"Anxiety is the body's natural response to danger," he says. "Many years ago, if a person was being chased by a bear, for instance, the person would experience anxiety. It's called the fight or flight instinct. The person's blood pressure would rise; and the person would be ready to run from the bear. Now, not too many people find themselves up against a bear; but the human body is still hard-wired for fight or flight. You seem to be experiencing fight or flight in situations that don't require fight or flight. Something stressful happens. Your blood pressure rises; and then something else stressful happens, and it goes up again."
"What should I do?" I ask. "I do feel stressed."
"Do you like to do anything that relaxes you?" he asks.
I think about it. I really don't like massages or running or napping or manicures.
"I like to soak in the tub and read books," I say. I would shrug; but I remember the crinkly paper. I raise my eyebrows like question marks instead.
"Do that," he tells me. "Soak for hours if that's what it takes. Read lots of books."
And so, when I feel like fighting or fleeing, I turn on the faucet in my little tub. I don't have a fancy soaking tub. I pour bubble bath that smells like pomegranate or lemon or lavender vanilla. I pour the bubble bath directly under the hot water that streams from the faucet. I swirl my hand under the surface and lean back in the bubbles. I wear a claw clip to keep my hair dry.
I dry my hands on a towel so I don't get the pages of the book wet.
I soak until my skin is as wrinkled as the skin of a prune.
I soak until a little jagged piece of my toenail polish peels off and floats like a miniature pink island.
I soak until I read to page 100; then I read at least two more chapters.
* * *"The good news," the doctor says, on the day he gives me a prescription for bubble bath, "is that your ancestors were probably very good at running from bears. The calm people were eaten."