Thing 2

Passing it on…

The day Nikki and I dyed her hair, I wanted to hit up our local art collective. If you ever thought Alabama would be a miserable place to live because of the seemingly lack of culture thanks to stereotypes perpetuated by – WHO THE HELL KNOWS – then you need to come to Huntsville and let me take you to Lowe Mill. It’s this genius facility built inside the walls of an old mill and there are art galleries and studios as far as the eye can see.

As long as your eye can just see down the hall.

BUT! They opened a new wing several months ago and I had not been over yet to see it. I’m ASHAMED of that fact, for the record. How did I miss the grand opening and how has it been that long since I’ve been over there? I DO NOT KNOW.

Whatever the case, Nikki and I headed over that Saturday.

It turns out, this was the first time I had taken Nikki when there wasn’t a big event going on. This makes sense, if there’s not an event going on, it’s not the most exciting place for Wesley – but Nikki I knew would love it as-it-is on a normal day.

BUT. It turns out? On a normal day? It’s a lot more quiet. And quiet sometimes feels like you’re out of bounds. Especially where there’s art involved.

At least to a kid who inherited her Mother’s heart-stopping anxiety.

One of the "hidden" nooks she was terrified were off limits.
One of the “hidden” nooks she was terrified were off limits.

She knew we were going there to see the “North Wing” which I hadn’t seen yet. I mentioned that I wasn’t sure the way to get over there and that revelation combined with the quiet of a normal day around art studios? Set her anxiety spiraling out of control.

Every turn we made she grabbed my arm and whispered in a voice filled to the brim with stress, “Are you SURE we’re allowed to be here?”

If she saw other “normal” people walking around, she’d calm down. But she had this very strong sense that the hallways we were treading outside the galleries and studios were off limits to anyone not belonging to one of the art spaces. She was used to seeing those halls filled with people on the days we would come for official events, she had never seen it during the quiet of a regular Saturday, especially as they had just opened the building to the public for the day.

She was getting so worried that I had to resist laughing simply because: IS SHE MY CHILD, OR WHAT?

I took her hand and said to her:

Nikki, if you ever go someplace like this with your Dad, it is completely fine to worry about these things. He’s not like us, he doesn’t always pay attention to his surroundings and check to make sure proper procedure. But if you’re with me? You can relax. WE ARE THE SAME. Whatever you’re worrying about? You can trust that I would be worried about it too…IF THERE WAS ANYTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. The fact that I’m not worried tells you that you shouldn’t be either. I promise you, I come here all the time without you guys. I know how this place works. We’re not doing anything we’re not supposed to do.
We go to Piper & Leaf all the time, she relaxed a lot when we entered her favorite tea shop.
We go to Piper & Leaf all the time, she relaxed a lot when we entered her favorite tea shop.

She finally relaxed a bit and just enjoyed it, I think it helped that more people were arriving as we got further past the “open” time. She also started noticing people just perusing the galleries and the studios, not roaming the halls. She even braved a ride on the old elevator which I had never done before. She really ended up enjoying the experience as a whole, especially as someone who often considers being “an artist” when she grows up.

I’ll admit, it was a little entertaining; but also terribly depressing to see her anxiety manifest like it did. That’s the part of my anxiety that keeps me from trying new things or new places if I don’t feel like I have adequate information to get me through it without embarrassing myself. Truth is? I still haven’t eaten inside the restaurant in the art collective because I’m unsure as to how the “order” process works. It looks a little chaotic at meal time and I don’t want to flounder around. So, I get her stress. Completely. But it makes me sad to that the anxiety she feels came directly from my genetic code. She didn’t get my great hair, but she did get my socially numbing anxiety.

7 thoughts on “Passing it on…”

  1. I just squealed with “me too!” glee. 😉 I have said those almost EXACT words to my oldest son, who also inherited my intense social anxiety… he could not have been born to a more understanding parent. My husband on the other hand… LOL. He just shakes his head at us….

  2. OH MY GOODNESS…you MUST try Happy Tummy! It’s really not hard and Catherine is awesome. Just go up to the counter, peruse the menu up there, order, have a seat, and they call your name when it’s ready. I’ll totally go over there with you some time if you need buddy support.

  3. I could be totally wrong in my thinking, but it seems to me that you have been talking about both Wes’s and Nikki’s emotional issues as “happening” rather than “caused”. And then today you speak of “passing on” some sort of anxiety gene – has it ever occurred to you that you are not passing on these things, but teaching them to your kids?

