Why Y’all Gotta Be So Anxious?

My son came to town last week for a visit. He had the start of a rash and so like a good Mom I headed to my local Organic market. They also sell lots of homeopathic and Chinese medicine type ingredients. I was going to mix up a salve to put on the rash as well as a few supplements that would speed his recovery. Both my son and my daughter’s family had been hit some form of virus and they were all a little run down. Shirley, one of the managers has a degree in Nutrition but specializes in natural and homeopathic remedies. She is a fountain of information. She was helping me find all of the things on my list as products are not shelved in alphabetical order. Rather, they are grouped according to types of uses. Women’s health, heart health, etc. You get the picture. Afterwards we sat and discussed my kids and how often stress can lead to strange issues in our bodies. We often forget that our skin is an organ and when our internal organs such as the kidneys, liver and lymph system, are overtaxed, our problems appear on our our skin. Almost as a last resort. The toxins in our body need out. They will find a way.

Shirley told me she is seeing an increasing number of young people coming into the store to find relief for anxiety. She says the ages between twenty and twenty-five seem to have an astronomical increase in anxiety. I remember those years well. But the stress certainly wasn’t over the top. I was a mother in those times and most of our stress was related to being broke. However, we did have a support system. Canada has social programs should we tend to get so far down monetarily. But my husband and I also had parents we could turn to if the need arose. So even if we didn’t want to ask for help, we knew we could. So, I sympathized. Those first few years of adulthood can be tough. Then Shirley let me in on something that blew my mind. Many of these young adults we stressed to the max because of social media. It turns out, the lack of likes or shares or praise and comments were the biggest factors leading to their anxiety.

Now, since I finally found out what an influencer was, I understand that many of these folks are trying to make a business through social media and their revenue stream depends on their content. My youngest daughter offers on-line personal training as well as in person training, so I sort of understand. I actually do train with her in person three or four times a week on a one-on-one basis. Its pricey but I am in my sixties, and I need more help. Plus, I have more money. I will be going back to the gym next week and I will be using her on-line programming while I work out. Going into a gym without a plan just wastes time. Having her create my workout helps me see greater benefits. I will still see her in person a few times a week, but the gym does offer classes like Zumba and yoga which I love. So, really, I get it. In a way. It is income. I blog but it is an outlet for me. I make no money and I have twelve followers.

What I don’t understand is the crushing despair people feel when their posts aren’t generating a ton of followers or likes. Ordinary people. I haven’t mastered the art of posting on Instagram, but I am very good at sending other people’s posts to friends. I recently figured out how to post them to my own account. My daughter often says she will show me but I am truly not that interested. Looks like work and I don’t much like work. I did hear the term “chasing likes” the other day and the only thing I can relate it to is my own experience of dopamine rushes. That is something I experience as a person with ADHD. My entire life I have pursued hobbies or sports or even jobs which drop by the wayside after a short period of time. Once the dopamine rush wears off we are bored. Thank God for contract work. I would have starved or gone postal if I had to keep a job longer than a year. So is this it? Is this part of the reason these young folks are so anxious? I think the issue is much wider and deeper than we can possibly understand.

When the Russians started the war against the Ukraine my daughter was feeling some anxiety. Fear. When we talked about it, I had to explain to her that people in my generation had spent most of our younger years living under the threat of nuclear war between Russia and everyone else. We lived in a time when people didn’t visit China. It was closed. Until I was in my teens, China’s borders were closed to the world. The Berlin wall came down when my oldest daughter was 9 years old. We made her watch it on TV because as we told her, she was watching history. She was probably bored. I know I was when we spent the day at a “Moon landing party.” Oh my God it took forever! I was very young when the Cuban missile crisis was going on and I never really knew much about it. My husband, the Political Science major gave me a big, long history lesson when I admitted one evening that I never did know what happened during that time. I was twenty-three years old, and he scared the shit out of me. Why? I had been quite happy in my ignorance. My son doesn’t watch news or stay up on current events and so he isn’t stressed with the world. His comes from toxic work environments. That seems to be even worse than my day. Employees are fighting back more than we did. But in their defense, they seem to be more abused than we were.

