHT happen. I needed to enjoy the present moment and treat it as the gift it was.
It’s been over ten years and while I still have the tendency to think scary thoughts and they still want to run rampant through my head, I grab hold of them now. I plan for the future while living in the NOW because I’m hopeful I will have a tomorrow.
For those of you who live in fear or suffer from anxiety, have faith, you CAN get control and maintain it. Take it one moment at a time. Use self-talk. Make it positive and make it count. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen and before you know it, YOU will be in control of your thoughts and your life.