Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Fear Before The Storm

I never understood the phrase, "The calm before the storm" because being calm before an event is something that I am 100% incapable of.

I am going to use my past fear of storms to illustrate just how powerful this "fear before..." is.

A decade ago, storms ruled my life. Twenty years ago I was so paralyzed by the threat of severe weather that I would do everything in my power not to go to school At school I would be unable to watch the Weather Channel.

Each morning my day would start with the Weather Channel. I could care less about all the maps, except this one:

I live in Saint Louis and today would have been a good day. The orange area didn't scare me, but if I happened to be in the red zone then I was stressed to the core.

There is another map I would look at when it came on. Thankfully I was growing up when the internet was not and I could not have instant access to this map:

That map is a map of all current weather watches and warnings. If there were any boxes of yellow (Severe Thunderstorm) or red (tornado) in my vicinity I would be a nervous wreck. I would have to stay home to watch the impending weather as it moved into the area.

If I were at school I would not know what was coming. I had to know because my ability to predict in my mind what could happen was always to the extreme so I had to watch each and every movement of the radar.

This article is not about weather, exactly, but rather the power of the anticipation of the event. I covered this somewhat in "Fright of the Bumblebee" and felt it needed further explanation because the anxiety that this used to provoke in me was downright overpowering.

The concept of this fear before the storm can apply to other events outside a spring time thunderstorm. During those times of fright, due to the storms, I would be preparing for the devastating mile-wide tornado and ways I could survive. I would prepare for loss of power, death of people I know, and where to look for my belongings should my house be blown away. That being so, it wasn't the storm that caused the most fear, but the anticpation of the storm and all the thoughts that came with it.

My thought process was to the extreme when it came to storms, but it is extreme in all aspects of what is to come. Before any event, be it nature or social, I play out as many situations I can to prepare. I MUST know what is going to happen beforehand so I can prepare my possible responses.

Open-ended social situations, today, cause as much anxiety as the storms of my childhood. Much like an approaching storm on the horizon, I can see when someone has that look of wanting to talk to me in public. You could say at this point in time I issue a severe "conversation watch." As they get nearer the watch turns into a warning and I prepare for a nasty shock to my system.

What will they say? Are they angry? Did I somehow offend this person that is approaching me? I think of every possible possibility because I must know. I must know because, well, if I don't know then I can drown myself in wondering what it could be. It's silly, I know, because what the need to know causes is the most anxiety and further reinforces the fact that I must know what the storm will be ahead of time.

That last paragraph might not make sense unless you have experienced it. It's truly tiresome though. The silly thing is that there hasn't been a storm that has destroyed my place of residence and each social situation that I fear ahead of the fact has never ended in me being punched in the face. Regardless of this, with each new event I am thrown into, there is a fear before the event and while this fear is always bigger, and most of the time unrealistically large, I will never be calm before a storm, be it social or natural.

So, for anyone who can experience a "Calm" before the storm I am envious of you. I don't know how or what that is. All I know is that I am fearful of the event ahead of time. I know I have used the word fear a lot and I just checked on thesaurus.com for the word fear and they have some interesting synonyms. If you don't want to call it the fear before the storm it could be dismay, cowardice, trepidation, or the best one, chickenheartedness. Call it what you want, but I don't care what it is called because all I know is that I have a battle each and everyday to not give into the fear.

1 comment:

  1. One trick I have always used is to ask the person rephrase the question. Consider this- a lot of people with autism prefer to understand things concretely. Asking someone to rephrase the question or break down the question will make your life easier because the second or third attempts you probably will get a clearer idea of what the person wants of you to respond in a conversation. My OT friends praised me for doing that because they know I give a genuine effort to answer their questions.