    You have said that your dad screamed all the time. You have said that you scream at them all the time – sometimes multiple times a day. You have shared that you have a binge eating disorder — and binge eat in front of your kids. You have said that you have extreme anxiety about social interactions and other areas. I’m sure your kids see that anxiety and maybe hear it if you talk about it.

    I don’t think these things are a coincidence . And it’s so striking to me that you have finally sought help for Wes, and that you talk about your blog being “you therapy” — but that you haven’t gone for therapy yet. I think if you went regularly for therapy, and probably went on medication, a lot of your anxiety and anger management could be helped or even alleviated. Then you’d be modeling for your kids better management of stress and anxiety. Maybe it would “pass on” to them and they’d have lowered anxiety.

    Perhaps you’ve thought of all this, but I don’t see you writing about it. I hope that you consider putting the oxygen mask on yourself first so that you can better help your family.

  4. Thank you for your comment but I write about improving myself all the time. I’ve written several times about how I rarely yell any more and even when I did, it was never an “anger management” level of yelling. And I talk about all the things I do to help improve my anxiety. I have an entire category on my blog called “a better me” where I put all of my efforts spent improving myself. So I think I do plenty of that, if you don’t see me write about it, I’m sorry – but I assure you – the majority of my efforts are to making myself better and I write about that often here.

  5. As an anxious person who married another anxious person and begat an anxious child, I know that anxiety is definitely a genetic trait. Sure, it can be amplified by surroundings/influences, but the very root of it is 100% genetic.

    That said, I think one of the very best things one can do for an anxious child is teach them coping mechanisms–which you are doing! It sounds like you are like me and didn’t learn healthy coping skills until adulthood (binge eating is my bear, too), so we understand the importance of modeling positive coping skills for our children. Talking Nikki through the anxiety of being in a public workspace (which would’ve sent both my daughter and myself into worry overdrive) was a great bit of anxiety parenting and you should be very proud of yourself.

    I also don’t think that meds are the be all end all for anxiety. The best thing to do, if a person can, is to learn how to reroute those anxiety brain loops so that they learn how to stop that train before it gets out of the station. Nikki and Wes are two different children, and what is best for one may not be the best for the other. You know what you’re doing–and you’re doing a very good job.

  6. I just want to say that it’s somewhat comforting to know that other people experience anxiety about trying new things when they don’t have all the details, even for things as little as trying out a new restaurant! I have ALWAYS been this way. And it sounds silly, but that’s the number one reason I have always shied away from going to Starbucks…the ordering process totally intimidates me! I love coffee so I’m sure there are hundreds of combinations I would enjoy, but I usually just stick with whatever the featured seasonal drink is.

  7. Oh, I can totally help with that! Happy Tummy posts a menu on the post at the entrance to their area, you can stand there as long as you like to decide what you want to order and people who need to can get by you.

    Then you get in line and when you get to the counter, tell them what you would like. All sandwiches come with chips, and you grab your bag from under the counter as you are ordering. Drinks are ordered separately, but you can see most of them in the cooler behind the counter and to your right. They have a lot of really random choices, so I find seeing them is better than asking what they have.

    You can pay with cash or card. If you pay with card, they use the same square reader as Piper and Leaf. When you order, they will ask your name. Once you have paid, you take a seat and when your food is ready they will call your name. They are aware that people go outside in nice weather, so if no one inside responds, they will call outside. If there is a long line, this can take a awhile (20 minutes or so), so don’t panic and think they’ve forgotten your order! Instead, I like to scope out the person or two in front of me and the person behind me. They fill orders in the order they were received. So if I see the people in front of me being called up, then I know I’m probably next.

    Once they call your name, you will need to go up to the counter (the same spot where you ordered, but just a bit to the right) and pick up your food. So if you are eating alone, this can be a little stressful (I hate leaving my purse, but don’t want to lose my table!). If I’m there alone, I try to pick a table close to the counter if I can. If you have someone with you, it’s easy because they can hold the table.

    Once you are done eating, there is a trash can on the exterior wall and a recycling box for chip bags (but not soda cans, those go in the trash.)

    🙂 I totally get your anxiety. These things make me nervous too, and I hate getting it wrong. If you ever want a buddy to try it out, let me know and I can meet you there for lunch. My office isn’t far from there.

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