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Shhh! I’m trying to listen to myself!


Paper tigers can scare you as much as real ones!

Why is it we think our kids can escape the struggles we’ve spent our entire lives battling against? That’s what I kept thinking as my 10 year old son’s “talking doctor” explained to him that some kids have “worry brains” that always imagine the worst case scenario in every situation. So when I called my husband last night and asked him to meet me down the block so that our puppies didn’t become dinner to a wandering pack of coyotes I’d encountered, my son was certain that the phone call that led my husband out the front door was a tragic announcement of the demise of both myself and our beloved canines. It took several hours and a great deal of cognitive determination on all our parts to calm my son and finally coax him into bed.

But as I listened to him retelling the story today, there was something unnervingly familiar about his process; almost an eerie sense of deja vu engulfed me. Why? Because he is me! The anxiety. The worry. The incessant voices predicting doom and gloom. My first “talking doctor” called it “catastrophizing.” My son’s dramatic reactions are no different from the way I respond when instead of returning home at 6:30, my husband doesn’t arrive until 7:30 and I take myself step by step through the difficulties I will have to face as a newly widowed mother of two young boys.

I can’t help it. I tell myself irrational stories that scare the bejesus out of me. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. Frankly, it amazes me when I meet people who don’t live in this type of constant agony. I try hard to contradict the voices that drone on in my head. Sometimes I’m even able to convince myself that whatever impending tragedy awaits me is merely a “paper tiger” as my dad used to say when I was a little girl and my anxiety first surfaced.

But somehow I conveniently forgot about brain genetics when I decided to have children. I guess if I’d realized that my sweet young babies would one day grow up to battle the same mental demons that have pursued me with such unwavering commitment all these years, I might have thought twice about having them. But then where would I be?

Maybe there’s a cosmic challenge here, a symbolic gauntlet that’s been laid at my feet. I need to stop the worry voices in my own head so that I can guide my son to a place of peace and ease within himself so that he doesn’t spend the rest of his life held hostage by a bunch of menacing voices whose only purpose is to keep him from becoming the amazing person he’s meant to become.

Hmmm…easier said than done.

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About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Seattle, WA with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

4 responses to “Shhh! I’m trying to listen to myself!

  1. Soul Sister ⋅

    As your son is you, I am certain (from personal experience) that there are MANY of you in this world. As a fearful flier, I recall saying “Wheee” to my two year old son, Andrew, as our plane went up and down in turbulents. Ironically, it made me a better flier and gave him a love of roller coasters at a young age. Who knew?

  2. It may be easier said than done, but I suspect the end results of doing so will more than make up for the challenges 🙂

    Good luck!

  3. Mack Burly ⋅

    Ah, your first “Talking Doctor” used a word like “catastrophizing” when counseling a ten year old kid? Well, that right there could be part of the cause of your long-term anxiety. I like your son’s Doc’s term, “worry brains” – a little more age appropriate and less ominous (scary) sounding. No, I’m not a talking doctor but I do like to give advise and occasionally prescribe medications.

  4. Ahhh, the burdens we give our kids . . . sucks that we have to be role models all the time, particularly for the stuff that we’re not very good at. The fact that you can see yourself in your son is like, 217% better than most people.

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