If I had to pick two bloggers to be my new BFFs, I’d totally pick Jenny The Bloggess and Jen from Cake Wrecks and EPBOT. They’re funny and wise and geeky like me. Plus Jen could totes redecorate my house for me. But they also both deal with anxiety and, even though mine isn’t maybe always as hard as theirs, I’ve struggled with it in the past and I really deeply relate to what they write. Jenny’s written about it a lot over the years and Jen’s mentioned it, but recently wrote a long post about hers. What really struck me was how she points out that anxiety and panic don’t always listen to logic and reason.
I’ve been dealing with anxieties since I was a small child. When I was about seven I went on a trip with my family where I nearly lost a flip flop in the ocean. I had nighttime anxiety attacks about that for YEARS. That’s just one example. As I grew, I learned various tools to help me deal with whatever was plaguing me at the moment. Sometimes it was getting out of bed to fix whatever was worrying me. Sometimes it was promising myself I’d fix it in the morning. Always the sunrise made things better so sometimes I’d just count the hours or minutes until daylight.
I don’t know if I’m naturally inclined to anxiety by my genetics, or if it’s caused by the circumstances of my childhood; my mother was a hoarder (yes, like on TV) and an alcoholic. I developed a fear of vomit at an early age, and I still have to emotionally prepare myself to have people over, despite the fact that my home is clean and organized now. The puke thing was – and is – mostly not a problem. I sometimes have to skip scenes in movies, but ultimately, it’s not something I have to encounter in my daily life. (KNOCK WOOD.) At least until I had kids.
After my second child was born, my body was all sorts of out of whack. I was having two periods a month and dealing with depression (it turned out to be low progesterone, but we wouldn’t know that for quite awhile since I could not afford health insurance and the low income clinics were less than helpful). And then the anxiety struck. I became fixated on the fear that my older child might vomit. Every time she made any little noise, my whole body tensed, wondering if I would have to run for a bucket. This anxiety didn’t respond to any of the tricks I had learned over the years. I couldn’t reason it away. No amount of logic could calm me down. And the anxiety grew. Two years in, there was a time where one attack lasted for about a week. I was afraid I was going to start giving myself ulcers if I didn’t get it taken care of. My heart was constantly racing, my stomach always nauseous. My life was hell. In the end it was acupuncture and Chinese herbs that helped me. (I was able to barter as payment.)
The funny thing about anxieties is that they come and go. Despite having been much better for several years now, last fall I had a sort of relapse. I’m sure it had to do with my mother’s death and the cleaning of her house bringing all sorts of emotional stuff to the surface. We had been at the park with some friends, and one of the children (not mine) had a tummy ache. And the tummy ache got worse. And. You can see where this is going, right? All the other moms rushed to help the mom of the sick kid. I gathered my stuff and left. And then, about a block away, I had to pull the car over and cry. I was shaking for the rest of the day. In addition to the panic attack, I felt like a really shitty friend for bolting. I’m not shy about talking about this, but it didn’t really seem like the time to explain to the woman why I had to leave right now because I was afraid of her kid’s puke.
Over the years I’ve come to love the not-horrible parts of my anxieties. If I’m going to be an authentic person – and that is my goal – I have to accept my anxieties, as do my friends and the people around me. (And my friends do. I have wonderful friends.) As long as I’m functioning in my life, I can laugh about my anxieties. I can embrace them as a part of me. Not only have I learned to deal with them, but I’ve learned to love them. And that’s why I’m writing this here; it’s part of my journey to total self-love. I want to learn to love not just my body, but my mind, too, in all its imperfections.
But there is definitely a difference between the mild daily anxieties that respond to reason and logic, and to the ones that eat away at me no matter how I try to handle them. And I think that’s what Jen was writing about. That sometimes it’s not a matter of “just doing it” or “try this”. Rather it’s a time to just love us and support us as we find our way back to the surface. And we always do.
I’m so glad we have the internet to bring us together like this to talk about all the hard stuff. I’m glad we have brave bloggers like Jen and Jenny to talk about anxiety and panic and depression and self-harm. I’m glad there are people who read those entries and say, “Yes! Me, too!” Because we need to speak about this, bring it into the light, so that fewer of us feel alone. The less that we keep hidden in the dark, the stronger we are. And we are strong.