Disclaimer: This post is not entirely related to TCKs, but I hope you enjoy it anyway
The fun started at 6pm… A lady’s night is always fun, especially for us missionary women here in Thailand. I was ecstatic to be able to join the event with the 6 wonderful women I have come to know. I brought the soda. Another one of the missionari
es made a delicious and refreshing Mexican salad. And a mother-daughter pair made fresh garlic bread in addition to the snacks and desserts brought by others. Conversation moved from personal wellbeing to church history to the annoyance of cleaning pigeon poop off rooftops. We pondered and laughed and found joy in just being together. The night moved into games, and that’s where things change for me…
When I say that I’m an anxious person, I’m not exaggerating. But “anxious” doesn’t seem to accurately describe what I mean… Have you heard of fainting goats before? It is a breed of goat that, when overly stressed or excited, experiences about a 10 second muscle-seizure, and oftentimes will fall over with it’s legs awkwardly stuck out in front of it. The seizure is completely harmless, so please don’t think I am completely sadistic when I say that the video of these goats falling over is hysterical! I included it at the end of this post for your viewing pleasure. The strange thing about these goats is that their little “episodes” don’t just occur when they are scared…it also occurs when they are really excited about something, even if it’s just getting dinner!
My sister lovingly associated the term “fainting goat” to me once the extent of my “anxiety” was fully understood. In college, as a latent reaction to a previous year of enormous stress, I would start having a kind of panic attack (though without the feeling of panic). I would have difficulty breathing, feel light-headed, shaking limbs, and, finally, my muscles would become as useful as pudding, and I would fall. I may not have looked as awkward as a fainting goat, but I certainly felt the embarrassment of falling in public after hearing a song with a strong beat or walking through a grocery store with too many choices or eating dinner with the family. It’s a reaction I was having to both stress and excitement.
I haven’t had one of those “episodes” in years, but I still experience the inconvenience of stress. As I mentioned, I went to a lady’s night with some wonderful women I know here in Thailand. There was not a negative thing that happened during that little get-together, but the excitement alone was enough to light my skin on fire and set my heart beating too fast. I felt nauseous, and though I did consider the possibility that I might have suddenly developing the flu, a part of me knew that this was simply a physical reaction to an emotional state. I excused myself from the event after the first game and was able to get a taxi ride home. I knew that I didn’t have a virus the moment I stepped into the coolness of the night, away from any expectation to be social. I breathed in deeply and my heart calmed significantly, the nausea was almost gone, and my skin was cool again.
How do you explain this to others? What would people think if, when asked why I felt ill, I were to respond, “Oh, I just had too much fun tonight” or “Hanging out with friends usually makes me feel sick” or “I’ll be fine as soon as I can get away from you”? Because that’s the truth! And much of it is hard to explain because of the fear that people won’t take me seriously, that they’ll label me weak, consider me a hypochondriac, or think I’m just trying to get attention. I’m so used to getting the “sure-whatever” stare, as if I’m just making excuses or trying to get out of work. But nope, when I tell you I don’t work on Sunday’s, it’s not just because of my religion…it’s because if I DON’T take the day off, I will be useless for the rest of the week.
I write this because I want to be honest, and because I hope that this might encourage others out there who struggle with anxiety (which is everyone to an extent). I want it to be encouraging for you to know that stress is normal, sometimes people need breaks, and sometimes people have strange reactions to unexpected things, like yours-truly. I used to think I wanted a safe and comfortable position in life with as few stressors as possible, BUT…
… A month ago, I moved from my cozy home in private-life Pennsylvania to take a position in social-life Thailand as a live-in dorm assistant for 15 teenagers. No stress and excitement in THAT job! Ok, just kidding…there’s going to be a LOT of stress and a LOT of excitement. I’m not one run away from everything, though I still run away from a lot of things. I LOVE to have fun, I love to laugh and talk and go on adventures and explore places I have never been. I think I’m going to love being with these teenagers, but I think that the only reason I am here is because God has called me here. Yeah, I just brought religion into the picture, but, honestly, I don’t know how I could possibly handle anxiety without the comfort of my Father in Heaven. He’s given me the strength and wisdom I need to get through each day. It doesn’t mean I will be able to handle the funnest-game-night-ever (quite intimidating for a girl like me). I think it will be a LONG time before I would be able to handle so much excitement without feeling like an elephant just sat on me, but I think it means that He will teach me how to take care of myself so that I can take care of the teens around me. And, maybe I won’t have the most endurance when it comes to stress and excitement, but I can tell you that I have had a LOT of experience managing stress, and I think that is a blessing from God. Now, if someone tells me that they just need privacy, or a break, or a day to relax…trust me! I know how you feel! If you need tips on techniques that have helped me, just knock on my door. You’ll find me happily coloring by myself in my room, preparing my heart and mind for the next adventure