my battles with anxiety

 

Road to Anxiety

We are fortunate in that my parents take us to the Outer Banks each year for a week-long get away as a family. Anxiety often plagues me the weeks before these trips though and I worry, though I have gotten better at handling it through the last few months. I guess the meds help. I think the copying tools do too.

I worry we won’t have enough money, that we’ll break down on the highway somewhere or will have some life changing accident at the hands of a drunk driver or wild animal. I worry that the ocean will swallow up one of the kids or Kevin. Mostly, Kevin, he goes so deep into the water, I can hardly catch my breath sometimes. I worry that something, anything might happen that would take away the happy the trip makes my family. Last year, I had a miscarriage and didn’t tell anyone for fear I’d be the ruiner of all the good things. This year, I buried the shell I’d held for the last year, in the sand on the beach I have grown to love very much. A silent goodbye. A letting go. A small battle in the war I have with this anxiety that is eating at me every day.

Mostly this last week, I felt peace and calm. I napped a couple of days and never put on a pair of jeans. I managed to get myself to the gym most of the week and gave myself some freedom with what I ate… although now I am kicking myself because I gained but I am going to try to take it as a lesson and not a failure.  It was a much-needed mental break. A rest of sorts. I needed it.

Saturday we left in the middle of the morning. The drive home was long and I was anxious to get home. Anxious in a good way. Until I came off the exit and straight into the view of Chick Fil A. And realized that all the gunk I’d left was still there. And the next day I felt my chest seize up as I walked into the Target and then Starbucks and wondered again what next. What will happen next? When will I have to deal with it again?

Will this place ever feel safe again? Have I once again, lost my home?

Most of what I have read links all these feelings, these emotions back to PTSD. I guess with the year or so I have had, and especially the last few months, it does make sense.  And that I feel as though I’ve talked way too much and people are running out of things to say, well, that is a shitstorm soup. I even feel a bit of trepidation when bringing any of this up with my therapist. But I don’t know how to get over it. And I don’t know that I ever will at this point. It feels as though everyone has moved on and I’m still stuck on that raft in the ocean. And I’ve got to stop talking about it. Or I will never get over it. Or if I stop talking about it, will it fester inside forever?

See? That’s the trouble with anxiety. You are never totally sure if it’s real or if you’re making it up. Am I anxious because there is actually a threat in front of me or has my anxiety made a mountain out of a molehill? Lately, it’s probably been a combination of both. But I hate that I even question my own feelings.

I don’t want to be here now. I would give anything to be back on the beach or at least away from here. My “tools” for remaining calm and balanced aren’t working and my imagination is getting the best of me these days. I am overwhelmed with the idea of school starting too. Everyone in all different directions all the time and me, doing a lot of it on my own. I added more than I can probably handle to an already chaotic life…. and now there are some new pressures making it impossible for my mind to rest. Falling asleep is easy. Staying asleep has become a chore. I laid awake this morning sad about my birthday. Feeling sort of invisible. Wishing I could find the words to tell people what I need. And then heavy cry in the shower, a foot in my mouth and this need to just deactivate my life again. I can feeling the impending doom. I can feel that thunder cloud coming….. shaped like the mistakes of the winter. Mistakes that weren’t even my own but I seem to be the only one paying for. I guess maybe I am just tired. I am very tired these days.

I think too, people have this idea I am “strong” and I will be honest, now and since April, I have felt desperately weak in so many ways. Weak because I let all this happen and weak because I can get out of it. I feel weak because I desperately need help but I can’t communicate what I need from people. I feel weak because sometimes, I just want a hug. And I hate being touched.  I feel weak because I want more than anything to rest. But I don’t know what shape that rest comes in. A day in bed? I am not sure. But something to make my mind shut off. I wish I knew what that was. I wish I didn’t feel so invisible. I wish I wasn’t so anxious and sad.

