Where do I even begin? Where does anyone even begin to talk about the very thing they have tried to ignore for the better part of their adult life? I guess that’s what makes it harder, because sharing something like this now would mean I’ve been hiding the truth for so long. That I haven’t been completely honest with you or myself.
I’ve hidden behind a facade thinking I had these feelings under control but the truth is my anxiety has only gotten progressively worse. And though I have finally admitted to needing help, it’s been a pretty big thing for me to process. The thing is, my anxiety is so up and down – I can go for days at a time without experiencing a single moment of panic. Everything will be more than fine and then out of nowhere, it hits me like a 5000 pound truck, often without any warning. It hits me so hard it takes my breath away and I’m left feeling winded, overwhelmed and scared.
My panic attacks started 14 years ago when we were hijacked (twice in 2 years) and I don’t think my body has ever really recovered from those traumas. I may not struggle with severe attacks like I did back then – ones that would have me wake up in the night not able to move my arms or hyperventilating to the point of passing out, I still feel the same sense of panic in the pit of my stomach. I’ve read many articles about how your body can carry trauma for years if you don’t deal with it appropriately. Although I think I’ve gotten over the initial trauma and I don’t really experience anxiety when thinking about those scary experiences specifically, I wonder if it is the cause of my body not knowing how to reposed to normal stress now. I thought I was fine but, it’s as though I need to re-wire my brain and body to know how to deal with stress and anxiety properly. I’m really just guessing here.
I worry about a lot of stuff : My children, their safety, the dishes in my sink, unanswered emails, unfinished projects, disappointing people, messy cupboards. I worry about how people perceive me and how they talk about me when I’m not there. I worry about my family’s health and whether I’m feeding my children enough vegetables. Not the normal kind of worry that moms experience from time to time – I obsess over it and calculate how much goodness I can cram into their morning smoothies.
And the thing that concerns me the most is that my worry, very often is not proportional to the issue at hand. I worry way too much about the small things and often the bigger more important issues cast aside, with very little care of their importance. A few months ago I turned my house upside down for bunting I was looking for a party, sick with worry – I HAD to find it. Two days later I missed an important appointment with not a care in the world. Again, there is no reasoning.
I worry about dying. I worry even more about my kids dying. I hate accepting the awful truth that I have no control over anything and that I don’t know what may happen in the future. I fixate on death and feel trapped by the overwhelming sense that although it’s inevitable, it’s waiting for me around the next corner. I obsess over it – thinking if I can make sense of it, I can control it. I lose the fight every time- the panic attacks always win.
Of course the guilt doesn’t help. The feeling that I have no right to feel overwhelmed or anxious. I have a good life, supportive husband, a house to live in, money to pay bills and healthy children. Yet there it is, at every turn: GUILT. Such a stupid, waste-of- time emotion in the whole cycle of anxiety, because most of us know anxiety does not discrimante- it doesn’t only make its home in people who have experienced huge traumas or been exposed to terrible tragedy. It doesn’t only occur in people who have high powered jobs or who work in critical situations. It does not only effect people who find themselves in a crisis. Anxiety does not care about the colour of your skin, your culture or religion. It does not care if you have all your ducks in a row – in fact, it may use your OCD tendencies to get to you. It carries no reason. It’s completely irrational. And it’s relentless.
But I took the first step and did what I probably should have done months ago. I finally made the call last Thursday. A call I have been dreading to make for the better part of a year. I have no idea why it was such a hard call to make. I guess I kept hoping I could sort myself out on my own. Isn’t it funny how we often encourage others to seek help, tell them there is no shame in asking for professional advice only to ignore our own? Ive never felt shame, yet admitting to myself that I couldn’t do it on my own, was probably the hardest part of all. So tomorrow I will be walking into my first therapy session in 13 years and I will do it with my chin up and head lifted high. I will do it knowing i have all the support I need and with the belief that in taking this first step I’m on the path to healing.
As my friend Cas wrote so beautifully in her piece recently about her journey with anxiety, I will not let it define me, I will keep trusting the God I believe in to work his magic and heal me from the inside out, that I will walk in the freedom knowing I am his and he is mine. And that no matter what this life holds for me – he’s got me.