What Living With Anxiety Feels Like

I spent the end of last week on the verge of an anxiety attack. It wasn’t spectacular, in case you were curious. 

Anxiety is weird. It’s weird to live with. It’s weird to explain to others who haven’t experienced it. It’s even weird to explain to those who have because no two people experience anxiety in the same way.

I do my best to mitigate anxiety, to keep it from creeping in. I steer clear of triggers like the news, high-stress situations. I try to get enough sleep and practice self-care. But then there are days when it’s impossible to ward off the anxiety threatening to overwhelm me so I just…deal. Because I don’t have a choice.

Anxiety, for me, feels like electricity in my skin. And not the good kind of tingles when you’re on the verge of something fun and exciting coming your way. 

My anxiety feels like my skin is threatening to combust. Every part of me is on edge and aware that things aren’t normal and I can’t calm it down. I can’t stop the prickly feeling that is made worse by just about any and everything touching my body. Clothes, kids, Dan, my hair. 

I feel like a wild and uncontrollable downed power line you might see in the movies is just bouncing around inside of me, threatening harm to whatever comes into contact with me. Not physical harm. Just…like I’m a harmful presence in other people’s lives. 

I shouldn’t be there because what if my anxiety jumps to someone else?

I try, in those moments, to get away. To breathe and clear my head. To tell myself that the anxiety I’m feeling isn’t me. It’s in my head. And in my skin. And my guts. But it isn’t who I am. It’s not who I want to be. 

Sometimes the self-talk works. Most of the time I want to bury myself in the bed and wait for it to pass, however long that may take. 

But life–my life–is still happening around me. My responsibilities continue even when I feel like I cannot move.

So I move. 

I fill cups and make meals. I let my children sit in my lap because what they need in that moment is to be close to me even when my insides are on fire. I give hugs and kisses. I try.

I push forward. I choke back the thoughts of running away. Of hiding from the pain and trembling I’m feeling. Because anxiety, my anxiety, is painful. It hurts me and I know that sometimes it hurts others, too.

I don’t know how to begin to understand what will likely be my children’s legacy of dealing with a mom who suffers from anxiety. 

It’s not every day that I feel this way. It’s not even every month. It’s just…there. Like once I’ve held it off for so long, the dam breaks, it comes crashing in, and once the swell of emotion has had a chance to seep into the earth again, or find its way down some tributary, I’m okay.  

I’m in treatment. I take medication to help control it. I know enough to know that there will be days like these, and I tell myself that once the kids are older, they’ll be able to understand. Mom is having a bad day.

I will always wonder if that’s enough and cling to the hope that it is.

More

2015 Word of the Year
I realize we’re nearly two months done with 2015, so the timeliness of my word of the year is, well, not timely at all. But it’s still 2015, so I’m giving myself a wide berth to do what I want.

My word for the year is MORE. And it came to me while watching The Little Mermaid on repeat in the week between Christmas and New Years. Thankfully, I know I’m not the only person on the planet who’s ever been so inspired by a Disney movie she made a mantra about it, and if I am, oh well. I guess I am.

More is such a materialistic word. People want more money, more stuff, more more more. But that’s not what I’m really looking for with 2015 being about the acquisition of more.

Ariel says it herself.

“Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl, the girl who has, everything…?

What she wants isn’t more stuff to fill up her grotto. She wants…yeah, you know where this is going.

She wants more.

I want 2015 to be a year of living a more full life, one where I don’t take things and people for granted.

Slowly, through dealing with Daddy’s death and some of the recent changes we’re making for our future, I’ve come to realize that this life I have is a good one, so it’s high time I started appreciating it for what it is instead of what it isn’t or could be. We can’t live in what isn’t or could be. We have to live in what is.

I know that I have a good life. That doesn’t mean I don’t have aspirations or areas that need work. Of course I do. But this life I have, the one Dan and I have created together, it’s good.

 

I want 2015 to be a year of more time with those I love.

