Anxiety as defined by Webster: “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it”
Anxiety as defined by me: a dark, lonely, continuous circle of fear and worry; the feeling of an elephant sitting on your chest.
The feeling of the worst happening.
Dreading what might be coming, or what could be happening. Sitting on a cold, hotel bathroom floor at three in the morning somewhere in Wisconsin was where I finally accepted that I had been hiding from my anxiety. Not facing it. Making up excuses. Fresh out of my sophomore year in college I phoned my mom from the bathroom convinced I was dying because I couldn’t breathe. Thank God she answered. My mom let me talk. She let me pour it out. Every worry. Every irrational fear. Quietly she reminded me to breathe, softly she made comments to let me know she was listening and that she understood. Finally, I cried out, “Mom what is wrong with me?!” If I close my eyes I can still hear her softly whisper,
“honey, you are having an anxiety attack, but we will get through this. You know what it is and you will get through it.”
I made my mom a promise. I was going to go through the summer and when I went back to college I would see the counselor to talk about my anxiety. Walking into that appointment was one of the scariest, but best things I have ever done. I didn’t want to have anxiety and I certainly didn’t want to talk to a stranger about my deepest and darkest fears that haunted me daily. Turns out it was okay to have those fears, but I don’t have to live with them. By accepting my anxiety and deciding to take back some control I am able to work through those fears instead of just existing. Coping mechanisms, warning signs and for me personally, anxiety medication, has helped lift the elephant from my chest.
Things have been far from a walk in the park since those college days. Anxiety doesn’t just magically go away, but it is manageable and treatable. After graduation and getting married my husband and I decided it was time to start our family, but there was one problem and that problem ended up being me. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and pregnancy was not going to come easy. My anxiety went into overdrive and the constant fear and worry overcame me. I worried that I would never become a mom. I worried that I was letting my husband down. Every day I battled the anxiety that he was going to leave me for someone who could more easily help him start the family he had desired. My anxiety was constant and I told no one, not even my husband. I tried to take on the world, one silent anxiety attack at a time. I talked about my fear, but not so much that anyone would be able to see just how much this was killing me. Hiding from my anxiety again became a way of life and I had learned to share enough so no one else had to worry.
Eventually after rounds of infertility we were blessed with a beautiful little boy. He quickly became my main focus and things were better. Then, if you can believe it they got even better when we were surprised with another blessing a short 17 months later. Our daughter was born and my heart was exploding with joy. I couldn’t imagine how I could ever feel anything but happiness ever again. These beautiful babies were my everything. Then, about six months after my daughter was born that dark, heavy elephant found me again.
The ugly truth.
I worried constantly and I was convinced the absolute worst things were going to happen. I was no longer eating well and I couldn’t sleep because I was consumed with all the awful things that I thought would happen when I slept. Then one day I looked my anxiety right in it’s ugly eye and decided to stop hiding. I didn’t want to just exist. I wanted to live, so I took back my control.
Finding a new doctor that I am comfortable with and sharing with her the very ugly truths of my anxiety – those deep and dark worries. Brutal honesty. It was time for me to find my control again. I dug deep inside myself to find those coping mechanisms I had learned so many years ago. I got on a new medication with a dosage that works for me. By facing the ugly truth of my anxiety I was able to become a better wife and mom. I still worry about my kids, because that is what moms do, but there is a difference between the worry of a mom and the dark, fear driven worry from anxiety. It was a hard thing for me to learn and I am still learning, but by facing my anxiety and no longer hiding from it I am on track to be the best mom and wife that I can be.
Helpful links for working through anxiety attacks: