I am a Jewish woman and I am neurotic. I was raised in New York City, which makes me even more neurotic. I’m a worrier. I’m always concerned about what could happen and I frequently engage and catastrophizing. I worry so much that I could get a medal. My anxiety is next level.
There are stereotypes about Jewish mother is being neurotic. And I fit every single one. I love my kids and I worry about them. A Jewish mother’s “hobby” is to worry. If you can call it a hobby, I guess. It’s not that I like to worry. It’s that I can’t help myself.
Obsessing about things is so natural to me that once I start, I can’t stop. It isn’t necessarily fun, but I’m used to it by now because I’ve been this way for my entire life. Even as a child, I was a worrier. I didn’t know what neurotic meant, but I heard my parents use the word all the time.
I came to think of the term “neurotic” as an eccentricity. I am quirky and part of my idiosyncrasies are that I have anxiety. Anxiety isn’t fun, but it is a part of what I deal with on a daily basis. I’ve learned to embrace my neurotic nature and I don’t see it as a negative thing. I see it as a part of something that I manage.
Sometimes anxiety makes me mad. When I can’t stop thinking about something, I just want to throw my brain in the garbage…but alas, I know that I can’t do that. So, I try to find ways to deal with my neuroses. It involves patience and a lot of self-talk.
You don’t have to be Jewish to be neurotic. Anybody who worries excessively can fall under this category. I asked my friend Sparklle what “neurotic” meant to them, and the first thing they said was “…oh, you know, my life story.” Sparklle lives with multiple diagnosed anxiety disorders, including PTSD, OCD, GAD, panic disorder, and social anxiety.
“My baseline anxiety is high. I am often anxious without a cause, or without a reasonable one. When I was little, I accidentally grabbed the strap of another kids bathing suit in the pool on a school field trip because, in a moment of panic, I thought that I was going to drown in water that wasn’t even deep enough for me to drown in and my arms automatically reached out and grabbed the first thing next to me that I could pull myself up with.
Small choices and decisions are enough to make me obsess and panic. I check the lock of my front door every night upwards 20 times. I pace and check under my bed, futon, in my closet, until I am at least somewhat sure that no one is there. Deciding what bread to buy at the grocery store is enough to make my vision blur on a bad day. I’m thankful to be able to buy bread at all, so I usually just go with the cheapest option. Looking cashiers in the eye used to make me involuntarily cry because I fear social contact. My OCD gives me obsessive thoughts, which causes compulsions like hitting myself in the head. Yes, one could very well say that I am indeed neurotic.”*
If you’re reading this and you’re obsessing over something, I feel your pain. Feeling neurotic is a drag, but don’t give up. There are ways to cope with these thoughts. Don’t let them win. Don’t ignore them and remember that just because you’re thinking something doesn’t make it true. That’s one of the hardest things for me to understand about my own neurotic thoughts; coping is a work in progress. So, do you deal with neuroses?
*Note: all of the above is shared with Sparklle’s permission