Thursday, August 26, 2010

the anxiety lane

I have some anxiety, um, issues.  It's not a secret - mainly because I think when we keep stuff like that a secret, it just adds the pressure of keeping secrets to the pressure of living with anxiety (a whole new realm of life to be anxious about!).  But also because I refuse to buy into society's taboo and stigma around mental health issues.  And 'cause I've lived with it for so darn long that it seems pretty normal (not the things I'm anxious about, just having the anxiety).

Prior to having kids, my anxiety was generally of the social sort.  I worried about the things that came out of my mouth, agonized that it was the wrong thing to say, that it sounded stupid or weird or out of touch or uneducated.  I was pretty sure everyone actually hated me, or that they just tolerated me to spend time with L, or because they worked with me.  (And in case you're sitting there thinking, 'that's not anxiety, that's just poor self-esteem,' it isn't.  I can list off a number of very good reasons people might like me.  I just am often struck by feelings of panic and dread that they don't.  Not self-esteem.  Anxiety.) 

But after having kids, anxiety took on a whole new meaning.  (Don't get me wrong - I still think you all hate me, and that everything that comes out of my mouth is pretty dumb, but now there are all kinds of superfun new dimensions to anxiety).  With both of my kiddos, I experienced what is referred to as post-partum anxiety (which is like post-partum depression's ugly little sister - no one talks about it!), in which I would be literally overtaken by what I would describe as a non-stop movie reel of horrifying images, all revolving around people doing unspeakably horrible things to my babes.   And now, even though those hormonally-aided anxieties have, for the most part, largely faded, I still spend an inordinate amount of time being anxious.  Walking down the sidewalk with my kiddos I can be suddenly overtaken with the image of one of my kids being dragged behind a car, or hit by a car and flying through the air.  When we travel, I am terrified for weeks that our plane will crash and there will be nothing I can do to help my family.  I worry that something will happen to L. and I, and that our kids will be parent-less.

I also worry constantly about the world my children have been born into.  I worry about it ending in environmental disaster.  I worry about the ever-encroaching war, violence, hatred and intolerance in the world.  When I read an article or see a news item about the myriad of horrors taking place all across the globe, I can't shake it for days, sometimes weeks, sometimes even longer.   I read an article WEEKS ago in Chatelaine about the horrific violence befalling women and girls and babies of all ages in Uganda.  The situation was described as the literal unravelling of society -so astoundingly brutal was (and is) the violence occuring.  And that's just in one small corner of the world.  These things happen all of the time.  All over.  (Sometimes I don't understand why everyone isn't anxious and sad about this stuff, but that's a whole 'nother blog, isn't it?)

And I also worry about the legacy of sharing my anxiousness with my children.   I work hard.  And I do mean really, really hard, to keep this anxiety from my children, the hover on the tightrope between letting them know that it's okay to be afraid but that fear can't be a way of life.  So far I seem to have been successful in raising two fairly fearless and reasonably well-adjusted tots.  My son loves nothing more than to fly and wants to be a sky-diving pilot when he grows up, so clearly the flying anxiety hasn't been picked up on.  And my daugher, aside from her apparent disdain for all things involving sleep, seems to be following her big brother's love for adventure and  world exploration.  Neither shows signs of wanting to turtle away from the world around them.  Mission accomplished... so far. 

But the threat of putting my fears on them always looms, and I feel that I have to be constantly vigilant.  (Ha!  See, I even get anxiety about getting anxiety!)  I will not let my anxiety, no matter how crippling it can feel sometimes, keep us from living.  We will fly (though you'd be hard-pressed to get me to fly over an ocean).  We will walk and bike and race and skip down sidewalks next to zooming on-coming traffic and drive on freeways and hike on trails where we could meet a bear or two.  We will toboggan and ski and if my kiddos want to take up skateboarding or snowboarding or skydiving or join the circus in a death-defying high-wire act, as long as they're not stupid about it,  I will be the proudest (and probably anxiety-filled) mama in town.  I am trying very hard (and I think succeeding most days) to let them negotiate their world, take the risks (within reason) that they choose to take. 

So yeah. I worry. My facebook bio says that I worry so much it's like a part-time job. That's about right.  I didn't write about the anxiety as a way to winge (unusual for me, I know!), but rather as a way to share one of my particular parenting challenges.  Everybody has abilities and disabilities.  Fear in abundance happens to be my disability.  That's just life in the anxiety lane.


  1. I have the same anxieties. I get the movie reel of horrible things happening to my kids. It's just horrific and you cant turn it off :(

    I have to fight it too, to not pass it on to my kids. You're not the only one!

  2. Hey Suzy - it's always nice to know you aren't alone... though - as I'm sure you can appreciate, I wouldn't wish that kind of anxiety on anyone!

  3. Holy shit. We really ARE twins separated at birth. All that, ALL of that, is me too. (Don`t even get me started on how many nights of sleep I lost after the Greyhound beheading; Jude was tiny and my anxiety was through the roof.)

  4. i am so relieved to know that i am not alone in this. i have yet to talk to someone about this and other stuff, just have to find the right time in between naps and such. i too, hope that i do not pass it on to my littles. that would just devastate me.