I felt the need to discuss this after Thursday evening’s events during a tornado warning in my area. It becomes a shattering realization that my issues have clearly enveloped that of my children’s, especially my oldest daughter, and I am mortified by it. What have I done? I did not witness a small quivering fear of monsters under her bed, but instead a complete episode of panic that struck as it has done to me so many times. She was ghostly, screaming out her pain, saying goodbyes as if her life was over when the warning appeared on the television screen. Tears were flooding her face as were her thoughts of terror. Shaking uncontrollably, reaching out to me, yearning for me to take this fear from her body, her soul, her mind. I couldn’t. In fact, nothing could calm her, except her own understanding that she must endure this and survive to truly believe she will not die. It saddened me deeply and shook me to the core. Because I do understand and I understood I could do nothing to help her and this is why…maybe you do as well.
“I live with a killer and he tortures me every day of my life. He affects every part of me. He is with me even when I think he is not. He is the voice that lashes out on those that I love. He is the fear that paralyzes my body over events that have never occurred. He is the trembles in my body when the sun rises through my bedroom and pounds on my heart, echoing through me. He is the thoughts that circulate in my mind like a ride at an amusement park, round and round and never stopping. He is the predator that attacks my insides, making me fall ill and unable to eat properly. He starves me. He is the music of negativity that takes over laughter and joy even in times of extreme pleasure. He beats me down. He can break me…and does.
He is my silent killer and one who will not go away easy. He is the deadliest, one who will stop at nothing to destroy hope and faith. His name carries weight and I’m not his only victim. It is true…I’m dying every day because of him…because of him who I call anxiety.
I have lived with him for a very long time, even before I knew he would take permanent residency. I was a child…unaware of his devastation. “What is wrong with her?” they would ask. “Scared of the dark, scared of fires, scared of trees eating her? That’s ridiculous!” they would mock me. They would tell me that my thoughts were stupid, outrageous and would never happen to me. They told me to just stop thinking this way, that I’m working myself up for no reason. “Oh, just stop, be happy,” would be spelled out to me like a repeat button that meant nothing. If I could stop, I would, I’d say to myself, but I couldn’t and nothing helped me. My thoughts were my thoughts and someone telling me to change them was even more absurd than my pillow catching on fire from a piece of cotton.
And after 30 years later, he is still with me. Every day, every night and every time I feel weak, sad or broken, he reminds me that he is the only one who will remain constant in my life forever. There have been times when I thought he had left, found someone new, a mistress, but these were the times when I have felt confident, strong and in control of me, my life and my thoughts. These feelings are as fleeting as his disappearance, and again, he is at my doorstep waiting for me to open the door…and I do, every time.
I am not a doctor. I do not hold a professional academic license to provide counseling in an office. I am just me (in essence a nobody), a mother of three, a wife, a woman who tries to balance life with job with family, struggling to stay afloat with all of my responsibilities that I have chosen to embark on. From the outside it looks amazing, empowering to some and bewildering to others at my persistence to “have it all”, but what they don’t know is of the undertow that drowns me if I let it, and it is only me who has the power to decide that.
There are thousands of books about this illness, endless ideas to salivate over. I have tried; I have failed. They are written by doctors, celebrities, health professionals; I have read them. At times there ideology has worked for a short time, but really, after all of these years, I have been on a search to find the normal “Joe”. The one whose life one would consider average, a normal job, a normal life with a normal salary. I want to hear from Sally down the street that can’t leave her house because she is scared that she will pass out and no one will find her. Or Veronica that has to pull over on the side of the road because her panic attack has gotten the best of her, while her two children are crying in the back seat. Or Sam that searches the internet for countless hours finding the solution to his weird symptoms that change quickly. I want someone to understand what it feels like to feel like a slave to your own thinking who will not shut the fuck up…ever. I want realness. I want to say “Fuck you” anxiety and be heard by someone. I want to scream at the person who tells me “Don’t worry”, when worry doesn’t even touch what I’m feeling. Don’t you? Don’t you want the ones who are closest to you understand that you don’t want their opinions, you just want to be held and told “I Love you; you are strong.”
I, as are you, am the face of anxiety. It does not show up with a blood test, it does not come with a test result, it does not show up in a laboratory, it knocks on the doors of everyday people who are heart fully trying to cope with the crippling affects of anxiety, all the while managing their lives, their children’s lives and everything in between. And alike you, I just want it to go away, forever. I want to live free, to feel joy, to feel calm.”
…so I cannot take this from her, nor mend these feelings for her…or repair what she is about to experience over the remainder of her life. But I can teach her what I know. I can control my own worries; I can use what I have been taught to prevent my anxiety. I can show her that I am in control of my thoughts; therefore, she can learn the same. I can show her that ignoring it will not repair her, but living through them, holding her hand, being by her side…looking into her eyes can help.…Because sometimes all it takes is a loving stare from your mom, that no matter what deepest pain you have, you just know that everything is going to be alright….because she will be standing there right by you the whole time.