My daughter shared with me that she does worry more about herself now that she has children. I get that. No one can love them like we do so we don’t want anyone else to raise them. I was such a young Mom that I didn’t really worry about that too much. When I was young, I was invincible and becoming a Mom didn’t make me any less so. I also had my own parents until I was quite old and so I never experienced that sort of anxiety. I missed them and I was sad when they died but they were old. 87 and 89. Not too shabby. I must admit, that even when my husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer, I was surprised mostly. It wasn’t something I ever thought would happen. I worried about my kids somewhat, especially when they began to drive and stay out late. However, we had given them enormous amounts of freedom throughout their childhoods and teen years, so it was a fairly easy transition. I honestly believe the greatest anxiety I had throughout my life was when I got married. In-laws can suck especially if they come from a history of substance abuse. Alcoholism is one hell of a bad disease!

So, why are young people more stressed? Many tend to blame social media but is that it? Is it because it contributes to our need for the dopamine? Does it cause depression because everyone seems to have a better life than we seem to enjoy? We all know people put their best foot forward out there. Sometime when I watch a reel on Instagram I think how lovely other people’s homes are. Sometimes it seems like everyone drives a nicer vehicle than I do. My car is a 2003 and my truck is a 2005. But they still work fine. And then there are some mean people on social media. I remember my first encounter on Facebook with a nasty person. I was a little taken aback. Now I just have messenger. Much better. I have never had Twitter, nor do I know much about it. I admit I like Instagram, but I often follow someone for a bit and then unfollow them because they bore me. I have a short attention span. I am not in the same headspace as the younger kids so I can’t relate. I do know that I am glad that my life is relatively stress free. But why is that?

Well, I have a few thoughts on that. This morning my daughter told me about her friend whose young son died not long ago. I was a little teary and at the end I said, “I can’t imagine what she is going through.” Drew just gave me a funny look. For a moment I had completely forgotten that my youngest son died as an infant. But how great is that? My tears were for her. Ethan would be twenty-three. But my tears were for her. Because I cried rivers of tears for Ethan over the years. In time it was just a bittersweet memory. I thought my husband and I would be in our nineties rocking on the front porch, holding hands. But that wasn’t to be. I cried. Lots. I still cry three years later. But it is less often. When something bad happens to us, time has a way of softening the edges somewhat. Then the future with all of its uncertainty becomes a less scary place. Because we learn that we will survive. Somewhat changed. But we carry on. Because we only have two choices. Keep on living or don’t. If we chose to keep going, why not make it the best life possible. Why not love life. I love my life. I think I have come to a realization that I am in control. Everything that happens to me or around me is something I can control. I can limit my exposure to people and events that cause me stress. I can choose how I react to events. I can dream about the future and make those dreams happen.

I understand that so many people have had trauma in their young impressionable years. I know some of these people. I chatted with a close friend just yesterday about how very different our lives have been. I truly believe that if I had to endure the trauma some people lived through as children, I would not be here today. I doubt that I am strong enough. But the thing is I will never know. I admire those people who look their demons squarely in the eye and say enough! It takes a great deal of bravery to take back your life. To make it better. For yourself. And perhaps your own little people. Drew told me today that she understands some of my actions better now that she is an adult. She has four children, and she can often be heard yelling. Kids are tough. She is now putting herself in my shoes and cuts me some slack about some of my not so proud moments as a mother. She also mentioned that perhaps some in her generation who don’t have kids may have a little more trouble understanding their own parents. It’s a theory.

