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Posts Tagged ‘Anxiety’

By Shannon Penrod

I think the worst part of having an anxiety disorder is that sometimes your anxiety is warranted.  Unfortunately, last night was beyond my worst nightmare.   I love the 4th of July because it means there is a 100% chance of seeing fireworks.  I like to get there really early, get the best vantage point and then spend quality family time.  Last night I just couldn’t get into the groove.  We left late and I was what I call “Mommy crabby”, you know, that general feeling of just frustrated crabosity because nothing has gone according to plan.  I was sure we weren’t going to get a parking spot and even worse we weren’t going to get a great view of the fireworks.  I didn’t want to be crabby, but I couldn’t seem to shake it.  I even thought to myself, “What’s it going to take to get out of this mood?”  I started running through my grateful list:  I’m grateful for my family, for all of our health, that we are together and safe, for the fact that we are going to fireworks, there are no emergencies, no one is hurt or dying.  24 hours later the irony is painful.

We got to the fireworks and despite my still marginal mood we found a parking spot quickly and ventured out to find the best view.  We stood on a street corner and I looked at a family sitting there and thought to myself “That mom planned better; she got here early!”  We settled for a tiny open spot just a few feet away and I continued to work on my mood. 

I was anxious.  So I started working through everything my therapist has ever told me about anxiety.  I started with a list of questions.  What am I anxious about?   We’re so close to the road, all it would take is some one to come up on the curb and it would be devastating.  Has that kind of thing ever happened before?  Not that I know of.  How many years have you been coming to these fireworks?  Has a car ever jumped a curb since you’ve been coming here?  No.  I settled down a little.  After all we had great seats for the fireworks! 

I kept thinking about a friend of mine who was slightly injured last summer when a car crashed into the Starbucks patio he was seated at.  I even picked up my phone to call him so I could say, “Hey, I’m sitting here thinking about what happened to you.”  Instead I turned to my husband and confessed that I was feeling anxious.  Instead of telling me that I was crazy he expressed that he was feeling the same way.  I was worried about drunk drivers, he was worried about people who might try to drive while watching the fireworks.  We shared our fears and even considered moving but instead we sat right there waiting for the fireworks.

The fireworks started uneventfully and then right as the grand finale began the unthinkable happened.  The sounds and images that keep running through my head are disjointed and do not completely make sense.  They are unrelenting.  An image of fireworks with an ominous boom, followed my a tinkle of glass and the screeching of tires, quickly followed by screams and the revving of an engine.  The image of a car coming toward us.  Another boom and the image of the side of a car over the curb coming toward us with insane speed.  Screams.  Mayhem.  The image of my husband holding our child on the other side of the sidewalk (his reflexes were miraculously faster than mine), the sound of my husband telling me to stay with our son.  The image of my husband walking into the screaming crowd.  Feeling my son shiver.  The sound of my own voice screaming, “You have to get the car off of them!”  The image of my son’s scared face.  Screams. And then the car was miraculously in the middle of the street.  I am told that the crowd lifted it off the injured people, I didn’t see it.  It was like someone had snapped their fingers and it moved.  More screaming and crying. People hugging in the street.  Sirens.  A man on the table of the restaurant patio screaming, “The little girl!  Dear, God, someone help the little girl!” as he covered his eyes with his hands.  A tiny but authoritative woman yelling into the crowd, “Who can hold my camera, so I can go help?”  I knew I couldn’t go, but if I held her camera she could go.  “I will hold your camera.”  I said.  She handed me the expensive apparatus on a pole, she looked at me and said, “You’re a mother, I trust you.”  I said, “Yes.” and she disappeared into the mayhem.

It seemed like hours passed, but I’m sure it was only a matter of minutes.  My husband returned as the authorities arrived and assured us that the best thing to go was to step back and allow the rescue workers room to work.  Within a minute the diminutive photographer returned while helping a police office to string police tape.  I gave her back the camera and asked her if everyone was going to be okay.  She looked down and said, “No, I don’t think so.  It’s pretty bad.”  With thousands of other people we did the only thing we could at that point, we turned and walked away quietly saying prayers as we walked in safety to our cars. 

The family that I had walked by and admired because of the great viewing spot was decimated.  The mother whose planning skills I was so jealous of was dead.  One of her children was airlifted to a children’s hospital in critical condition.  The other two were taken to the local hospital.  10 minutes earlier they had been enjoying the fireworks with us, just 20 feet away.

I don’t pretend to understand this life or the lessons that we are expected to learn.  But I do know that my gratitude list looked significantly different from the time we got out of our car to see the fireworks to the time we got back into it to leave.  We didn’t see the firework finale. I’m sure it played, but I have no memory of it.  Instead I have different memories, like standing in the parking lot and hugging as a family while we thanked God that we were all still alive.  There are other memories too, memories that we will all have to work through, my son included. 

Gratitude is not the only lesson learned.  We won’t be sitting by the road for fireworks anymore and from now on there will be more listening to that anxiety ridden demon who reminds me that there is no safe place for our children.  Unfortunately there are times when that little voice is right.

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