Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Snippet of a memoir: Anxiety at the football game


Me in sixth grade.

  In the fall of 1974, I was 11 years old and in the sixth grade. I was very shy and timid. I could talk with my friends, but being around people older than me—teenagers—or anyone I didn’t know made me silent and unable to carry on a conversation.
  It was hard for me to know what to do with myself when I was part of a group. I stood awkwardly or looked for somewhere to sit that seemed safe. I felt like everyone was staring at me. I felt like everyone thought I was ugly and stupid and certainly not cool.
  I didn’t know it then, but I was probably suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety even then.
And obsessive-compulsive disorder was beginning to make stronger claims on my life.
One Friday night, my second older brother and I went to the local high school football game with a neighborhood group of kids, siblings that lived nearby. I wanted to go because I liked to hang out with these other kids, and it was fun to go on outings despite my shyness.
When we arrived at the gate to the football stadium, my brother and friends went up to the ticket counter and bought their $1 tickets.
I hesitated. I was too scared to go up to buy the ticket, not sure how to act. I had the money in my pocket, but I was too afraid to get it out and offer it to the people at the ticket counter.
Then my brother and friends started walking away, into the stadium. I didn’t want to be left behind—the idea of being alone there was frightening—so I followed them in. Without buying a ticket. Without paying my way.
I can still feel how guilty I felt, the heaviness that hung over my chest, the adrenaline that shot through me.
My brother said, “You didn’t pay. You need to go back and pay.”
“I did pay,” I said. I was too embarrassed to admit what I’d done, but I was also too afraid to go back and pay for a ticket.
So now I had a lie to add to my crime.
I didn’t watch the game. Even if I had understood football, I wouldn’t have been able to get the guilt out of my mind and my heart. Every now and then my brother would remind me that I hadn’t paid, and I would lie again.
I was near the breaking point by the time we got home. I went into my room, took out the dollar that I should have spent going into the football game, and tore it up. My reasoning was that I wouldn’t benefit from having an extra dollar.
Of course, that was just one more crime I committed that night.
I don’t know how much time elapsed before I told my mother, but I do know the sense of guilt hung on me and didn’t let go. I knew what I had done was wrong, and I was sure I was in trouble with God because of it.
One day I started crying and couldn’t stop. When my mother asked me what was wrong, I told her the whole story.
My mother did not tolerate stealing or lying. But she was gentle with me on this one, probably because I was so upset and so obviously sorry.
“Well, ask God to forgive you,” she said,” and put an extra dollar in the church collection plate.”
And I did.
I was wrong to go into the football game without paying. But this incident illustrates to me my burgeoning case of OCD.
That was the first confession that I remember giving to my mother. It would soon become the norm for me to ruminate over my sins, or what I thought were my sins, and confess them, known sins and all, to my mother.
I would desperately search for forgiveness from her and from God, praying the same words over and over, trying to get them right.
“Oh, Lord, please forgive me. Please forgive, please. Oh, Lord, please forgive me. Please forgive me, please.”

  Have you experienced anything like my football game experience because of anxiety?

20 comments:

  1. Oh I feel so sad for little 11 year old Tina. I'm glad your mom went easy on you when you confessed.

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    1. Yes, I think she could see I was already very, very upset and knew I'd done wrong.

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  2. I had similar experiences when I was younger where I felt guilty for some "minor crime," but the feeling didn't hang around long. I'm so sorry you had so much anxiety.....it's hard enough to deal with when you understand it somewhat, but when you're a child, I think it can be even more distressing and confusing.

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    1. It was an all-consuming guilt until I confessed to my mother.

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  3. I felt like that when my friend asked who ate half of granola bars to the kids, but I had. I was so embarrassed I couldn't admit it was me.

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  4. Your honesty brings out many thoughts into my own past. I have suffered with guilt and shame over past sins in my life -ones where I knew I was straight out gulity and somehow still made the decision to do it anyways. I've kept those things 'secret' in my life, that is until I knew I just couldn't keep them secret anymore. The closer I become with the Truth found in God's Word the more the secrets in my closet unravel. I am so thankful for the gentle ways, just as your mom was gentle to you, at how God directs us to deal with sorting out those things in our past. I recently read in Scripture that Godly sorrow leads to repentance and LIFE, but wordly sorrow leads to death.

