My face was pressed against the window in the back seat of the family’s green station wagon. I sat quietly waiting for my dad to finish work. I watched as he walked out the door and locked it. Then the ritual began but I did not know what I was witnessing at the time. He reached for the door handle and shook it three times. My father walked down the short flight of steps and looked back at the door. He proceeded back up the steps and grabbed the door handle again and shook it hard. Three times. Repeat.
At the time, I had no idea what I was witnessing. I was only seven or eight years old at the time. However, as an adult, I can say this is my first memory of anxiety. Now I can recognize the signs of anxiety with ease. It’s the little things. It is the food that can’t touch each other on a dinner plate. It is the patterned blanket that can only be facing one direction. It is the nervousness to carry a water bottle in a theater. It is the glasses, keys and pen that must sit just right on the counter. It is the ritual of setting the breakfast table in proper sequence. It is the person sitting in the corner quietly on their phone during social events.
It manifests differently in each person. In my case, it started as a teenager and continued through college. The anxiety focused on electricity and fire. So curling irons, hair dryers and crock puts became a source of stress. I was so aware of my anxiety and I hated it. It was a waste of time and I knew I was transferring my anxiety onto these objects. When Erin was born, I had no time for it any longer. I had to focus on her and I stopped.
Fast forward seventeen years later. It is different but it is back and I want it to go away.