Yesterday, I threw away my medicine

 

My daily medicineI for real threw it away and not on purpose. I was just so scattered, I’d balled it up in the store bag and threw it out. I couldn’t sleep thinking about where I’d put it. At 3 am, I woke up to find my medicine deep in the garbage and then had to go out to check to makes sure the freezer was still working.

That is unfortunately how anxiety works. It keeps me up, even with the medicine, worrying about things I can control so that I don’t lose my marbles over the things I can’t.

I can control the freezer melting. I cannot control the rest.

A lot of my life just feels so out of control. Like I am in a runaway car that someone else has control over. And they’ve taken all the wrong turns. I’m not even seatbelted in the back seat and I am being violently flung around, without so much as a worry about my safety. I feel as though I am calling out where I want to go and what I need and the driver isn’t hearing me. And the bruises created by it never seem to heal. I don’t understand why no one can hear me. I don’t understand why my needs and wants don’t matter.

I feel very, very out of control.

I am sure if you use Facebook or a smart phone you know all about the “memories” apps and such. I used to just love Timehop. Something I looked forward to peeking at every day. I had to delete it. All those memories are now tainted and I can hardly stand to look at this history that I thought was so good. It turns out, it was much different. Everyone remembers all these things different, all I can remember is what was happening when I wasn’t looking. My anxiety is to blame for that too, to a point. I was so anxious and sad all the time, I missed what was happening right in front of my face.

The last month or so I had done well at coping. Taking yoga and taking time for self-care but this last week has been tremendously difficult. I don’t know if it’s the lack of good sleep (I am sleeping, I fall asleep easily. I do not stay asleep) or that I have snuck a few cookies in here and there. It might be that I haven’t had a chance to breathe in-between juggling the new jobs and the kids and the stuff I do from home. It might be that it’s the anniversary of things. It might be that there is still a unfillable hole. It could be the impending doom I feel. The waiting for the shoe to drop. I might be the anxiety telling me I am an awful human for this to have happened. I don’t know. I don’t know why I can’t shake the feels.

Another kind of medicine

I am struggling to get back on track. I have a two-week break from therapy. First, she is on vacation and then we are. I should have asked for another kind of medicine the last time I was there too but there are still little voices telling me how bad it is to take the meds. But, fuck, I am tired of feeling sad and worse yet, trying to hide it. Like it’s fun to be the girl who showers to muffle the sounds? And the sounds are awful. When your own sounds scare you, it’s bad. And this isn’t to say there haven’t been happy moments. There have been. But it was like a switch turned on this week. I wish I could find the trigger so I can avoid it.

I think people see me as always sad or upset or anxious and then when I am “happy”, it’s just a façade. It’s not. Honestly, there is much happy in my life. So very much. I write for therapy. I have for years. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any joy. There is. It’s just something I need to get out and share. I’ve always done it. Mostly because I thought it might help someone else but mostly, it’s helped me. Until recently. I keep typing hoping it will help me turn the corner on all this but what I keep seeing is the window I gave to cruel people and how they used it to destroy parts of my life. I often have wondered if I should only share my highlights. Because what have I done by sharing my sad?

A friend said this week, “it’s like they got everything you ever wanted” and the truth is they did. I lost so much fighting for it all back too. It’s no wonder I feel sad and out of control. I lost so much of what was important to me. And it’s painful and sad. And for what? I don’t really know. I feel lucky that I have some people I can bounce all these feelings off with. Even when it results in me crying in the makeup aisle at Target. I worry though, that I am starting to sound so much like a broken record, that they’ll stop listening. I have to figure out how to get out of this hole, alone, before I actually am alone.

I don’t feel brave or strong these days. And I am tired of the rollercoaster of emotions.

 

Who in the hell is that?

Drew and Me

My Drew. Gosh, he was the cutest baby. When I was pregnant with him, they thought something wasn’t right with his kidneys. I saw the ultrasound techs face and knew. Kevin thought I was disappointed that he was a boy. I wasn’t. I knew by her face, we’d get a call.

