Jesse has a swim meet tomorrow. She’s been having an anxiety attack about it for about a week. Yesterday and today she woke up making noises that were somewhere between yodeling, whining and keening.
This morning she flopped into bed with me and Nick, and as she wheedled I finally remembered an old lesson from therapy: the unknown danger is more debilitating than the one you can see and understand. That’s what makes an anxiety disorder so disruptive sometimes. Your body says something terrible is going to happen, but you just don’t know what — it’s a shadow lurking around every bend, and you can never really name it. Accepting that it’s only in your imagination sometimes just makes it worse, because then you feel bat-shit crazy.
I asked Jesse, “What exactly is making you so anxious about the swim meet?”
So we set about putting a face on the monster in the closet.
Jesse has the ordinary fears — I’ll suck at the meet, I’ll let the team down, I’ll swim the wrong stroke. And also one more. She worries she’ll pee in the pool while she’s competing because when she’s nervous she feels like she needs to pee. This is what she’s most afraid of today.
I said aloud what none of us really wants to think about: every competitive swimmer pees in the pool at some point. I guarantee it. It’s the dirty secret. Pool pee. It’s not something Jesse needs to worry about. If she pees, she pees. No one ever has to know.
Jesse’s swim coach went there with me today. “I see maybe 400 people in this pool every day. I PROMISE you, at least a hundred of them pee in the pool.”
Uuuugh. Head. Spinning.
Jesse is having trouble finding a balance between her anxiety about the swim meet and her OCD reaction to pool pee.
As for me, I find that knowing the face of this particular monster has made things worse. I was fine before. Now all I’ll be thinking about at the swim meet tomorrow is pool pee.