My First Memory and Mental Health

My first memory of having anxiety happened on Christmas Day, 1994. I was five.

Debuting my new clip-on earrings and rocking a striking high pony, I wore a cream colored turtle neck, blue jeans, and navy blue sweater-cardigan with poodles all over. “You’re so cute!” I thought to myself. (I so was).

Sitting in the big wooden chair at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, I focused my attention on my shoes.

This was before Harry Potter and its invisibility cloak. Around the time that I was introduced to the Wizard of Oz. I really wanted to go home.

Wishing that my nearly 30 relatives wouldn’t watch me opening my presents or that I could just pick them up in the morning instead, videotape evidence taken by my dad depicts quivering lips as I hold back a smile.

My older cousins had waved for me to sit on their laps, saying my name over and over as if I was there for their amusement. A Christmas gift? Afraid I‘d bore them all since I was too scared to speak, the vibe I sent to my extended family members was the exact opposite of their opened arms towards me. If I sat on their laps, I thought, then what?

Unsure of how to act, I sat on the opposite end of the room instead, near the adults. I watched the other little kids be effortlessly fun and easy to be around as I imagined a dreadful life ahead.

So I figured out that the favored or at least more fun to be around little kid cousin definitely wasn’t me and that, simultaneously, I was uncomfortable receiving attention anyway. I felt like my family had just figured out the real me. And then what if they didn’t like the real me?

Resigning myself to spend most of Christmas Day standing in a corner behind the door that led to the main party room, I waited until the loud and terrifying gathering would end so I could go home and be with my sticker collection. A five-year-old standing behind a door instead of playing with her new toys on Christmas.

Towards the end of the evening, my grandma convinced me into coming into the kitchen for cake. A sweet woman who wore luxurious clip-on earrings her whole life.

Grandma wasn’t upset that I had hid behind a door for most of her party because I was scared of everyone, which is what I was afraid of. So there we were. Two gals wearing clip-on earrings, quietly enjoying our cake like it was just another day.

Though I can recall earlier snippets of life here and there, December 25,1994 was my first memory for a reason. Which has brought me to today, October 20, 2017, two days after my 28th birthday. I’ve finally summoned the courage to make an appointment for talk therapy.

Though my anxiety doesn’t manifest itself in the same way as it did on that day, it’s been a big dumb obstacle trying to overcome on my own thus far.

Five-year-old Cristin would have been so scared to talk to anyone about her feelings that wasn’t her parents so I’m just going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and say that I’ve grown up.

I’ve also eaten a lot more cake. (Miss you, Grandma).