At 17, I was diagnosed and hospitalized with depression, at 40 I was diagnosed more accurately with Bipolar Disorder II, but I swear I came out of the womb with anxiety.
Anxiety seems like such a common word. It’s thrown around with little appreciation of the true impact it can have on some people’s lives.
As a child I worried incessantly and obsessively, by first grade I was seeing a school counselor. I worried about concepts, everyday happenings, and my own performance even during menial, every day activities. My anxiety would manifest itself in the way of stomach problems, I constantly struggled with knots in my stomach, dreading that I would vomit, which would only make this cycle worse because I had vomiting and illness anxiety as well.
I would lay awake at night facing towards my pink wall, worrying that someone would break in, that spiders would crawl out the of the jagged crack in my wall. I had to always have the covers on, no matter the temperature, so no one could get to me. I have always slept with some light, the thought of opening my eyes and not being able to see was so overwhelming that I just accepted that fact that night lights would be a permanent fixture in my life.
I feared death by the age of 8 and it haunted me. Anytime I heard ambulance sirens in the background my stomach would drop because I was sure one of my parents was in a tragic accident. Our family vacations while growing up consisted of driving to my grandparents’ homes in another state, a drive that took over eight hours. As we drove at night in our baby blue Scout, I willed myself to stay awake because I was sure we would be killed in a horrid car wreck and I wanted to be able to say goodbye to my parents. I never vocalized this concern to my parents, but it weighed on me as I would watch my younger sister peacefully sleep the whole trip. And camping was a nightmare, as fear and anxiety, always worse at night would haunt the little sleep I was able to get. I could not get out of my mind the idea that a bear would kill us or that there were spiders crawling all over me. My poor Mother would trek with me down to the campground bathroom about six times a night as I struggled with stomach aches and swore I was going to vomit. I could find no comfort in my little red sleeping bag with my ever dimming flashlight.
Living in the Midwest as a child, storms were another area of extreme stress to me. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, too much snow, cracking ice, etc. I would creep into my parents room and make a bed on the floor and try my best to stop the thoughts of lightening coming through my window and killing me.
I pondered the idea of what an eternity was in relation to death at the age of 10. I became preoccupied with the idea of the concept, and not until I became a Christian did I find some comfort in the grandness of that allotment of time.
As an adult with life experience I have the wisdom now to alleviate many of my childhood fears and anxiety. But adulthood has presented its own set of challenges in regards to the big events in my life and the daily struggles.
The pregnancy and birth of my first son were extremely difficult and the fact that there were some medical issues just impounded that fear. From the moment I saw my beautiful son I worried for him. I cried when he cried, I cried when I couldn’t soothe his tears because I worried that there was something wrong. My son literally slept on my chest for the first year of his life. I wanted to feel and hear his little heart beating because I swore he would die in his sleep and if that happened I needed to be there to stop it or at least know that his death was peaceful. This was an incredibly hard time in my life because I was also experiencing post-partum depression and my son had colic … not a good combination but with God’s help we made it through.
I have spent many hours in prayer, trying to rationalize with God that I love my babies and I NEED him to protect them in a way that I can’t, I want reassurance that they will all out live me. I struggled when my first born started school, and thus began the habit of praying every morning while driving to school for each of my children’s protection, I could leave them at school knowing God was with them watching over them. After ten years I still do our morning prayer on the way to school, for my own well-being.
Anxiety effects my driving, I have a whole bunch of fears that generate in my mind, I especially hate semi-trucks, mountain roads, bridges, and anything that in any way can hinder my control over getting to my destination. I have to block out the images I see in my mind as I drive at certain times or it’s debilitating. Did I mention I hate flying? I developed a two Bloody Mary prescription before I board any plane, it seems to take the edge off and I have a praying ritual, which takes about 10 minutes and is a must before the plane takes off.
I have anxiety about entertaining, which still haunts me. I have an expectation that things need to be a certain way and then I completely loss myself in the anxiety of the details. Just this last weekend I threw my son and his baseball team their end of the season party. I started planning it a couple of weeks ahead of time and of course that’s when the anxiety started as well. The anxiety always grows as the event approaches. I told myself that this time I wouldn’t let the anxiety get to me, I prayed that it wouldn’t, I was able to sleep the night before, but sure enough it got to me.
By morning, I screamed at my children as they tried to help me with helium filled escaping balloons, and wind-blown streamers. Tears ran down my face as I realized I had bought the wrong shaped table clothes. Nothing seemed like enough, I wasn’t happy with any of the efforts I had previously made for the party. I wanted it to be more, I wished I had more money to put into it, etc. etc. Logically, I realize of course that this is ridiculous, that a bunch of twelve year old boys could give a rat’s ass about tablecloths or steamers, all they want to do is swim, run around and beat the crap out of each other but at that moment there is no logic just panic, tears and anger. And sadly, this is pretty typical of what happens to me anytime I entertain.
This is my struggle with anxiety, even while taking anxiety medication. I have read a lot on anxiety, been in and out of counseling over the years. I have tried escaping it, tried drowning out the constant hum in my mind of all that I can’t control with alcohol which only landed me in AA for a time.
I currently take two medications; a mood stabilizer and an anti-anxiety med and I have a MMJ recommendation so at night or times of extreme anxiety I will medicate with MJ as well. I have three medications circulating through my body and mind at any given point just to get me through the day, just so I can function like a NORMAL person.
I haven’t given up on the notion of internal peace, and there are moments of every day that I can find some of it. I’m willing to embrace those moments and the fact that despite the anxiety I feel I have been blessed with a good life, a beautiful family, and a faith that keeps me going.