Anxiety Isn’t Just Born; It’s Learned

I went on a walk today. The river has receded a little, and I met this lovely little old man with two little, albeit well-fed, dogs. He talked to me for a few minutes, and at first, I was going, “Please stop talking. I don’t want to talk.”

But he really was a lovely old man. He was kind and seemingly harmless. I think he just wanted someone to talk to, but me being me, I was filled to the brim with nerves and the overwhelming desire to flee the situation before it changed.

It’s sad, but when strangers talk to me, I always think, “Is he going to be the person who tries to stuff me in a trunk and kill me in a forest preserve? If that happens, can I kick out the tail lights?” or “Maybe he’s the bait. Maybe he is luring me into a trap.”

For the record, he was talking about hearing a growling noise from a wooded area. So that made me a hell of a lot more nervous, considering it was about 11:30 A.M. at that point and most growling-type animals should’ve been asleep at that point. Unless something’s wrong with them, of course.

I’ve probably been reading too many things about people who’ve been abducted or murdered. And watching too many shows where women like me, who are innocently trying to get a workout in, get overtaken by powerful men in this big, scary world.

Part of that comes from how I was raised. My dad liked to constantly put fear into our heads. Conversations going:

“Dad, I want to go out with some friends to a movie.”

“Ok, don’t sit in the back. Some creepy man might try to put moves on you.”

Or, my favorite:

“Ok, the first lesson in driving a car is that you can kill someone with this so don’t treat it like a toy.”

Terrified 15-year-old Kelsey was fucking petrified of driving cars after that. That’s part of why I failed my driving test three times. Actually, all of why. I couldn’t relax enough to actually concentrate on driving, so I actually screwed up more. Funny how that works out.

I know the world is dangerous, and a parent is supposed to protect their kids from it. So I hope part of this comes from that mentality. On the other hand, I do sometimes think it’s from my dad being a narcissist who wants to be in control of everything rather than letting his children be independent human beings. If we’re afraid to live, then he can keep us under his thumb indefinitely.

Helicopter parenting ruins future adults. There’s no way around it. The children suffer from not having the freedom and responsibility. They can’t make their own decisions, and they are terrified of having control or taking chances. That is not a way to live.

I say that anecdotally, because I have an overly permissive parent and an overly authoritarian parent. And I cannot make a decision worth a shit because I’m terrified to. I’m afraid of disappointing people, being responsible.

At 31, I should not have fears like this preventing me from living my life. But I do. And so, I live with my parents, cope by spending money on things I don’t need, and am fighting like hell to figure my own way out of the mess I let myself fall into. Because, you know, as a kid, your parents know best, so you rarely actually question it.

Of course, even when I did question, I was usually emotionally slammed to the ground hard for being “disrespectful.” Most of the time, I was merely wanting to understand the why so I knew how to adapt my behavior.

I don’t have kids, and I know I am not an authority on parenting by any means. But I do sometimes think that kids need to have a slow push from dependence to independence. And I think parents are supposed to guide a kid there.

I also acknowledge that that is hard, because you don’t want anything bad to happen. This world is crazy, and the most difficult part is that, like it or not, your child is going to learn that someday, whether you’re there or not. They are going to make mistakes and do things you won’t be proud of. But you’re going to have to be that strength they need in those moments.

We aren’t perfect people, and we are going to make mistakes as parents, whether it be present, or hopefully future, in my case. But, I think the most important sign that parenting is going well is if your kids know that they can turn to you when shit goes south… when they’ve derailed and don’t know how to get back on track.

To be honest, I feel more anxiety going to my parents at that point, because they tend to freak out and take over, inadvertently telling me that I am not trusted to take care of my own mistakes.

Why do you think I hate making decisions in the first place? If you don’t make a decision, you can’t fuck up enough to have someone take over your life.

Like I said, though, this is all anecdotal. And I’m not saying my parents didn’t have a right to screw up. Of course they did. They are human. But man, do I wish they would have tried to understand me as a person when they went about the whole business of raising me.



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