There is never enough time for those we love, so this isn’t necessarily about the quantity of time as much as it’s about the quality. I’m a big believer in the small moments mattering most. The little times where we just sit and listen to each other are the ones that get remembered when everything else starts to fade away because those are the memories that make an impression on our soul and not just our minds.  I never want to turn down a cuddle from the kids or an opportunity to spend time with someone I love. I don’t want to “in a minute” my life away. I want to give those I love the quality time they need.

I want 2015 to be a year of more dependability because mine sucks.

I remember a time in my life when I was a relatively dependable person. Then I stayed home and that all went straight out the window. It’s way too easy for me to say “oh, yes, I’ll do that…” and then forget. Two days (or two weeks!) later it still isn’t done. It was easier to manage commitments when I had a more finite amount of time to spare. If I only have an hour to make phone calls before returning to work, I have to make those phone calls, you know? Being at home all day has ruined my dependability because I can’t remember anything. I’ve made commitments and failed to follow through on them because…because I have. I hate that I don’t feel dependable.

So now I’m making notes, I have a planner, and eventually I’ll figure out why checking email on my phone has made everything more complicated instead of less.

I want 2015 to be a year of more writing and creativity because those things fill up my soul.

I’m not really sure what’s going on with this blog right now. I can’t tell if I’m outgrowing this space or if this desire for more is telling me to branch out and readjust what it is I’m doing here. Maybe the answer is just to get back here and get back to doing what I do.

I Love You Too

I’m not a perfect mother. I know, I know. I was just as shocked to learn that as you are.

The truth is that I’m in great company because none of us are perfect mothers. We all have flaws, big or small or both. We all have ways in which we believe we could do better, even when the reality is that we’re doing our very best.

The trouble is that I often beat myself up for my imperfections. The times I yell too much or am too rash with my responses to their tiny questions eat away at me. How often have I let my annoyance at their insistence that everything be done their way or right that minute no matter what else is going on in the world shine through and am I doing it so often that eventually they’ll just give up trying to get my attention?

Am I shutting them down when I should be lifting them up? Do I listen to the small things they have to say often enough so that one day down the road they’ll want to tell me the big things?

Am I doing okay? This mothering thing? Am I doing it okay?

Those are the thoughts that nag me and lead me to wonder, nearly 6 years later, if I’m loving them enough. If I’m showing that love enough for them to know that no matter what kind of moment I’m having, my heart beats for them.

One day Emma snuggled into me and she said “I love you too, Mama.” I thought “how adorable is that!?!” Because it was adorable. She knows how to give and receive love and she freely shares her love with me. This is still how Emma tells me she loves me, but today I had a little revelation. That extra three letter word thrown into her proclamation suddenly meant just a little bit more.

She’s not saying “I love you.” She’s saying “I love you too.”

Does she know what she’s saying and how it’s not the normal order for swapping declarations of love? No, probably not, but somewhere in my heart, that little word “too” is soothing.

She knows I love her. She’s confident in that. She understands my love for her runs so deeply that I don’t even have to say “I love you” first for her to know it’s the truth.

Despite my faults, I’m doing this mothering thing okay.

I love her and she loves me too.

Diary of Depression

Monday: Wow. These kids are live wires this morning. I know I just woke up but I really want to go back to sleep. Is it too soon to go back to sleep? Maybe I’ll feel better after yoga. I wish this gym had a different yoga class, or that there were some familiar faces in here or a familiar instructor. Do I really suck if I just go to sleep while Joshua plays video games? Yeah, that’s totally shitty parenting and I shouldn’t do it. I should be engaging him, talking to him. Making him read or do flashcards or something. Not just plugging him into a tv. He’ll be back at school tomorrow and then I’ll take a nap. 

Tuesday (morning)Ugh. We overslept. Why can’t I just get out of bed when the alarm goes off in the morning? Why do I lay there and think that I won’t fall back to sleep? I do this all the time and at some point it’s like I’d learn that’s a dumb thing I’m doing and stop doing it. Where did all this traffic…oh right. First day back to school. God, is everyone running late? What is this? Please don’t let Emma cling to me at school drop off this morning. I don’t know if my skin can handle it. Man, my head hurts. I should shower when I get to the house. Shower and put on clothes and makeup and dry my hair and then I’ll feel better. Nah, I think I’ll just take a nap.

