This is a hard post to write. It’s one I’ve digitally and mentally trashed multiple times. But I figured, what the hell? I’ve put so much of myself out on the World Wide Web. What’s one more admission? Maybe someone else out there can relate. So, here goes.
Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome
My grandmother dealt with anxiety. Actually, she didn’t deal with it. She lived with it and succumbed to it, and a lot of times, it affected the loved ones around her. The memories I hold of my grandmother are fond and positive. She and my grandfather taught me innumerable priceless lessons about life and love. However, I know that deep down, my grandmother lived an anxious life. I truly believe that my grandfather’s steadfastness and the presence of routine kept her from falling apart.
And yeah. That’s pretty much me.
When my mindset began changing, somewhere around my early 20s, I chalked it up to maturity, adulthood. Obviously, my brain was just going from hell-yeah-that-looks-like-fun mode to omg-I-can’t-skydive-my-brains-will-splatter-all-over-the-ground mode. And it seemed normal. Until it wasn’t.
I noticed it when I was in my senior year of high school. I experienced what I realize now were panic attacks concerning graduating high school, selecting a college, moving away from home. I felt chest pains. I couldn’t breathe deeply. Making decisions on my own? What if I made the wrong decision? This question swirled constantly in my brain. I couldn’t fathom the consequences if I chose the wrong path to take in life. How would I ever recover? I obsessed. I worried.
Instead of embracing the fun-loving, internationally traveling, bungee-jumping teenager that I had been and slowly transitioning to responsible adult, I made the leap so quickly that I decided I had to be in control of everything. Can I get an amen from other control freaks in the house?
Anyway, another red flag for me happened about 6 years ago. I used to go on mission trips with my church every summer. I had been to the Philippines, Peru, and Brazil (more than once) before I turned 20. But on my final trip, we had a really difficult time. I got very sick, the flights we took were turbulent, and something in me shifted. I was no longer an in-control, somewhat anxious person. I realized I could never be in control and became an overly anxious, fearful person. Turbulent flights? Not my cup of tea. And I let that fear take something I loved away from me.
Couple these things with becoming a mom? And then a working mom? Anxiety and fear into overdrive.
Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat; a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well-being of someone
Fear and anxiety go together? Perfect. For those of you already criticizing or asking the obvious, YES, I went to get professional help. When my fear and anxiety stopped me from doing the things I loved—like traveling—and stopped me from doing healthy things—like sleeping—I knew I needed to take action. I sought counseling throughout some of the more traumatic moments in my life, notably the deaths of multiple family members. And although I could sometimes make headway with my emotions, for some reason, these professionals couldn’t help me get to the bottom of my fear in order to reverse it.
Oh, you’re afraid of flying? Let me give you a list of completely unrealistic courses of action you can take to overcome that fear: First, take a drive to the airport. Then drive home. (Okay, doable.) Next, step up to the door of an airplane. Then go home. (Umm? Like a toy airplane? Cause I’m pretty sure there’s rules against just chillin on the runway.) On another occasion, walk into the airplane, sit down and buckle your seatbelt. Before it takes off, disembark. (Yeah… about that…) Last, take a short plane flight.
I am not making this shit up. After my therapist offered me this checklist of items to complete to release my fear and anxiety, I told her I was cured and hit the road.
Now, I just live with it: Waking up in the morning and wondering, “Is the baby breathing?” Watching a plane take off and thinking, “What if it crashes?” Biting my nails to the cuticles during movies. Fretting over the minute details of my wedding or baby’s nursery without anyone else’s help because God knows, no one can do it like I can. Finding anything and everything to do while my husband scuba dives to avoid thinking about possible scenarios. Sitting at my desk and hoping my mother-in-law doesn’t let my son eat something he’s allergic to or fall on the tile while I’m at work. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning (even though my house never looks clean enough) in an attempt to find order amidst chaos.
Dude, I have even thought, “I forgot to turn my straightening iron off. What if my house burns down with the dog inside while I’m at work?”
Like seriously. What the hell is wrong with my brain?
Here’s the thing. I don’t want this. I know some people, like my grandmother, who are okay with living in one place, staying in one place, following a routine, and burying the anxiety. For a while, I was able to hide it. But now, I’d rather kill it for good.
I don’t want to think this way, be this way, and I certainly don’t want my own issues to affect the way my son views his life. I want my son to be a seize-the-day kind of kid. I want him to soak up everything about life, to explore, to involve himself in activities that will enhance his physical and mental capabilities. Hell, I want that for myself.
I want to let go. I want to hop on a plane to Dublin, Ireland and Venice, Italy where my husband and I have always dreamed of going. I want to take cruises. I want to sit in a boat and soak up the sun while my husband and son scuba dive together and bring up the underwater camera full of crazy colorful pictures to show me. I want to have people over my house without having to get on my hands and knees and clean every nook and cranny. I want to enjoy life and all it has to offer, even if it’s scary sometimes. But something is stopping me.
Before I wrote this post, I reached out to some of the mothers in my life to see if I’m alone in this secret fear and anxiety game. Of course, I’m not. Many of these mothers confided in me that they are anxious about rational things like their children being too trusting of strangers and getting kidnapped, their children succumbing to peer pressure to do drugs, or not being able to provide financially for their children. Others admitted to some less logical anxieties. One friend even told me that she often wakes in the middle of the night with a strong feeling that her son is choking on something—even though he’s in bed, peacefully sleeping.
I hate that anyone has to live like this, especially a working mom who is doing the very best she can for her family. We deserve—and we need—to be healthy, too. In talking to some of the women in my life, I’ve heard every “antidote” from xanax to prayer circles to sleeping enough and eating right.
What’s your take? What kinds of anxieties affect you and how do they manifest themselves in your life? Have you addressed your issues with professional help or other remedies? Do you have any pointers for me? How can I change my thinking so my son can have a healthy outlook on life?
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