The Effects of Second Hand Worry

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It’s a great feeling when everything is going well. Good health, finances in order, nights of great sleep, joyful times spent with family and friends, and a fulfilling work life fuel a sort of euphoria that unfortunately is not recognized or appreciated until the spell passes – that is, unless you live in my head. In my case, while I relish the joy of every single moment of the good, I wait expectantly for the next disaster and work against any possibility. I control my environment to thwart life’s best efforts to destroy me and make only the most informed decisions. Yet, despite my best efforts, “stuff happens”, opening the door to the “The Worries”.

I can’t take credit for the term, “The Worries”. It was coined by my granddaughter at the age of 4 while in the throes of anxiety. In our family, we come by “The Worries” honestly, having sprung from a bloodline rife with hoarding, agoraphobia, and panic attacks. I prided myself on being relatively sane, despite my genetics. I was productive, organized, focused, and driven, which are just a few of the traits that suffer with unmanaged mental health. However, while not at a clinical level, I will admit to being a “worry wart”. I worry about everything, in a truly absolute kind of way.

I am a champion worrier, having legitimately won the title in the boxing ring of hard knocks. Not unlike many people, I’ve been through some tough times, especially in the area of child rearing and elder care. The epitome of the baloney and cheese in the proverbial “sandwich generation”, I tried my best to manage the struggles but I will not deny that the challenges and triumphs and missteps came with a cost. My guard is up all the time, bracing for the worst and ready to fight back.

Now confronted with new, scary and very different challenges, I brush off the title belt and enter the ring this time with trepidation and crippling fear. This time is different. Normally, I have a scrappy determination to “not let the bastards get me down”. This time, I am not sure I have the fight left in me. Did they get me this time? Am I washed up, a “has been”? While the cost of retreat is dear, I am defeated, with the world as a witness.

Of anyone in our family, I have mastered the effects of “The Worries”. Instead of giving in to the fear, I am the problem solver, the maker of magical outcomes, the rock. But when the magical, problem solving rock is down for the count, there is panic in the kingdom.

Since the “The Worries” run deep in our family, ‘Second Hand Worry’ elevates itself to an art form and provides the catalyst to create a safety net as strong as family ties. They are clearly worried. In the past few weeks, I have been told daily that I am loved via phone, text, and in person; received Bitmojis affirming me and cheering me with a “You Da Real MVP”; received notes of encouragement from my grandchildren; and made to eat pizza – there has been a lot of pizza, our family’s comfort food, as we gather together in an effort to bolster my weary ego. But underlying all of these beautiful gestures, there is an extreme case of “The Worries” and, in turn, my family’s ‘Second Hand Worry’.

With the tables turned on the ‘Magical Rock’, my own fears awaken more vividly as I see myself through the eyes of others. Clearly, the concern is not limited to my blood tribe as I have experienced an outpouring of concern from friends as well. I am changing before their eyes and what they are seeing alarms them. In turn, I am alarmed, as well. This is serious.

Exposed to ‘Second Hand Worry’, the sense of others worrying about me pervades my soul. It exposes like a mirror reflection, and it warms like a fuzzy blanket. Gazing boldly into that mirror to assess the adjustments necessary to repair the damage done, I struggle to see the future. Yet, to grasp the warmth of their concern is a comfort. While mired in the darkness, the distant light of what will be evades me and desperation takes hold. Only time will tell the outcome and the reveal what remains.

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