Monday, July 12, 2010

Paralyzing

In my Weekly Happenings post yesterday, I alluded to the way my anxiety issues were affecting my week. I have written multiple times on my blog about my struggles with anxiety, but I haven't talked about it much recently. Truthfully, I've been in a really good place lately, and so there just wasn't much to say about it. The last few months, even as far back as Christmas, have been pretty uneventful on the anxiety front and I've been so thankful for that. However, there are times when I just feel almost paralyzed by my anxiety- as if it is holding me captive, and making the littlest, most mundane tasks so hard to do. There are days when I just I want to just lay on the couch and sob because I am so afraid of what could happen. I'm really good at what my dad calls "awfulizing and catastophizing".

When I say that I've been in a "good place", I don't mean that I am anxiety free, I just mean that I feel like it's very much under control. I've said this before, but there has not been a day since Ann Peyton's birth that has not been filled to some degree with worry. Most, if not all, days, I struggle to dismiss at least one fatalistic thought of something terrible happening to her. Sometimes these "daymares" are of things that are pretty common, us getting in a car accident or, when she was younger, the ever frightening SIDS possibility. Other times, I worry about pretty far fetched things, like her getting kidnapped or pulling a piece of furniture onto herself. And then, as often as not, my fears actually involve really bizarre things, like how once I had to hop onto the kitchen counter to get something off the top shelf and when I jumped off, I thought (even though it was nowhere near happening), what if I had jumped on top of her and cracked her spine?

I read an article about women who suffer from Post Natal Anxiety, which is different and separate from Post Partum Depression. I saw myself so much in the women profiled. The first few months of Ann Peyton's life were very difficult for me. I worried about her almost constantly and unfortunately, I feel like I missed out some on her early months because of it. Those, and the months leading up to our wedding, right after my grandmother died, were some of the hardest of my life.

This is not a new thing, though. I have always been a worrier and one of the places that it surfaces most is in the fear of loosing someone close to me. When I was a little girl, I used to FREAK OUT beyond all normality when my parents left us with a babysitter, because I was terrified they would be killed in a car accident. In the same way that it happens now with Ann Peyton, a specific scenario would play itself out in my mind. I would see the babysitter answering the phone, hear her screaming, and then watch us race to a nearby hospital. It was SO vivid. Or when Peyton and I were dating, I was so afraid he was going to die, somehow. I remember several nights after he drove home from my parents' house and had left his cell phone in the car or something, I drove over to his parents' house to make sure he was okay. I was so fearful of seeing his car in flames on the less than ten minute stretch between our houses. One night, I remember, I couldn't even console myself by seeing his car. As psycho as it sounds, I had to get out of my car and go peek into his window to make sure he was there. I remember comforting myself by telling myself that God would not take him until we had children, because I felt confident that was part of His plan. Well. That leaves me in a good place now. Later, when Ann Peyton was born, I would have horrific images of finding her cold and lifeless in her crib. It was terrifying and I was truly haunted by them.

I didn't want to get back on my anxiety medicine but I realized that to be an effective mother I had to do a few things to cope with all that. For one thing, I limited the things I exposed myself to. Several of my favorite bloggers wrote about the grief they endured in loosing a child- Angie from Bring the Rain and Heather from The Spohrs Are Multiplying were (and are) two of my all time favorite bloggers. But for awhile, I had to limit how much of that I put into myself. I had to change my conversations with others, I couldn't only talk to people about my fear. But I also couldn't try to keep it all to myself. I had to take it before the Lord. I had to come to the realization that if something were to happen, it would only be for the tiny freckle that is life on the face of eternity. And I had to beseech God for the peace to let me enjoy the freckle.

And there's another thing I've had to ask Him. I ask God often to allow the things of the world to "grow strangely dim" in my life, as a popular song says. I pray this often, when I feel like I am focusing too much on what is on TV, or what kind of clothes Ann Peyton or I are wearing, or whatever other worldly thing I am wasting my time on. But there's a harder thing, too. I don't want my family to be an idol, either.

