Reclaiming My 2017

2017 has been a tough year.

I feel like I’ve been saying that every year since…2013, which…sucks. It makes me feel bad. It worries me, along the lines of, Is this my life now? (meaning: life=tough)

I want to talk about my challenges here, partly so I can continue to process them, and also so I can let people know about what’s been going on in my internal world all this time. I’d like to be able to talk about the hard stuff with people I see in person on a regular basis, but having screaming kids running around is not the easiest way to begin the conversation.

I’ve always been a fairly anxious person. I’ve inherited it, I’ve found ways to cope with it, I’ve found ways to power through it, and I’ve accepted it as a part of my life (but not who I am).

But.

This year, I’ve been the most anxious (and occasionally depressed) I’ve ever been and it’s been largely unbearable.

As I look back through pictures that were taken of me over the past year, many of my smiles have been pasted on over massive amounts of anxiety, worry, and irritability. A general inability to calm the fuck down and enjoy any moment of what is happening in front of me.

The tulip festival. A Mother’s Day tea. Playdates. Storytimes. Trips to California.

I remember talking to a friend in early summer and telling her how I had experienced some depression after having my first kid, but that it started to get better after about six months (as did the weather). At that point, it was passed the six month mark (which I realize is totally arbitrary) after having my second kid, and I told her that my symptoms weren’t going away- they were getting worse. It worried me. Actually, it scared the hell outta me.

I remember coming home from a Mother’s Day tea, where my kids were just in the other room from me, being cared for by teenagers I had just met. I sat there rigid, sweating, mind racing. I ate and drank and made conversation and tried SO HARD to enjoy the kid-free time. But it was too much (what was it, I ask myself). I burst into uncontrollable sobs to my husband when I got home. It was all just too hard. Everything felt wrong.

I knew I needed to get back into therapy, but I felt so overwhelmed on a daily basis that I didn’t have the time or the energy to start looking for a therapist. I emailed one of my therapist friends who lives clear across the country late one night to confess to her exactly how much of a shit time I was having. She did an amazing thing and researched therapists in my area and sent me a list of three to check out. It was a godsend.

I started therapy in June, and it was slow-going at first. Of course, therapists make THE WORST clients and I imagine I’m no exception. I want therapy to work and I want it to work YESTERDAY. I overthink everything. I start critiquing her choice of decor and start mentally taking notes for when I eventually go back to work. Mainly, I just wanted to dive in and get to the hard stuff asap so I could feel some freaking relief.

Since then, my anxiety has ebbed and flowed. For a few weeks in September, right after my oldest started going to school for the first time, I thought I had this beat. And then it came back full force for no apparent reason and it’s interfering with my sleep, which has been devastating. For the longest time, I blamed it on the cat and her early morning howling. Everyone around me heard about it. Well, we worked around the cat issue, and wouldn’t you know, it’s not the damn cat. It’s just plain irrational, raging-fire-in-my-chest anxiety. How mortifying.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me, at least recently, was that I had a panic attack. And it was in front of my kids. It scared me to death and I just can’t live like that. I won’t have my kids growing up being worried about their mom falling apart like that. What a horribly embarrassing and terrifying experience, as any of you who have had one surely knows.

I have held out this long against trying medication as an option, but after that, I swallowed what little pride I had left and called my health insurance and made an appointment for a med eval for January. I surrender.

I read some research that said if people are given some sort of escape button that promises a bad experience will immediately end if pushed, they are more likely and able to endure said experience. Case in point, I’ve had clients before who got anti-anxiety meds only to carry them around in their purses and never actually take them. Maybe an escape button is all I need? We’ll see…

I feel held captive by this monster, this thing. I’m desperately trying not to be in constant fear of it, nor constantly battling it. I’m exhausted. I don’t have time for this shit. What saddens me most – THE MOST – is the thought that I’m so incredibly preoccupied, terrified, irritable, utterly exhausted, that I’ll look back on my kids’ young lives and realize…I missed it.

Somehow, I must reclaim my life. (Ugh, that sounds so dramatic, written with tears rolling down my face.) Because this isn’t me, and this isn’t how I want to live. It’s not the mother I want to be, or the wife, or the friend, etc. This motherfucker is trying to rob me blind and I won’t let him. Kicking and screaming.

Me writing this, and putting this out there for people to read, is partly how I fight. Because anxiety wants me to stay silent. Anxiety wants me to shut myself in and cower in fear. Anxiety doesn’t want me to feel joy.

Well…fuck you.

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You Are My Sunshine

I had just started taking Dylan out to story time at the library on a regular basis.  He was about 2 months old, so this was about a year ago.

I get to the library late that day, which is normal.  Good thing the organizer, Shannon, always starts late.  She says we’re on “baby time,” so it’s wonderful to know that she totally gets it.

I’m still trying to learn the words and movements to all these songs we do here.  It makes me feel like I am the new kid at school and no one has given me a tour.  I kinda hum at half volume and make my mouth look like it’s forming words.  At least none of the other moms care; they’re all focused on their own babies.  Which reminds me, as I look down at Dylan- is he even enjoying this?  Is he hungry?  Did I remember to change his diaper before we left?  Oh, new song.  Hummm, humm, hummmm.

Now it’s time for the book.  You Are My Sunshine.  Ha, that’s fitting for the Pacific Northwest.  I glance outside, and it’s lightly misting.  Sigh.  All these gray days blur together.

You are my sunshine (turn the page)

My only sunshine (Ugh, I started singing too high.  I sound like crap…turn the page)

You make me happy (Aw, it’s true…turn the page)

When skies are gray (Gray like today…my eyes start pooling tears and my voice gets a little wobbly…turn the page)

You’ll never know dear (turn the page)

How much I love you (He’ll probably never know…because I don’t think I even know yet…turn the page)

Please don’t take my sunshine away (Wipe away tears from face before looking up from the book)

I look around the room through my wet lashes…Did anyone else feel that?

That overwhelming, hormonal, postpartum flood of emotion?

My tears spill over, soaking the front of my shirt and quickly saturating the carpet.  I shield Dylan’s head so it won’t get wet, but soon the room fills with salty water, like in Alice in Wonderland.

Even though he is wet, Dylan’s body stays warm, and he feels like a sack of grain in my arms and lap.  I hug him close.

His dense little body acts like an anchor for us.  He keeps us from getting tossed around in the growing waves like the other moms and babies all around.

I look up and my eyes and ears come into focus.  We’re singing a new song and everyone is back in place and bone dry.  Blink, sniff.  Hummm, hummm, hum.

I feel like I understood that song for the very first time.

When it’s all over I pack up and leave like nothing happened.

—————-

It’s day 3 of NaBloPoMo!!!!  How will I ever get through this?!

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