    *** I REALLY, REALLY am thankful to read what you share about your trials and triumphs here at your blog. It helps people like me. Thanks!! & God Bless ***

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment! I appreciate it.

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  5. I had very disturbing thoughts when I was a child, afraid I would one day torture people and do other awful things. I know now they were OCD thoughts, but of course at the time I had no idea. They were a terrible secret. But we didn't go to a church, my parents are non believers and so asking God to forgive me was not known to me. And the thoughts were far too awful to tell anyone about them. Not even my mom. Certainly not my mom. My parents saw me as a very timid and shy child, they could not ever know what awful monster their daughter really was and I was terrified they would find out one day.
    I only started to be able to get a grip on these thoughts and to really understand how OCD works with these kind of violent thoughts about 10 years ago when I read "The Imp of the Mind" by Lee Baer. This book is not only for people with OCD, but for everyone who has thoughts and fears of harming others. Like people with post natal depression for example.
    Anyway, to make a long story short, I could not confess like you did Tina. Wish I could have, I might have been helped sooner.

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    1. Klaaske, I'm so sorry that you felt that way as a child. It must have been so scary and difficult. I'm glad you were able to eventually understand it as OCD. That Baer book sounds like a good one.

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  6. When I was about 6 yrs. old, my brother was 4 years old and we were jumping from the top of a dresser over to my bed in my bedroom. My bed was next to a window and I hit and busted out the window. I was so scared and I had glass in my butt. My parents heard to noise and rushed upstairs to my room and I said my brother pushed me. He got spanked. I thought they would just yell at him. I felt so horrible. I remember my dad was on his knees picking up the glass and I tapped him on the shoulder and said that I was jumping and my brother didn't push me. My dad and mom were so angry with me for jumping and then telling a lie - I can still feel the shame.

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    1. Krystal Lynn, I can understand your being too afraid to say what happened at first. I know what you mean about still being able to feel the shame of it. I can still feel the guilt when I think about that football game.

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  7. I think you just wrote a page out of my childhood! I was the same with feeling guilt and confessing even to the point of confessing things I had only thought of doing and never actually did. Which my church had always said thinking of doing a sin was the same as doing it. --Why were we so burdened as children? Why were we somehow taught that confessing was the only way to feel better? Why did we take it so literally? I wish I knew. I feel the need to confess things even now as an adult. My wish has always been to give my children a childhood free from these things, and I think I have but then I worry I am not making them feel bad enough for wrong things. I think it is a never ending cycle! Thanks for the post.

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    1. Shannon, Sometimes I still feel the need to confess, too. That can certainly be a burden on a child, especially one prone to guilt!

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  8. You were a cutie in 6th grade!

    You ask "Have you experienced anything like my football game experience because of anxiety?"

    My answer....Uh, Yea. Many many many times over!

    My earliest memory of these feelings of committing sins and getting anxious and depressed about the sins goes back to when I was about 7 years old.

    Guilt and worry; worry and guilt have always been a huge problem for me.

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    1. Elizabeth, thank you! :-)

      Yes, guilt and worry have been a big part of my OCD and anxiety.

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  9. That sounds like an awful incident, Tina. So sorry! It sounds like you were just so stuck between your two obsessions. Very frustrating. I just want to hug that sweet little girl in the picture and tell her that it will all be ok. : (

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    1. Thank you, Sunny. You're right--I hadn't thought about it that way, but I was stuck between the fear of going up to people I didn't know to buy the ticket and the fear of sinning.

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  10. You-the-eleven-year-old is so sweet. I'm sorry she had to suffer from such devastation.

    I can so relate. The fear of adult/authority figures was palpable, like a poison that coursed through my veins. Doing something BAD made me bad. I remember so many instances of this, there isn't room to write them all. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Grace, I know what you mean "doing something bad made me bad"--that's how I felt. It wasn't me doing something bad, it was me being a bad person.

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