It has been a little over a year, 16 months since I took charge of my mental health and sought out help. 16 months on anxiety medication. 16 months of clarity. 16 months of freedom. There have been many rough days inside those 16 months, like a lot...I mean we were/are in a damn pandemic...and I'm a nurse. Let me tell you a little bit more about how my anxiety surfaces and how I attempt to deal with it. Please take note that I say attempt...like I don't have this shit figured out. I don't have all the answers about this diagnosis, I don't fully know how to cope with my anxiety, I sometimes let it take a hold of me and I spin out of control. So I attempt, attempt to do my best everyday, attempt to live life, attempt to not provide a life that my children have to recover from.
I have what I like to call worst case scenario anxiety, WCSA (not a real acronym...just trying to sound smart). But pretty much in laymen's terms I'm a worrier. But not the "Oh man I'm worried I am going to be late" type of worrying. Mine looks a little bit more like this;
"Oh man I'm worried about being late, so I will show up 30 minutes early. I will wait in the car, because I don't want them to think I am weird for being this early. But as I'm sitting in the car I will think about every bad thing that could happen." I mean I'm only meeting a friend for a coffee. What bad things could happen over coffee...oh let me tell you what could happen. I could have an aneurism in my car while waiting and die. My friend could flake and not show up. Someone walking past my car is thinking something horrible about me. I look like crap in my jeans and my mom c-section belly. I'm not a size 2, god forbid even a size 8. How could anyone want to be friends with me??? My kids will grow up to disown me for my anxiety moments of rage, and yelling at them all their lives. I am a down right shitty human. What am I doing with my life?
Then my mind switches to 15,000 different things that I didn't finish at work. My mind then shifts to all the bad things that could happen at work or my career. I could have an aneurism at work and die. No one at works likes me. I am a shitty leader. Am I doing the right thing? I work too much, my family must resent me for being successful. I should just go home and not get coffee, I should be with my kids. Oh no, I forgot to write that email. I am the weakest link in my leadership team. I can do so much better. Then I pull out a notebook and start planning my next project for work. This only takes up maybe 45 seconds of actual real life mind time...but over 5 hours of anxiety mind time. This persists until I casually walk into the coffee shop right as I see my friend walking in, and pretend like we so happened to show up at the exact same time.
This is a very simple example, but now imagine caring for 2 little humans. Who somehow you have to keep alive, and teach them the ways of the world. Every jump they take I yell, BE CAREFUL! Every rock they throw I yell, BE CAREFUL. Every time they run down a hill I yell, BE CAREFUL! I yell a lot...But remember WCSA (worst case scenario anxiety) I am always thinking about the worst possible thing that could happen. Kids jump around...broken femurs. Throwing rocks...split open heads, stitches, lost eyeballs. Running down a hill...skull fractures, lost limbs. So I yell and tell them to be careful. Do they listen to me...fuck no, I am always yelling, so there is never a change in the tone of my voice.
Yes, I'm always yelling. When I yell, then the guilt hits. I know that I am worried, I can sense my anxiety when i see toys everywhere, but I still yell. This is something that I am working through, but it's hard. Kids are curious, they are clumsy, they are awkward, they are kids. I know that I need to let them be kids and get dirty, but some days my anxiety gets the best of me. Some days I yell, I know deep down that I yell our of fear for what could happen, and I try my best to control the situations. My littles most likely get sick of me telling them to be careful, they don't know that I worry about their skulls or limbs. They just want to enjoy life and run around.
No I know what most of you are thinking, "Damn it lady, if you know you're yelling and worried...just don't worry, and stop fucking yelling." Yeah I know, worrying about things doesn't change the outcome, it is a waste of time. You're telling me...it's a huge fucking waste of time, tell that to my anxiety. I know I waste a lot of time thinking about the worst case scenario, and not living in the moment. I hate that it takes work for me to actively be present with my family, and not worrying about things. But this is my reality, and I work very hard most days to work through these thoughts.
So how do I cope with this anxiety and be present in the moments with my family and work? Like I said I work hard at it. I try to catch my triggers when they happen, and take a few deep breaths....and tell myself in 5 years will this matter? In 5 years is this what will my kids remember about this moment? Will they remember me yelling? Will they remember me being present in the moment and creating messes with them? Will they remember me throwing rocks with them? Will they remember me laughing with them? Of course the fears are still there, but I don't let them define me...I don't let them consume my every second. They still consume me, but I have learned to push them back better than I have before.
So 16 months ago, I took control of my anxiety. I still deal with it on a daily basis, but I am in more control of it. I have the freedom to be more present in each interaction in my life at work and at home. 16 months ago I admitted that I needed help, and actually got the help that I needed. 16 months ago, I got my freedom back. I took control back in my own life and didn't let my anxiety rule my world anymore. And it feels so good!