Anxiety and I have become friends in the last month… strange I know but I’m done denying her presence in my life and I’m done trying to protect myself from fear, pain, and even joy. I never had anxiety before becoming a mother… depression yes I dealt with my share of depression, but it was something that would come and go so I managed it well. The anxiety that came with motherhood, now that was a beast I couldn’t control…like the pun ha ha? Anxiety is all about control and for me it was about controlling my children’s safety, health, and making sure they lived and that I did too.
In therapy we ask clients this question all the time: “when do you think the symptoms started?” I can pin-point my anxiety back to when I was pregnant with my first child and was rushed to the hospital at 29 weeks with a placenta abruption. I distinctly remember laying in the ER thinking, ” I could lose my baby”…that thought freaked me out. The only lives I worried about losing before this moment were close family and friends. Losing my baby was a whole new fear that rocked me to the core. I had entered an entirely new arena and the stakes felt much higher. For the next 2 months I rested on the couch and at 36 weeks I eventually gave birth to a healthy baby Waylon boy.
Flash forward 20 months and that baby was sprinting down the halls. No really he was, Waylon was and still is the fasted kid I know. At 20 months old Waylon ran away from me at church and somehow locked himself in a closet and was nowhere to be found for 20 minutes. Long story short, someone thought they saw a man take him so the police were called and for 10 minutes I lived through the worst hell I’ve ever known. When we found him I was a blubbering mess but I was so grateful that the outcome to this event was one where I got my child back. I went straight home from church and had a beer for lunch; it was the only thing that seemed appealing with my battle-shocked nerves. At the time I didn’t know how much this event would effect me, but it became a major trauma marker in my life. For a while I almost felt like I couldn’t call it a trauma because my story has a happy ending but my body told me otherwise. My mind, body, and soul told me that I went to war and came back denying it all happened.
In the time since this trauma I developed fears of many kinds from flying to car crashes to dying of cancer at an early age. It’s not a coincidence that fear and anxiety made a permanent place in my heart, that’s what happens when unnamed trauma takes the wheel and starts to drive. I had turned into a woman, wife and mother that I did not want to be. My fear didn’t stop me from doing the things I love because I’m just too stubborn for that, but I was white-knuckling life and all it’s experiences. I saw anxiety stealing my joy…anxiety would even tell me nasty things when I was joyful like “you better not get too happy because something bad is just around the corner.” That is no way to live my friends and I knew it.
For some reason being anxious made me feel like I had some sort of control while feeling out of control at the same time…so weird but true. I made a choice to drive into the discomfort of it all and figure out why I was holding onto anxiety and eventually how I can live with her but not let her drive.
Come back next week for how I started to explore my heart and anxiety.