Anxiety is a Bitch

21 02 2009

I’ve suffered with it for about 3 1/2 years now. Well, no, I suppose I’ve suffered with it all my life. As a child I remember lying in bed, a lead ball in the pit of my stomach, a feeling of dread. Usually my anxiety was about eternity – the fact that Puff would have to live FOREVER and watch Jackie Paper and all sorts of other little friends come and go, birthed and then dead, with no end in sight EVER for Puff. I was also terrified of Heaven – I could not fathom infinity and was horrified at the thought of living forever, even if the streets were paved with gold. I once lay on a raft in the ocean and daydreamed while I drifted too far away, the life guards had to guide me back. While I was never in any real danger, the experience terrified me, and for years I lay awake at night imagining the what-ifs. Another time, I nearly lost a flip-flop to the ocean and that kept me awake at night, just afraid of the idea of the loss into near-inifinity.

It always came at night. I learned as I grew that if I could just get through the darkness, it would vanish with the morning sun. And it always did.

Anxiety is never reasonable. When I was a child I could not reason with it, though. I only knew the fear, not how to get rid of it. As I grew older, my anxieties changed to things within my control (for the most part) – things like bills I had forgotten to pay, or conversations I needed to have with co-workers. I learned to keep the anxiety away by promising myself I’d take care of it as soon as I could – and then following through. And the anxiety really had no hold over me anymore.

And then three and a half years ago, when my body was struggling to organize itself again after the birth of my second child, when I was bleeding every two weeks and that bleeding coincided with waves of depression that kept me crying all day without reason. Three and a half years ago, when my life was some sort of tense fog, it struck again. Hard.

I became obsessed with vomit and whether or not it would come out of my daughter. All day and all night, I was tense, my heart raced, every small peep she made, I wanted to reach for the bucket. I remember being afraid to change the baby’s diaper in case I would not be able to catch the puke. And I had no reason to suspect she was sick, ever, but with three-year-olds it is sometimes hard to know and I did not want to be surprised.

Looking back, I realize now I did not have any idea how seriously severe it was that first summer and fall. After the anxiety began to leave me at times and I had some relative normalcy, I was able to see that there was literally no break from it for months at that time. I knew it was Hell, but I had no idea how deeply I was into it.

I was terrified to be alone with the kids, particularly at night since most illnesses seem to hit during the dark hours of the day. I tried to keep The Husband home as often as possible and he, naturally and rightfully so, resented me for that. I tried not to take the kids out after dark lest the coolness of the evening make them more suspectible to illness. I tried to avoid repeating situations that had occurred when an illness struck, however unreasonable the link – once M got sick after a ballet class and I was unable to finish out the rest of the session simply because I was too anxious. I welcomed head colds because, in my strange and superstitious mind, I believed that made stomach bugs less likely for a few weeks.

Oddly, it turned out to be just about stomach bugs. My son was a very pukey child for awhile there – he vomited if he coughed too much, if he cried too hard, if he gagged on food, if I made him take medicine or aimed medicine in his general direction. But none of these instances awoke the anxiety within me the way the possibility of a vomiting-related illness did. Oddly, the actual illnesses usually did not induce anxiety – I suppose the necessity of being a mom took over and I did what I had to do. Anxiety doesn’t have to make sense.

This anxiety was always and only about vomit. I never focused on anything else, just the one issue. And it did not go away with the daylight – it was constant. And it did not go away with reason – I reasoned myself silly, but could not slow my racing heart.

I have spent the last years working on myself in so many ways, both emotional and through herbal and acpuncture treatments, and it has helped (where the Zoloft did nothing for it at all). There are times when it leaves me, and each time it leaves I get clearer and stronger.

And, yet, it’s just not gone entirely. Tonight it lingers around the sidelines of my mind, my gut. Not so much that I can’t keep it at bay, but enough that it is very surely there.

And you know what? I’m tired. I’m just tired. I want it gone forever. I’m ready to be clear-minded and free of stomach-clenching fear. I’m ready to enjoy life instead of trying to pick it apart to find reasons and superstitions as to why the kids may or may not be sick. I am ready to relax.

I am ready.