Tuesday (evening): Why did I think it was a good idea to bring Emma to the gym and feed her dinner here? And why was I so stupid to think scheduling Joshua’s swim lesson for 5:30 was okay? Can this child seriously not just sit in a chair and eat some food? What in the world have I done to screw her up so greatly and why is she so maddeningly wild? And why are all these people staring at me? Why I can’t I control this child? Man, I really just want to go to sleep.

Wednesday: Did I shower on Monday? Yesterday? Why can’t I remember when I showered? Do I smell? I should probably put on a bra. Where is my bra? And how many days in a row have I worn this hoodie? Why is the sun so bright outside the window? It’s too bright, but if I close my eyes I’m going to fall asleep again. But my head hurts and maybe closing my eyes for a minute will help it go away. Maybe sleep won’t be such a bad thing. I’ll just sleep for half an hour and then go get the kids. Sleep is probably better for me than taking a shower.

ThursdayWow. I got a decent night’s sleep last night and I actually feel okay this morning. For now. But these kids are shrieking and fighting and why do they have to do that? How do I get them to get along with each other and not fight all the time? I should probably write something. It’s been a while. I’m definitely going to shower today. If I do nothing else, I have to do that. I’ll do it after I get back from picking up the kids. Right now I’m going to lay here and do nothing.

Friday: I should text Dan and tell him that I need a reason to shower and do my hair and makeup this weekend. And wear a bra. Maybe that will get me out of this…whatever it is. I just need a solid reason to pull my shit together. Otherwise, I probably won’t.

People think depression is this deep sense of sadness. Mine is mostly a sense of abject failure. I can’t get the kids to behave. I’m probably not really welcome at this yoga class where I know no one and no one knows me but they all know or at least recognize each other but I’m the outsider and is that person staring at me? I can’t pull it together to put on a bra in the morning, much less shower regularly or do anything to make myself feel better, so I just throw on a hoodie, put my hair in a top knot, and tell myself it’s frumpy chic.

I’m just…empty.

It’s like being stuck in the Swamp of Sadness in The Neverending Story when Atreyu loses his horse because Artax just can’t muster up enough of a damn to get himself out of the mud. And it doesn’t matter that Atreyu is crying and hoping Artax will just get his horse shit together and climb out. Artax just…can’t.

Last week I just couldn’t. I could see that I needed to do something, anything, to break the rut and climb out of the mud, but I just couldn’t do anything except sleep.

I’m better now. I think. On the upswing, at least, but last week was really hard, for no reason I can determine. While the diary up there isn’t something I actually wrote last week, I definitely found myself just sort of stuck and feeling…nothing. That’s what depression is for me.

It’s nothing.

It’s not all the time, 24-7 nothingness in one of those periods. I’m not overwhelmingly unhappy. In fact, I laugh and experience joy and plenty of other positive human emotions, but there’s this nagging emptiness in the background, coupled with a desire to hibernate until it passes.

But life goes on and so do I and eventually the light in the windows is welcome instead of too bright.

Listen To Your Mother, Atlanta! (And Audition For Our Show!)

Just in case we thought I didn’t have enough to keep me busy this year, Listen To Your Mother season is in FULL SWING! My co-producer Jana and I are up to our elbows in planning, our date is set, (April 25! Mark your calendars!), and all we need now is a few good stories to share.

That’s where you, my fine Atlanta readers, come in.

We need YOU. And your stories. Your voice matters.

I believe in the power of storytelling. Stories are our history and sharing them with one another is how we bridge divides between race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and the debate of red vs. white wine. (Answer: Both. Of course.)

Listen To Your Mother is oral tradition in the 21st century with stories focused specifically on motherhood and its many facets. It’s funny and messy and it’s sad and amazing. Motherhood is life.

If you live in or around the Atlanta area and want to audition to share your story on our stage, we would love to have you.

Help us give motherhood a microphone in 2015.

Where I live. What I live for.