My girlfriend yesterday mentioned that she is part of some on-line support groups. She is trying to understand her own Mom, and knowing she isn’t the only person trying to figure it out has been a blessing for her. She was in her mid-fifties when she chose no contact with her own Mother. Enough was enough. Instagram is chock full of sayings and advice about going no-contact. Sometimes I’ll read a post saying that if I do certain things in my life, it is because of the trauma I experienced as a child. And then I think to myself, but my childhood wasn’t exactly traumatic. Oh, I fought with my parents. I went through the stages. I laid in my bed at night crying softly while I thought to myself “They’ll be sorry when I am dead!” Or defying them and not accepting the consequences for my actions. They were just being mean. At the time it seemed very little was my fault. Especially through the teen years. Even as a young woman I was just so much smarter than they were. Yet they helped me whenever I asked. They never turned their backs on me. And I could be a pain. I see that now. So honestly there are a lot of things I struggle with in life, but I don’t know that I can blame it all on my parents. They weren’t the greatest. But they really weren’t that bad. They did their best and they loved me deeply. I have to be honest. I have gone for therapy five times in my life and not once was it because of my parents. Or even my siblings. And I was able to understand things better.

My oldest daughter hasn’t spoken to me for two years. Or her siblings. I think she believes they can’t see how horrible I am. I think she feels abandoned even though she was the one who chose to break ties with us. Perhaps she would prefer to just go no contact with me. But that wasn’t the choice she made. It is easier to heal when the one who causes you anxiety isn’t around. I have known this in my life. I stepped away from my in-laws when my husband died. I am doing fantastic. But I am also putting in a lot of work to heal. Otherwise, any contact could cause anxiety. Stress is a killer. If we decide to take drastic steps to walk away from people we once cared about, our problems don’t magically disappear. The feelings are still there below the surface. Dealing with people creates habits. They do something we don’t like, and we respond in certain ways. Going no-contact without seeking help to heal isn’t enough. The anger festers because we don’t really analyze and understand what went sideways.

My daughter may blame me for much of her angst, and she may feel life will be smooth sailing now. But is that realistic? I guarantee I am on her mind daily. And I think of her. Understand that all of this is my opinion, much like my memories of our relationship are mine. What I chose to believe. It is part of my story. Her story is much different. Walking away from my in-laws was easy. With my healing I can see them or hear about them without having the same painful reactions. Because those reactions are no longer necessary. They were coping mechanisms. Do I want to see them? Be a part of their lives? Family get-togethers? No. Those days are gone. I wish them well. That is all. Frankly they probably don’t want me back. And that is okay too. Everyone can just live our lives in peace. And here is the crux of the entire matter. When we discard people there is always collateral damage. Others get caught in the crossfire. Those who aren’t really a part of the issue. I have learned that after some time, soul searching, and healing we see things more clearly. There may come a day when we seek out those who were caught in the crossfire. Those we didn’t mean to hurt. Don’t be surprised if they won’t see you. Because you did to them what someone did to you. Caused them pain and sadness. You are now their trauma.

I don’t believe life is supposed to suck. I believe there are lessons to learn throughout our lives. I also believe that we must take responsibility in our lives. Like those young people seeking natural meds for anxiety. I may not understand why they are anxious, but I do applaud their decisions to do something about it. It is a step forward. It is harsh to hear but nobody cares as much about you, as you do. My husband read me a funny yet sad statement twenty years ago which sums up how we all feel. It went something like this… Everyone is so self-absorbed these days. No one is thinking about me! I am trying to make the best of the future me. Whatever time is left I would prefer to be peaceful and without anxiety. Meds. Exercise. Supplements. Better food. Yoga. Weights. Sleep. Walking. Friends. Therapy. The list goes on and on. We are in control. We can make a difference. We just need to start. Stop dwelling on who hurt you and why. Start figuring out how to find peace. I can’t believe how far I have come. To hit bottom and wallow in grief and rebound back up has been quite the journey. I am at peace. I’ve learned there is joy peeking around every corner.

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