Dramatic. Irrational. Crazy.

My last blog post turned out to be really cathartic to write. I expected that it would be, just not to the extent that it was.

I woke up the next morning and temporarily forgot about the post. Then I picked up my phone and saw the dozen or so alerts about it and went oh yeah.

As I laid there in bed before getting up for the day, I started to read the comments- some public, some private – and tears started streaming down my face. They were good tears. I cried several more times that day, and it was all good. It was like I had been carrying a weight around with me for months and I finally set it down, only I didn’t start to feel lighter until the morning after.

The weight isn’t completely gone, and I’m not sure it ever will be, because I’m human. But it sure feels better. I’ve had conversations and little how are yous and coffee dates with friends that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t written that post. It broke the ice that was floating on top of my ocean of anxiety that wouldn’t have been broken otherwise.

I’m very glad I wrote it. And since it worked so well, I’m going to keep doing it. What did one of my friends say? (I went and found it.) She said, “Putting it out there seems to somehow take away a little of the power.” She’s right, it does. I’m taking the power back.

So, onto another aspect of my anxiety: health and mortality.

As many of you know, I had ovarian cancer at age 19. Initially, I was incorrectly diagnosed with IBS, because who thinks a 19-year-old with bloating and constipation has cancer? No one. I was in college and living on my own, cooking for myself for the first time (if you could call what I was doing “cooking”) and so it made sense. I was eating crap and full of stress! Not to worry.

But what happens when the worst diagnosis possible actually comes true? To be fair, it wasn’t the worst possible because my life was never threatened. However, the c-word is fucking scary, shocking, and not at all what was expected.

What resulted after surgery was several things: 1) depression because my life had been put on hold- I had had to take the semester off from college and move away from friends and back in with my parents, and 2) anxiety because I was given a recurrence rate of 30% (THIRTY. PERCENT.) where the only available treatment was more surgery.

Time passed. I had cancer checkups every three months with normal results. I volunteered, got a summer job, went back to school, moved out. My life resumed and I moved forward.

But.

The anxiety never really went away. For ten years, in the back of my mind I wondered, worried if I was going to be able to have kids. But I also worried every time I got sick.

Was it the flu? OR WAS IT PNEUMONIA?!

Was I just constipated? OR HAS MY CANCER COME BACK?!

Do I need glasses? OR DO I HAVE GLAUCOMA?!

Am I just anxious and hopped-up on coffee? OR DO I HAVE DANGEROUSLY HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?

Am I having a panic attack? OR AM I DYING FROM A HEART ATTACK?!

All this may look super dramatic, but it’s my truth. (And anxiety is just that- DRAMATIC. Irrational. Crazy.) Of course you try not to expect the worst, and most times, it’s not the worst, but it happened to me. That one time, the worst actually happened and it has fucked me up ever since. If it happened once, who’s to say it won’t happen again?

The icing on the cake is that now that I’m a mom, this anxiety extends to my kids. I worry when they get sick. I have a hard time deciding when to freak out and when to be cool because my freak out meter is extremely warped.

Take this one step further and I worry about dying and leaving my kids. This isn’t always a conscious worry, but it’s more a general mortality fear that’s always at the back of my brain. This fear is normal. But what isn’t normal is when my anxiety takes it and runs a marathon with it.

Because I analyze everything to the point of exhaustion, I quickly realized that what led to my recent panic attack was a perfect storm of mortality triggers. Observe:

  1. Several weeks prior, a family member my age had a serious and shocking heart attack.
  2. I was reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book about her husband’s sudden, untimely death and how she was left to cope raising two young kids by herself (one of my worst nightmares).
  3. A few hours prior, I found out an old friend’s brother unexpectedly died.
  4. A few minutes prior, I was experiencing heartburn which my anxiety mistook as chest pains.

don’t panic!

Right then and there, I thought some of my worst fears were coming true, and it took me a minute to convince myself otherwise and calm the fuck down.

Writing this, unpacking it, and breaking it down really helps me. I need to understand this beast so I can kill it. (Or at least trap it and tame it?) This issue is next on the growing list of things I plan to tackle in therapy, but since therapy is only once a week, I figured I’d get a jump start.