We did. And a level two ultrasound. But he was fine. Is fine. Thankfully.

This is my favorite photo of the two of us. Even though my posture is off and I have wild hair. You can see I am happy and healthy. That I love where I am. Who I am. What I was. I made that Mei Tei. I was finally falling into motherhood. Accepting that it was what I wanted to do, even though I’d felt like I had bumbled my way through it up until then. We were babies ourselves when we’d started our family. I never realized how much I’d miss those days.

I started to lose myself shortly after this. We packed up our whole life and moved to Pennsylvania hoping this would be a fresh start and our home. It’s been challenging at best. I’ve lost as much as I have gained. Maybe more. Sometimes I find myself thinking that the move here was the biggest mistake of my life. Kevin has tried to help me see the silver lining but it’s hard to see the joy when you’re so muddled up in the sadness. He reminds me that all that happened could have happened there. I tend to disagree.

I lost myself here.

It started with my friends. The fall out of a mother’s group, I watched one by one as we parted ways. I felt ashamed and shunned, my church shortly followed and eventually my faith. Which I am coming to terms with and learning to love my new-found ability to question everything. Even when it makes people uncomfortable. But once I’d lost most of my friend base and my church, I started to let myself go too. In about 5 years I gained 50 pounds. Putting me at a weight I am too afraid to even say. I can’t figure out how except maybe sugar but it happened. And I stopped letting people take my photo and I stopped letting anyone touch me. I could barely look at myself. I wore the same ratty clothes and I never left. When I did it was in a long sweater and I hid in the corner, hoping no one would see me there.

There is almost no record I existed the last 5 years.

And in that five years, the demons in my head, they won. Over and over, telling me that I sucked at everything. Everything. Parenting, loving, crafting, talking, friending. I put the camera down, the paint brushes. I stopped trying. The demons told me I was unloved and unlovable. Sometimes they still do.  I heard in everyone’s voices I was a bad mother and a bad friend. A bad child and a bad sister. I was a bad wife. I wasn’t worthy and I wasn’t pretty and I wasn’t kind or smart or helpful. I was worthless.

Worthless.

I let bad people tell me that too. I still do.

Worthless. I can hear them as they mock my lack of a job. Not knowing how much I carry. And it’s a lot. I just chose not to prove it to you. I take care of everyone. Everything. Thanklessly. Always.

But I am taking the steps to reclaim my worth. And I’ve lost so much weight and gained so much strength. And I did it the right way. With diet and exercise. The scale tells me I am working hard. So do the measurements and the feelings inside. But when I look in the mirror I see the same sad, chubby, ugly girl and I think, “who the hell is that?” I still see the wrongs and none of the rights.

That's me! Sunflower fields

Brains are cruel things sometimes. My body image is so tied up in this idea of what broke me that all I can think is I must have just been a hideous monster for what happened to me. Comparison is the thief of joy and to be pushed aside for something so truly ugly, well, it does a number on you. And no amount of weight loss is going to fix it. And I don’t know how to change it inside my head.

How do I see the beautiful people tell me I have? How do I see the arm divet without wondering if my arms are really that big or if it’s just the camera angle? How do I convince myself that I am worthy and beautiful and kind and smart? How do I love myself?

How do I start to love myself?

How do I stop listening to the demons? I can feel happy and then, bam, the sad comes back. I’ve covered myself in armor trying to avoid the triggers and yet, they still creep in, reminding me. There will always be this hole. It’s unfillable now. And I want to stop thinking about it and wanting. I want to stop wanting and worrying and thinking and reverting back to the old girl, April’s girl. I want to be new… and shiny and happy and in love with myself.

I just want to be whole. I want to look in the mirror and not question what I am seeing. I want to stop worrying and just go with the flow. I just want some happy, more often and less this. I don’t want to have to work so hard not to feel so sad. Happy shouldn’t be so hard. Even though I know it’s worth the work. Happy should be easy. I know my happiness is there… the work is removing the rest.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller