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Oh my GAD: Confessions of a Neurotic Jewish Mother

05/08/2012 04:36 pm ET | Updated Jul 08, 2012

I don't think I can use this computer to write a proper piece. I see traces of fingertip prints and speckles of the kids' cookie crumbs, but then again, this is not the computer that was dropped and has a bump on its left side. No. That's the other laptop, so maybe speckles of crumbs and fingerprints aren't so bad? Maybe I can get over this. Why don't those kids wash their hands before they use my computer? I really have to get a computer the kids don't use. Perhaps I can finally hunker down and write, but oh... so many thoughts in my head. Did I really have to confide that private detail to my friend yesterday? I mean, did I give her too much information, and with regard to the email earlier on in the day, why did it get forwarded? And what must they be thinking and... Did I exercise yesterday? For 45 minutes, was it or an hour?

I don't remember having an obsessive mind as a child. I don't recall mulling things over and second-guessing decisions and, as my friends and family call it, "harping." Today, this malady afflicts me. I am an over-thinker. I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and I tend to obsess about the things that aren't really bothering me to distract me from something else, possibly something bigger -- whatever is truly burrowing itself in my frowsy, cluttered subconscious.

You would think GAD sufferers would shirk risks and perhaps, even choose not to get out much -- but not all of us are semi-agoraphobic, risk-aversive hermits. We may indeed beat ourselves up afterwards and be wracked with guilt until we realize we're wasting time and life is short. We try to internalize those trite sentiments uttered by our frustrated consolers. However, many GAD sufferers have a hard time believing the good intentioned others. There are SSRIs (Prozac and Lexapro being the most popular drugs) designed to mute anxiety somewhat for those who suffer to the extreme, but at the end of the day, the fixated mind is a powerful force to conquer.

This may sound bad (and I will regret it later on as an obsessive would), but it helps that I'm Jewish and can lump myself into the "neurotic Jewish mother" stereotype. I can say "At least I have an excuse." Yeah, but we all know that's rubbish. My paradoxical motto used to be "I'm striving for a laid-back existence," but now I am just striving to get through a day with zero compunction, to think but not over-think, to appear cool and calm and collective (because of course, as a GAD sufferer, I worry about perception).

When I was 19, the abundance of thoughts had become too overwhelming and I had hyperventilation episodes. In fact, I think I learned how to say the word "hyperventilate" in six different languages that year. The most surprising translation was "hyperventilatzia" which I heard as I was carted away in a Magen David Adom ambulance in Jerusalem. That was as bad as it got. Now I control my (thankfully) infrequent hyperventilation attacks by telling myself "You are breathing. You don't need to try to breathe. You're doing it." I keep a paper bag on hand for emergencies and can nip these few (Phew!) and far-between attacks in the bud relatively quickly.

I appear to be "chilled out" to most people. Some of my friends have commented on how "calm" I am for a mom of four. Another friend referred to me as "monotone" and marveled about how unruffled I get. I've worked among people who spend the day cursing and having tantrums and marvel at me as I coolly go about my business and seamlessly fix problems, telling other people not to sweat the small stuff (hypocrite that I am!). I've learned that the things that rile me up or get me anxious are not the same things that rile up others and others react to things that really wouldn't get my goat. The biggest compliment you can give a GAD sufferer is that they appear to be super-cool and together. After all, we worry about how others see us, but now that I've told you the truth, I can no longer fool you...

I will so regret writing this later on.

I mean, did I really need to tell you all this?

What was I thinking?

(HARP.)