Does anyone else out there feel this way about health/illness/motherhood/mortality?

Is anyone else out there fighting to keep their anxiety in check?

I see you [anxiety]. I see you and I’m onto you.

 

Things Motherhood Has Brought to My Attention

  1. My patience (though it runs short at times), overall, runs deeper than I ever could have imagined.
    • Sure, I lose it and blow up at my kids. Just this morning I stomped on the floor and yelled when my son spat out cereal onto the floor. But, for that one time of losing it, I experience at least 50 more times when I’ve stuck with it, dug deep, and kept my cool beyond what I thought was possible of myself in that moment. And I have no idea how that happens. That’s a lie; yes I do.
  2. Being a mom has brought my and my family’s mortality into sharp focus, causing me to make decisions based on whether or not I’d have regrets on my deathbed.
    • This may sound horribly morbid, and while it is morbid, I don’t think it’s horrible. Watching my kids grow up like weeds before my eyes reminds me how short and precious life really is, and this just shoves all the important stuff front and center.
  3. I don’t have control over anything. Like, at all.
    • While this is easy to type and easy for my intellectual brain to grasp, my emotional core is still working on accepting it. I have a feeling I’ll always come back to rage-cleaning the kitchen when I feel like my life is more out of control than normal.
  4. Working with a partner to try and raise two healthy, happy, fed, (mostly) clothed, well-adjusted kids is the hardest thing ever.
    • What threw me on this one is that I thought the hardest thing ever would be staying at home, by myself, with these kids all day everyday. And yes, when Daddy is home I get the physical help with the child-wrangling. But, when he’s not here there’s no discussion about what there is to be done (unless you count the one constantly running through my head) – I just do it. There’s no need to communicate, “Ok, you do this and I’ll do that” I just do it all. There’s no need to scream at the other person, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WE’RE LATE!” because, during the day, it’s just me. Often, the effort it takes to try and work together and delegate and communicate (read: scream to each other over the din of also-screaming children), is so exhausting that it feels easier to just bare down and do it all. (Does anyone else feel this way? I feel like I did a shit job of explaining what I mean, because I am in NO WAY ungrateful for the job my husband does raising our kids and keeping the household together. There’s no way I could do this job alone and stay sane.)
  5. I can do more on little sleep than I ever thought possible.
    • I don’t function well on little sleep. I turn into a rabid zombie chainsaw killer. While I still suffered (still suffer-ing, actually) with each kid, there’s just something amazingly tender and potent about your chillins that make you want to do the opposite of kill them, even on scary few hours of sleep.
  6. (Going along with the previous point) Never underestimate the power of naps.
    • Naps come from heaven. Naps are good for all involved. Covet them. Create time for them. Force them if you have to.
  7. I need free time to feel like myself.
    • This wasn’t obvious to me when I had a whole shit-ton of free time, but it sure is now.
  8. I have a feeling that raising these kids is going to be my life’s most important work (with therapy a close second).
    • My kids will be kind, thoughtful, compassionate, productive human beings if it’s the only thing I do.
  9. I am really good at this mom gig. Like, I kick ass at it.
    • Seriously. As hard as it is, even though I constantly make mistakes and lose my cool. I learn from those mistakes, I model how to say sorry and repair the damage. I remember doctor’s appointments. I know where 90% of the toys are in my house at any given time. I keep my house more than bearably clean. I can get two kids diaper changed, dressed, fed, potty, shoes, socks, jackets, car seats, out the door in 45 minutes. You heard me! I get fairly good sleep. I make my bed everyday. I help keep our cat alive (wait, we have a cat too?!). I pack for vacations and camping trips and beach trips and walks to the park…and I remember 99% of all the things we could ever need in case of the zombie apocalypse. I do the laundry AND FOLD IT. AND PUT IT AWAY! Sometimes that only takes a week to complete. I remember to buy toilet paper. I remember birthdays and parties and shopping for gifts for said parties. And wrapping the damn present for said said parties. Not to mention remembering to BRING said wrapped present to said parties. I kiss boo-boos and give hugs and make lunches and clean up. I clean up all fucking day.

…and then, after all that, I get up and do it again the next day, and the next, and the next.


NaBloPoMo Day 7