Parenting with “It” (aka Anxiety)

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I’ve written this post so many times in my head.

But putting the words down in print is a whole new ball park.

It’ so much bigger. So much more.

So much more real.

When I was kid I was often told that I had an overactive imagination. That I was dramatic.

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I took it at face value and assumed that those were bad things, which in turn made me assume that I must be bad somehow, which of course only fueled the fire roaring deep within me that I’ve only recently been able to name: anxiety.

If my mom was running five minutes late getting home from work, picking me up from a friends house or an afterschool activity, she was, no doubt, face down in a ditch after a horrific car accident taking her last few breaths before forever leaving me an orphan.

You may chuckle; I can roll my eyes at it now. But those feelings were very real for me. Until I actually saw my mom again, there was no convincing me otherwise. I just knew this was the only possibility.

And thus went so much of my childhood.

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As I entered college and adulthood I had a pretty good grasp on it. I was able to chalk it up to overactive imagination and learned to not watch shows like “Criminal Minds” if I was going to be spending my night solo. Basically, I learned how to cope with it, grasping at strings, because I didn’t realize it was an it that needed to be coped with; that there was actually healthy ways of learning to manage it.

If you’d have asked me a year ago if I had anxiety, I’d have said no without even questioning it.

But I’ve been around the block a few times since then.

I had a lot of anxiety while pregnant with M.

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Every day that J walked out our front door, I felt sick to my stomach. I knew for sure it was the last time I’d see him. When I’d kiss him goodbye as he left for a work trip, I’d linger, wondering if this was in fact the very last time I’d ever touch him, taste him, smell him, see him. Was I saying goodbye? It seemed likely.

I spent most of my pregnancy unable to shake the feeling that my perfectly healthy little M would not survive.

I know. I know. If you’ve never experienced anxiety you’re thinking, “that’s batshit crazy!” I get it. Because even in those moments, those moments of panic and worry; I knew it wasn’t rational either. It’s all I had to hold onto sometimes.

The turning point was the first day I picked Mr. B up from preschool after M was born.

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I had all three babes in their seats, driving the same 7 minute drive I’ve driven hundreds of time, when I was overcome by unrelenting dread. My heart was racing, I felt hot and clammy, and all I could think of was if our car were to hit a slick spot in the road and run off of a bridge into a raging river, I’d never be able to save all three of them. It was not raining, nor is there any river, let alone a raging river, anywhere I typically drive. Most especially not on the short drive home.

It felt so real though as I raced through the scenario in my mind. I could let H swim by herself. She was the best swimmer of the kids; she stood a chance. But if it was a raging river, she didn’t stand a very good chance. And how could I ever forgive myself for letting her fend for herself because she stood the best chance, if she didn’t actually make it?

And the boys. M didn’t stand a chance; a tiny new babe. He might not even make it to the surface. And B is so squirrely he might drown me while I tried to save him. And who are we kidding? I’m not even a very good swimmer, the boys probably wouldn’t make it at all.

And thus it spiraled until I pulled over, certain I was having a heart attack.

You guys, that was one of the most surreal, terrifying moments of my life. And the whole time I just kept telling myself it was completely ridiculous and irrational. But it wasn’t helping.

J psychoanalyzed me through it later which was insightful, but wasn’t a cure for it. The anxiety.

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I’ve not had a moment like that since, thankfully.

I’d be a liar if I said it was all miraculously gone, but it has gotten significantly better since I’ve been able to put a name on it and do a lot of research.

I like to think that I won’t have bouts of anxiety my whole life, but I probably will. The good part is that I’ve had large chunks of my life where it’s been nearly nonexistent, or at least manifested itself in more helpful ways (we eat a significantly better diet than most of America thanks to it, ha!).

The truth is, I will probably always be a little hyper vigilant about doing things “right,” especially parenting, because I can’t get past the anxiety of the “what ifs” if I screw it up, even in small ways. It doesn’t mean I actually do it right, but it is definitely why it seemed crazy important that we create a beautiful nursery three times over for babies who never actually spent a night in said nurseries.

It plays a role in why I strive every day to know better, to be better, to do better.

I can’t make the anxiety disappear, but I can do my best to cultivate it for good. I can find healthy ways of living with it and dealing with it. I can be in control of it instead of allowing it to control me.

Everyday I am learning more about these sweet babes God entrusted with me. I’m learning so much more about me and the little fires that make me me. I’m learning about parenting my children with all of our quirks, with inevitable bumps along the way.

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But from the view I have of these three kidlets, I’m pretty certain that despite my anxiety, these babies are going to be straight up masterpieces. So I’ll take it; imperfections and all.

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