By Robert Tebo

I’d heard the word but never really thought seriously about it until Ruth died.  I didn’t understand how you came to be affected by such a demon, and now I am.  It just crept up.  I didn’t know I had it, until I did.  It’s not like getting a cold or the flu.  If there were symptoms, I didn’t recognize them.  They just appeared out of nowhere.

Sure, I’ve been anxious over the years.  My first recollection was when I went to junior high school as a seventh grader.  Junior high was the blending of students from several different elementary schools.  The first day of every class began the same.  The teacher called the roll. Each name was rambled off in alphabetical order.  Some were mispronounced and some sounded funny to the assembled students.  Jim Polman became Polecat.  Tebo became Tebone or Tebone steak.  I hated that first day and the first day of my eighth and ninth grade years.  By the time my sophomore year rolled around, the novelty subsided.

I felt anxious when I asked a girl out on a date for the first time.  I’d practice what I’d say and how I’d say it.  There was always a sense of relief after the ask.  I never had a girl turn me down, but there were several I didn’t ask because of the fear they would.  They were opportunities lost.

Sheri Z sat in front of me in my senior year history of religion class. We spoke every day and I thought she was too cute to go out with me, so I never asked. Heck, she dated guys in college, and I couldn’t compete with that. The fear of getting a “no” was more than I could handle.

She asked if we could exchange “senior pictures” on the last day of class.  Such an exchange included writing something on the back of the picture.  Most exchanges included notes like:  “Good luck at Western!”, “May all your dreams come true.”, or “I wish you nothing but the best wherever life may take you.”   Sheri wrote, “I wish you would have asked me out.”  I never saw her again after that last day of school.  Opportunity lost.

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety.


I’ve highlighted the ones I’ve experienced since September 27th.  I shared my symptoms with my doctor during my annual wellness visit.  He offered to write a prescription, but I declined.  I don’t take any medications on a regular basis, and I’m not interested in starting now.

I’ve had two meetings with a shrink. She’s not really a shrink, but rather, a licensed clinical social worker like my daughter, Elizabeth.  During our first session, she told me she had two questions.  1) She knew my wife had died, so she wanted to know if I could tell her what had happened. 2) She wanted to know what I hoped to gain from our time together.

Once I began, I verbally vomited for an hour straight.  I had lots to say, and a willing listener.  I shared a multitude of thoughts and spoke briefly about being anxious.  I described my feelings, and she told me it was normal, particularly so after experiencing such a loss.  That didn’t make me feel any better, but at least I knew I was normal.  I’ll take normal, even if it feels broken.  She also told me there’s no timeline for feeling less anxious.

I’ve learned anxiety and grief are emotional buddies.  They hang out together and tend to travel as a pair.  When one shows up, the other is close by.  I don’t care for either one, but we’re learning to live together.  One day at a time, they say.  Most days are good.  The challenge comes most often when I see or speak with an old friend for the first time.  I’m often asked what happened, and the retelling is a challenge.  It’s funny, though; when I’m done, I feel better.  It’s like I’ve unloaded a bit of my burden.  Writing helps too.  I unload a bit more and sort things out.

When people ask how I’m doing, my reply is simple.  “I’m doing the best I can today.”  That’s all I can do.

Tebo HeadshotRobert Tebo wanted to be a writer for most of his life.  After a forty-year career as a teacher, elementary school principal and school superintendent, he became a consultant to school districts and businesses in southern Michigan. 

He started writing a blog about his life in November of 2017.  His first post was about his friend, Ed, who was celebrating his 100th birthday.  Ed celebrated his 105th last November.  His most recent blogs focus on the loss of his wife, Ruth.  His story, Grief, describes his current thoughts on the subject.

Bob’s stories can be found at ihaveastoryforyou.net

8 thoughts on “Anxiety”

  1. Manijeh Badiozamani

    Well, Bob, I’m now curious to find out what happened to Ruth. If you wrote it on your blog, I’m going to check it out.
    A good piece of writing, from the heart.

  2. Linda Lee Keenan

    Wow . . . emotions all laid out, enabling a semblance of peace and calm to seep in gently and slowly. Thank you for writing this piece. It’s much more than just writing. It’s the hard work of getting through trauma. By the time we having reached senior years, we’ve experienced all manner of crisis. Yours is only yours to fight through.

  3. Ann Marie Acacio

    Thanks for letting us into your personal space with your well-written story, Bob. Anxiety is something to which most, if not all, of us can definitely relate. I appreciated the list of how anxiety can show up in our lives.

  4. Bob, your article is beautifully written. Thank you for opening your heart to everyone in expressing your grief and anxiety. You have gained many supporters along the way.

  5. Bob, this story is an inspiration. Anyone who knows someone wrestling with anxiety should read this and pass on the wisdom.
    P.S. I subscribed to your blog.

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