Peyton and I recently watched the movie The Road, based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. It is one of the most disturbing, compelling, and thought provoking things I've ever seen in my life. In it, a man and his son are trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic America. Whereas the boy's mother committed suicide in the face of fear, the boy's father took a different approach. He calls the boy a god and says "If he [the boy] is not the voice of God, God never spoke". While I would be so ashamed of myself if I turned my back on my family the way the mother did, I would hate to have the father's mentality, too. And I think that is what I would be more susceptible to falling into. I know it is fine that I love my family so much, but I do not want to love them more than I love the Lord. I've only very recently gotten to the place where I can be okay with this because I've realized to love God more, I don't have to love them less. I recently found this C.S. Lewis quote that I love- "Because we love something else more than this world, we love even this world more than those who know no other".

About a week ago, my best friend (and AP's godfather) wrote these words on his blog: I'm waiting for the day when I don't worry at all. What I wouldn't give. I'm waiting for that day, too, but I honestly don't think I will find it in this world.

Again, C.S. Lewis writes "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satsify, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earlthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Proably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I just take care on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside, I must make the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same."

And that's where I find myself in this battle- pressing on to that other country where there will be no tears or worry and helping others (hopefully, perhaps most notably, Ann Peyton) to do the same.

5 comments:

Carrie said...

I know it doesn't really help to hear that you're not alone in this struggle, but I'll say it anyway. I can relate to everything you said in this post. My anxiety comes in cycles too. I'll be fine for several months, and then it just hits, and I feel paralyzed, like you said. Praying for you, friend!

Mallory Pickering said...

I love that, SD.
And I have the same anxiety problem you do. I always would have a breakdown if my parents were late picking me up, thinking they'd had a car wreck. And I too drove to Michael's house several times, whenever he didn't answer the phone. One time I even convinced myself that he'd had a heart attack.
I have also convinced myself several times that the plane I was on was being hijacked. I, too, took anxiety medicine for awhile and then got off of it. I am debating getting back on it, but I don't want to miss what God can do to transform me sans medicine. I know all of this has to do with control and needing security. I love how C.S. Lewis says that we have to submit to death of everything we want and love, even death of our entire bodies--giving that control over to God and trusting Him entirely is the only way to find freedom from this intense desire for certainty and security.
I love your last quote because I think that falling in love with Jesus and longing for heaven is the only thing that can really shake us out of an unhealthy attachment to the world.

Amy said...

i think that i could have written this post. i, too suffer from (sometimes) debilitating anxiety. it's hard to explain to those that don't understand that i am not "jut a worrier"....it is so much deeper than that. i 100% believe that it is straight from the devil himself, and that is how he gets me....every.single.time. i LOVE LOVE LOVE when you wrote that "loving God more than your family does not mean that you love your family any less"...i think i cried through this entire post. thank you for sharing - totally inspired me today. you are a great writer! :)

Catherine Sledge said...

So it's pretty amazing to see and hear that there are other people who worry like this...thank you so much for being so honest! I have "daymares" like that ALL. THE. TIME. It's awful. Horribly awful. I have been praying a lot lately around this whole topic--anxiety and security, etc. I've always had tendencies towards this, but it got wayyy worse after what happened to me last year with the break-in, etc (I think you know about that?). Anyway--thank you for your honesty and your thoughts--I love that quote from CS Lewis too, and it really applies in this situation.

Mary Louis Quinn said...

I had a really long comment halfway written, but it looks like my husband got on here and now it's lost. :) So I'll try to make this brief.

I totally agree with the other commenters. I think we all struggle with anxiety, some more than others of course, and I think once you become a mother the anxiety grows exponentially! I constantly convince myself that C has something wrong with her, or that she is going to be diagnosed with a horrible disease, and my mind just will not calm down. I try to pray for peace and rest in the knowledge that I am not in control, but as a control freak, that is hard! :)

Thanks for your honest post, because I think a lot of people can identify with what you wrote!