After a nice long weekend, I was feeling pretty good about heading back to ‘save my life school’. However, generally speaking I would have rather gargled hornets today.

After I found a seat, I asked my neighbour if the daily topics had changed this week. “No”, she replies, “It’s Tuesday. It’s anxiety day today.” Gasp! I hate Tuesdays now. Torturous Tuesdays…that’s what I will call them. Where did I put my doodle paper? Enter stage left, the teacher, “Here is your seven page, double sided handout everyone…”  Ok, I’m aware that ‘exposure therapy’ is a method of treating anxiety, but this repeat of last week is ridiculous. “…AND we are going to skip ‘addiction class’ today and use it’s time to cover more of the anxiety module.” I’m on candid camera…I have to be. Seeing as I have promised to stay through every class unless the sky falls on me (and even then I would probably muscle my way through it), I resolve to the fact that it’s going to be a long anxious morning. Damn you irony…deep breath…big stretch…and I’m ready…no I’m not. Where the heck is my doodle paper?

The title of the module is, ‘The Causes of Anxiety Disorders’. It starts off by saying that anxiety disorders are brought about by a variety of causes operating on numerous levels. Pretty vague. I don’t like vague. Some of these levels include (deep breath), heredity, conditioning, family background, biology, upbringing, recent stressors, your ability to express feelings, your self-talk and personal belief system, and so on. And so on? No, that wasn’t a long enough of a list, we should definitely add an ‘and so on’. That will clarify things.

After what feels like several hours later, we start reading about how our family background, and certain types of upbringing can precipitate our likelihood of developing anxiety. As she continues to read, I hear a lot of the word ‘overly’; parents can be OVERLY cautious and OVERLY critical. I put up my hand… “What exactly is OVERLY?” Generally speaking I grasp the theory the module is trying to teach me, but while everyone else moves along with their heads buried in pages filled with highlighted sentences, I just feel frustrated. How do I know if I parent OVERLY? How do I know when to encourage vs accept? Am I OVERLY encouraging? Am I OVERLY accepting? How do I know when to be cautious vs critical? Am I OVERLY cautious? Am I OVERLY critical? …and so on 😉 I hate not having answers when I’m learning something new. Up goes my hand again…the teacher calls my name without even looking this time. “Yes, Natalie.” I put forth my suggestion that maybe we should just make this handout our kid’s first book. Then AS they grow up they can point out what their parents are screwing up and save them a whole lot of anxiety… that would be helpful. Insert sarcastic giggle by only myself. To me, the handout’s lists, maybes, and different theories, make it sound like every kid is just OVERLY destined to end up in this class!

“Natalie, I can tell you don’t like the grey areas.” Well I guess that’s true. The grey areas of life suck and frustrate me, and every component of my mental illness seems grey; how I explain it, how I feel it, how I deal with it… and now how I educate myself on it…ALL grey.” At this point my anxiety is just making me irritable. The teacher doesn’t deserve my attitude; I bite my tongue.

Sadly, I don’t learn a life altering piece of advice about anxiety at the end of the day. After listening to a whole lot of causes that have no evidence, and theories that will most likely change tomorrow, I’m just reminded that with mental illness, I need to continue to accept the grey. Good thing we skipped ‘addiction class’, because I sure could use a glass of wine.