In the near future, I will be sharing a previously less spoken of piece of my life story on The Mighty, a website devoted to mental health and disorders (Stay tuned for a date).
For the past several years, I have devoted my blog to my children (both living and not), my four turbulent pregnancies, and my adventures parenting a rambunctious rainbow baby who decided to join our family two months prematurely. Life has been chaotic, and I have shared my world with you. Inviting others to sneak a glimpse into how I navigate this journey has been rewarding. Connecting with others in the pregnancy loss/infertility community has been an honor. And it will continue to be as my blog will still follow me down my curvy, bumpy road of parenthood.
While I have divulged many details of my family life, I have rarely touched on my own personal struggles. Far before I even knew Sophia would be an everyday word in my vocabulary, I faced my own mental health demons. Through each pregnancy, terrifying doctor’s appointment, devastating loss, endless nights wondering if this would be the baby to survive, and struggles with our toddler’s premature birth and gross motor delays, my anxiety has hitch along for the ride.
My earliest memories as a child reveal how the anxiety has always been present. Thirty years ago, I did not understand why I felt uncomfortable with people outside my immediate family. I did not understand why I felt immobilized in new situations, a profound fear of the first day of school each fall, and a dread about having to participate in class. I did not know that trying to rehearse each conversation with friends to preplan exactly what I would say, or replaying past ones to analyze what I said wrong, was an overthinking habit that others did not do. I did not realize that while others made friends easily, my anxiety required me to give myself a pep talk just to force a sweaty-palmed version of myself to say “hi”. This list could go on-and-on, as just about every thing, every thought, every emotion, and every word I say is laced with anxiety.
I survived my childhood, anxiety and all. I had family support that carried me successfully through each school year, swim team, and music lessons. As a youngster, I found a small, yet fantastic, group of friends who made me feel like I actually belonged. I white knuckled my way through childhood, adolescence, and came out a college graduate. Anxiety never dissipated, it never relented. I just forced my way.
As an adult, the stresses of life are tenfold compared to my younger days. The anxiety grips tighter with each difficulty I face. Sometimes the battles are reasonable; anyone would find themselves in an anxious state. With an anxiety disorder, I take the worries beyond what any rational person would. It causes major emotional and physical distress. Even when one issue resolves, my anxiety insists I find another, even if I have to turn a trivial bit into something massive. Despite the anxiety, I survived my troubled pregnancies, my pregnancy losses, and Sophia’s death. I continue to survive raising a child with gross-motor delays, navigating her numerous doctors’ appointments, therapy sessions, and dealing with the host of people who comprise our village of support. With the same family backing to which I clung to as a child (which is now more expansive with my husband’s family), I find my way, but sometimes by a thread.
I am confident that without my anxiety, the profound distress my life has presented over the past six years would still have been there. But without its constant grip and control over my rational sense, my life would have been a tad easier. I maybe would have found a few moments of peace. I maybe could have let my brain rest, find more joy between the bad moments, or noticed the love and beauty that remained despite my world falling apart. I maybe could have found pieces of happiness despite a broken heart.
Now is the time that I face my anxiety, and I share it with you. As I navigate a new era of fighting this disease both professionally and personally, I will share how anxiety affects me, and hopefully in doing so, someone will see themselves and find some hope. In addition to continuing to share bits about our life after loss, and updates on our progress with Evelyn’s challenges, I will begin sharing more about being a mother with anxiety. Sometimes it may be an insight into my mind, dissecting how my brain perceives situations different than it probably should. Other times I may highlight moments in which I won the battle against anxiety and found my calm. As I found with sharing my pregnancy stories, I imagine many of you will understand first-hand of what I am talking. Anxiety is real. It is not imagined, faked, or easily remedied.
Anxiety is rampant, and many of us need more help than we like to admit. I hope we can connect with each other, and offer support to get the help we need to not only survive, but to thrive.
I cannot let my disease control me anymore–and more importantly–it cannot control my ability to mother my child. She deserves no less than that.
Please check back for details about my first piece that will appear on The Mighty.